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.