Tackle a Spanish staple food with confidence at Jaleo Bethesda’s paella classes

Jaleo Bethesda's head chef Robbie Meltzer asks everyone to write their names on their aprons, so that he can call them by name during the class. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Jaleo Bethesda’s head chef Robbie Meltzer asks everyone to write their names on their aprons, so that he can call them by name during the class. In this class, everyone participates. Don an apron and grab a knife.  (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
The food is fresh and colorful. Each person in the class is handed a vegetable and taught how to chop, dice or slice it. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
The food is fresh and colorful. Each person in the class is handed a vegetable and taught how to chop, dice or slice it. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Iñigo Oyarzabal, a manager at Jaleo Bethesda, prepares sangria for the class. Oyarzabal, who hails from Spain, was on hand throughout the class to offer anecdotes about paella, sangria, and the Spanish way of life. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Iñigo Oyarzabal, a manager at Jaleo Bethesda, prepares sangria for the class. Oyarzabal, who hails from Spain, was on hand throughout the class to offer anecdotes about paella, sangria and the Spanish way of life. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Sangria Dana Gooley
Oyarzabal prepares a special white sangria for the class, made with cava, a dry Spanish sparkling wine, and garnished with raspberries and mint. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP./Dana Gooley)
The sangria blanco recipe also includes brandy, white grape juice and Licor 43, a Spanish liqueur. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Once the sangria has been poured, the chopping begins. Chef Robbie demonstrates proper techniques, then passes out ingredients. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Once the sangria has been poured, the chopping begins. Meltzer demonstrates proper techniques, then passes out ingredients. One key to safety chopping vegetables, he says, is to keep your fingertips tucked under your knuckles. They’re easy targets for wayward knives. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Not everyone takes the chef's advice, but all vegetables were diced without incident. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Not everyone takes the chef’s advice, but all vegetables were diced without incident. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Crisp zucchini adds a pop of color to the paella ingredients. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Crisp zucchini adds a pop of color to the paella ingredients. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Since paella takes a decent amount of time to cook properly, theclass is offered various small bites from the Jaleo menu while working. Pictured: Endives topped with goat cheese, orange pieces and almonds. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Since paella takes a decent amount of time to cook properly, the class is offered various small bites from the Jaleo menu while working. Pictured: Endives topped with goat cheese, orange pieces and almonds. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
When it's time to start cooking, Meltzer hauls out a massive tabletop burner with three rings of flame. He says manipulating and controlling the flame, or heat, depending on what you're cooking on, will always be the most important part of the process.. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
When it’s time to start cooking, Meltzer hauls out a massive tabletop burner with three rings of flame. He says manipulating and controlling the flame, or heat, depending on what you’re cooking on, will always be the most important part of the process.. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
When making paella, add the vegetables with the least water content first, because they will take the longest to cook. Carrots went in first, followed by onions, with zucchini, leeks and mushrooms waiting on the side. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
When making paella, add the vegetables with the least water content first, because they will take the longest to cook. Carrots went in first, followed by onions, with zucchini, leeks and mushrooms waiting on the side. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Sautee the vegetables to your desired texture and color. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Sautee the vegetables to your desired texture and color. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
A bit of a crisp, caramelized bottom adds extra flavor. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
A bit of a crisp, caramelized bottom adds extra flavor. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Once the vegetables have been cooked enough, Chef Robbie adds in the stock. He says that you can add it cold or hot, but warm is best for quick absorption. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Once the vegetables have been cooked enough, Meltzer adds in the broth. He says that you can add it cold or hot, but warm is best for quick absorption. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
When it comes time to add the rice, Meltzer says an even distribution is key. Don't dump it in all at once, because you won't be doing much stirring. Instead, use your hand to sprinkle the rice around the pan. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
When it comes time to add the rice, Meltzer says an even distribution is key. Don’t dump it in all at once, because you won’t be doing much stirring. Instead, use your hand to sprinkle the rice around the pan. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
As the rice absorbs the stock, the pan will start to thicken up. It should go from the consistency of soup to a thick, creamy stew. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
As the rice absorbs the stock, the pan will start to thicken up. It should go from the consistency of soup to a thick, creamy stew. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Once the liquid is all but absorbed, Meltzer 'listens' to his meal. The crackling noises you hear are the sounds of the socarrat forming. Socarrat is the Spanish word for the rice at the bottom of the pan that gets browned and crispy. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Once the liquid is all but absorbed, Chef Robbie ‘listens’ to his meal. The crackling noises you hear are the sounds of the socarrat forming. Socarrat is the Spanish word for the rice at the bottom of the pan that gets browned and crispy. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
At the very end, Meltzer spreads fresh English peas over the top of the paella. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
At the very end, Meltzer spreads fresh English peas over the top of the paella. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
The finished product is plated and served to the class participants along with a mushroom-chicken paella and a swipe of garlic alioli. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
The finished product is plated and served to the class participants along with a mushroom-chicken paella and a swipe of garlic alioli. (WTOP/Dana Gooley) (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
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Jaleo Bethesda's head chef Robbie Meltzer asks everyone to write their names on their aprons, so that he can call them by name during the class. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
The food is fresh and colorful. Each person in the class is handed a vegetable and taught how to chop, dice or slice it. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Iñigo Oyarzabal, a manager at Jaleo Bethesda, prepares sangria for the class. Oyarzabal, who hails from Spain, was on hand throughout the class to offer anecdotes about paella, sangria, and the Spanish way of life. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Sangria Dana Gooley
Once the sangria has been poured, the chopping begins. Chef Robbie demonstrates proper techniques, then passes out ingredients. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Not everyone takes the chef's advice, but all vegetables were diced without incident. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Crisp zucchini adds a pop of color to the paella ingredients. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Since paella takes a decent amount of time to cook properly, theclass is offered various small bites from the Jaleo menu while working. Pictured: Endives topped with goat cheese, orange pieces and almonds. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
When it's time to start cooking, Meltzer hauls out a massive tabletop burner with three rings of flame. He says manipulating and controlling the flame, or heat, depending on what you're cooking on, will always be the most important part of the process.. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
When making paella, add the vegetables with the least water content first, because they will take the longest to cook. Carrots went in first, followed by onions, with zucchini, leeks and mushrooms waiting on the side. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Sautee the vegetables to your desired texture and color. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
A bit of a crisp, caramelized bottom adds extra flavor. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Once the vegetables have been cooked enough, Chef Robbie adds in the stock. He says that you can add it cold or hot, but warm is best for quick absorption. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
When it comes time to add the rice, Meltzer says an even distribution is key. Don't dump it in all at once, because you won't be doing much stirring. Instead, use your hand to sprinkle the rice around the pan. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
As the rice absorbs the stock, the pan will start to thicken up. It should go from the consistency of soup to a thick, creamy stew. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
Once the liquid is all but absorbed, Meltzer 'listens' to his meal. The crackling noises you hear are the sounds of the socarrat forming. Socarrat is the Spanish word for the rice at the bottom of the pan that gets browned and crispy. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
At the very end, Meltzer spreads fresh English peas over the top of the paella. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)
The finished product is plated and served to the class participants along with a mushroom-chicken paella and a swipe of garlic alioli. (WTOP/Dana Gooley)

BETHESDA, Md. — Anyone who’s been to Spain can tell you that paella is everywhere, and with good reason. The steaming pans of rice, seafood, vegetables or meat are found on tables across the country. While many families have their own heirloom recipes, chef Jose Andres of Jaleo, Oyamel, China Chilcano and other area restaurants, is willing to share his family’s recipe with you.

On the first Tuesday of every month, Jaleo Bethesda’s head chef Robert Meltzer, or Robbie, as he prefers to be called, will teach a hands-on cooking class for ten students inside the actual Jaleo kitchen.

As explained by Jaleo manager Iñigo Oyarzabal, paella originated in Valencia, Spain. The word “paella” refers to the pan that was used to cook the dish. According to Oyarzabal, farmers used to take a bag of rice and a paella into the fields with them, and cook with whatever they could find for lunch. Therefore, he says, a true Valencian paella has snails, rabbit and rosemary in it. The recipe has been adapted as the years passed, and now there are any number of ingredients you can add to yours.

Paella is a communal activity, Oyarzabal says, much like barbecues in the U.S. It’s usually done outdoors over a fire pit, during the warmer months, and it’s an all-day enjoyable activity. Of course, making it on your stovetop won’t take all day.

“It’s kind of a blank canvas,” Meltzer says. “We’ll teach you the proper technique and the rest is up to you.”

Check out the photo gallery for tips on creating your own paella at home.

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