Written by Sue Barry

Was it the enticing fragrance of spices luring FLL Editor-in-Chief Mark Pontz into Zest!, a specialty cooking store located in Lititz? Was it the hand painted ceramic dishes, or the Paella pans? It was probably all of that and more. Mark loves this all-encompassing kitchen accessory shop and wanted to highlight it. Zest! owner Sharon Landis agreed to whip up one of her favorite dishes for the cause, and Paella became the feature of the story.

Paella is a Spanish rice dish that originated in the city of Valencia. It can have many varieties of fish, seafood, poultry, vegetables, and seasonings, and ingredients vary between regions. There’s a particular pan that Paella is made with: it has two handles and a very round, flat bottom with shallow sides to assure that the special rice, bomba, has the most contact with the heat. Bomba rice grains expand as they cook, but preserve their shape and texture. Small dimples in the bottom of the pan serve a number of functions including promoting even cooking. They are essential to ensuring that the dish gets that nice crusty rice layer on the bottom, called socarrat. Zest! carries the standard home kitchen sized paella pans, but they can order sizes from 8” to 50”. (Yes, 50”!)

Sharon became fascinated with Paella when she and her husband, Jim, were visiting the south of France. In an open air food market, they saw a gentleman making an impressive 50” pan of paella over a fire to sell to the masses. Through her restaurant supply contacts, she found a 35” paella pan that was the perfect size for her needs. For a taste of Valencia Paella the Zest! way, find Sharon whipping up Paella in front of her shop in downtown Lititz during Taste of Lititz, an annual event celebrating all the best that Lititz has to offer. This year, the event is the evening of Friday, June 2, 2017, from 5:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M.

If you want to make paella yourself at home, you can do so following Sharon’s recipe. The ingredients in bold are available at Zest!

Valencia Paella

10-15 threads Spanish Saffron

1/4 cup hot water

2 Tbsp Avocado Oil

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs

8 oz cured Spanish Chorizo, sliced

1 Tbsp Paella Seasoning

3 bay leaves

1 medium tomato, diced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 cups Bomba Rice

4 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth

8 oz frozen peas

8 oz small raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 lemon, sliced thin

Crush Saffron threads and put them in a dish with 1/4 cup hot water to steep for about 15 minutes. In a Paella Pan or large flat skillet, heat the Avocado Oil to medium high heat and add the chicken. After about 2-3 minutes, add the Chorizo and continue cooking another 2-3 minutes. Add the Paella Seasoning, bay leaves, tomatoes, and onions to the pan and cook until the onions soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add the Bomba Rice and toast, about 2-3 minutes. Add the Saffron along with the water and the chicken stock, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and peas and cover for 5 minutes more. Remove the bay leaves, add the lemon slices and serve.