Is there such a thing as whole grain paella?
February 24, 2011 5:44 PM   Subscribe

Can I make paella with whole grains? I've found a paella recipe that I love, but I generally try not to eat white rice. So I'm wondering if I can make it with spelt or farro instead. I would just experiment with the recipe, but the ingredients are kind of expensive, and I don't want to end up throwing the whole thing out because the grains didn't cook up right. Anyone cooked this sort of thing or had it in a restaurant?
posted by 912 Greens to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Any reason why brown rice is out?
posted by cooker girl at 5:49 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yes, brown rice seems like the most obvious choice.

I've had farro "risotto" that worked fine, so I don't see why farro paella wouldn't. Google suggests that it has been on the menu at some restaurants, but doesn't give a recipe, alas.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:04 PM on February 24, 2011

Sure, you just need to modify the cooking method to match the cooking time of the grain you're using. Most will probably need to done in a separate pan initially or the cooking time drastically shortened as compared with slow-cooking arborio rice. Heck, you could even use potatoes. But then it probably wouldn't be "paella," would it? :)

Here's one option:

2 cups quinoa
1 chopped red onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tsp olive oil + 1 tbls olive oil
1/2 tsp saffron
3 cups vegetable broth
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 cup of frozen peas
1 lb mussels
1/2 lb peeled shrimp
1/2 lb chorizo thinly sliced
2 oz white cooking wine
1 lime
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Sauté onions in oil for a few minutes until it’s translucent. Add garlic and stir for an additional minute.

Stir in saffron and quinoa.Add the broth, bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes.

In a separate pan, sauté red bell pepper, shrimp and chorizo.

In another pan, boil mussels in the white wine for about 5 minutes.

Add frozen peas. Stir in bell peppers and shrimp. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Plate the dish and top with mussels and lime wedges.
posted by webhund at 6:04 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

As said above, why not brown rice? I've made paella with brown basmati rice, and it was delicious.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:41 PM on February 24, 2011

Best answer: A local restaurant makes it with barley. It's amazing. (They also make a barley risotto...also amazing.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:56 PM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Barley barley barley barley barley. Thank you, Green Eyed Monster. Barley will cook a bit quicker than farro but will otherwise be the same awesome for a lower price.
posted by xueexueg at 7:20 PM on February 24, 2011

Yes, you could do this, but it wouldn't really be paella. There's a lot of starch that needs to be developed in the sauce, and you're really only going to get that with the traditional bomba rice. Barley/farro/quinoa etc. just don't have the same consistency. I'm not saying it will be terrible; only that it won't absorb or behave the same way as your recipe describes. Even brown rice has a much different requirement for liquid.
posted by Gilbert at 7:57 PM on February 24, 2011

I would try quinoa! I've made paellas with quinoa before and they have always been incredible.
posted by 200burritos at 8:13 PM on February 24, 2011

Best answer: Dammit, the wife beat me to it...yeah, barley. This is the place. Everyone from my rich aunt and uncle to bikers to my white-trash neighbors (they bring their own elk meat to the restaurant) can be found at the place.

Barley is a pretty amazing grain as a substitute.
posted by notsnot at 8:30 PM on February 24, 2011

A Spanish person would not allow you to call it paella unless it had actual bomba rice. But nothing prohibits you from making a quinoa dish with similar ingredients.
posted by creasy boy at 11:35 PM on February 24, 2011

If I were trying to make a paella flavored dish without using rice I would use barley. You might also want to add a tiny amount of very finely ground flour to allow the sauce to thicken similarly to the leftover starches on rice.

I wouldn't call it paella though, more like saffron infused barley stew.

ANyways just make it with white rice. I know your GI tract is "sensitive" to processed foods and you might be "allergic" to anything "artificial" but white rice is not going to kill you unless you have some odd specific food allergy. What is next an askmefi question like I want to make buttery mashed potatos but it can't contain any starches, dairy or fat so what should I substitute?

Sorry for the derail I went to a restaurant with someone who "didn't eat any fat" who then dug in to a nice plate of shrimp noodles and my head nearly exploded.
posted by koolkat at 1:28 AM on February 25, 2011

Response by poster: Barley sounds like it would be good. What I like about the arborio rice is that it's such a fat little grain, it can really hold it's own. I worry that brown rice or quinoa would kind of just get lost in there. Also I already eat a fair amount of brown rice and quinoa and feel like branching out a bit.

I realize it won't really be paella, but I will probably call it that anyway when there are no Spanish people in the room.

Thanks for all the great responses!
posted by 912 Greens at 7:01 AM on February 25, 2011

I'm going to be "that guy" and nitpick: you cannot make Paella using anything but bombilla rice, which is very similar to risotto rice, but actually a bit smaller.

Of course, you *can* make it, but any self-respecting Spaniard will immediately notice the ruse and claim that you've made some form of "rice dish", but hardly Paella.

The bombilla rice is very specific because of the way that it cooks and the way it absorbs the broth.

Speaking of the broth - in my experiences, that's one of the most important parts of the recipe and making it yourself makes for an exceptionally better experience. We make the broth (from memory here, forgive me if I'm off a bit) with 4 cups water, a few tablespoons of natural chicken bullion (not the MSG/salt laden cubes, lord no), a full onion, saffron and a clove of garlic. Let that cook for about 20 minutes and it adds a world of flavor.

If you want real bombilla rice or other Paella supplies here in the US, I suggest going to La Tienda, based out of Virginia. They import some great stuff.
posted by tgrundke at 8:44 AM on February 25, 2011

I think this chart will help you out quite a bit.
posted by donovan at 11:37 AM on February 25, 2011

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