Thursday, August 18, 2011


When I saw that Felicity made paella for the Perfect column this week, I knew what I would be serving for dinner. If you're not familiar with her project, the idea is to try various recipes for the same dish until...perfect. I enjoy reading how well (or not) various ingredients and techniques work out. While I did end up preparing paella for dinner, I took the article as a series of tips, rather than a recipe as I had other fish, vegetables, etc. I did for the first time ever achieve the crusty bottom of the rice-something that had previously seemed impossible, and I attribute that to Felicity's good, clear writing, and advice. Where I really diverged was the sofrito. I make killer sofrito.

I can't believe I used to buy this stuff in a jar at the grocer when it is so easy to do yourself. Sure, you need decent tomatoes, so make extra in season and freeze the extra in small freezer bags-you'll be set for a long winter of paella making.

For About 1 Pint Sofrito:

10-12 Roma tomatoes, cut and seeded
1 large bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large, sweet onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
(Here's the part that will sound insane) 1/4-1/3 cup sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt (I prefer this balance overall to smoked paprika in quantity)
1/4 cup (or more) olive oil
2 bay leaves

Toss it all in a large, heavy pot and cook it over medium/low heat until very soft. You can take a potato masher, or a wooden spoon and give it the occasional smash. When you are pleased with the softness, run it through a food mill (remove the bay leaves) until you have extracted everything possible form the tomato and pepper skins. Return the puree to a small pan and simmer until reduced to a thick paste. There-you made sofrito.

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