Growing up in Spain, one of my favorite dishes was Paella, a Valencian rice dish that originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century near Lake Albufera, a lagoon in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. There are three main paella versions in Spain: Valencian, Seafood and Mixed. However, Paella is now an international dish that can include ingredients very different from the original, and is enjoyed in many forms all over the world.
Since we are at the end of Hispanic Heritage celebration, I wanted to share with you this simpler version of Chicken Paella. This recipe still uses typical ingredients like chicken bouillon, saffron and rice but the process is easier. Instead of using a flat paella pan, we use a casserole dish (easier for you) and instead of finishing the cooking process on direct heat, we bake it in the oven (more even distribution of heat).
One of the challenges of traditional paella is the distribution of heat using a paella pan. That is why the best paella in Spain is cooked outdoors on an open fire so that the heat covers the entire bottom part of the shallow paella pan. Since most of us should not experiment with open fires in our yards, using an oven can be the next best option to cook our paellas to perfection!
Since Paella takes a while to finish cooking, I like to serve this Cilantro Dip as an appetizer. It’s delicious with vegetables, on toasted baguette slices or with crackers. I also love it as a salad dressing; I simply thin it out with a bit of water or vinegar and toss it with greens.
The ingredients are very Latin. We have cilantro as the base of the recipes, but we add Cotija cheese, a hard cow’s milk cheese similar to feta that originated from Mexico, pumpkin seeds and fresh garlic. Media Crema is used as the creamy base to this flavorful dip. Media Crema is a shelf-stable Mexican cream that can be used both in savory and sweet dishes and makes cooking a breeze!
I hope you enjoy these recipes with your families and friends this month and all year long.