Is it blasphemy to add lemon to paella?
vegetable paella

Is it blasphemy to add lemon to paella?

In the past, lemon was added to rice to solve problems of shortage or spoilage of certain ingredients, and to garnish the ‘maritime’ paellas ordered by tourists in the 70s. The original taste of acid-free paella is claimed today, but even so, lemon is still present on some tables, either by family tradition or to reduce a juice that may be too intense. Should we squeeze lemon if that’s our taste, or is it an unforgivable disrespect?

“Sprinkling a well-cooked paella with lemon spoils it, it doesn’t make sense, but I’ll tell you what has been done and will continue to be done; The debate is lively and never ending,” says Juan Carlos Galbis, a veteran Valencian rice cooker who knows what he’s talking about, because after years of being a true paella champion, his now 8-year-old grandson is taking it with some. lemon drops. The boy is used to making this at home, because his father is making a delicious cooked rice with stew water, which ends with a little juice. This is also transferred to paella. Even if it’s an A like your grandfather’s. “One day I put the plate to him and said to him: Santi, take three tablespoons without lemon, try it, and then tell me if it’s worth spoiling it. The kid did and said it was great, but added: Are you happy now? Can I put a few drops of lemon now?

Sprinkling a well-done paella with lemon will spoil it, but I’ll tell you what to do and keep doing it.



Juan Carlos Galbis’s photo.Valencia rice master

The anecdote is good proof that there is no consensus on this issue even in a single family. “Key habit is, if someone has done it that way, it’s always hard to like it any other way,” says Galbis, who is responsible for two giant paellas for 100,000 and 110,000 that won the Guinness Prize. He broke records in Valencia in 1992 and Madrid in 2001.

“As a cook, I never add lemon to paella, arroz, or beets. seignortine, this is not how they are done. Only if a customer comes to you and asks you what to do, who am I to say no, explains Raúl Aleixandre, the national award winner and chef in gastronomy at the Architect restaurant on the beach in Patacona in Valencia. Aleixandre points out that there are people who prefer a touch of citrus over rice, including his own wife: “You don’t need to put your hands on your head because it happens, as if someone told you that you wanted a high waist in the past. Ideal is not to eat meat like this, of course, but if it suits your taste buds.” You have to accept it,” he said.

squeezed lemon

squeezed lemon

MORKDAM

Santos Ruiz, a Valencian gastronomy critic and manager of Valencia DO Rice, is stronger: “My point is that the lemon in paella is always disrespectful: if it’s good, all you’re doing is adding a flavor that spoils it. “You can’t cure it by adding citrus or even aioli.” The expert cites the ancient use of acids as a camouflage for deteriorating flavors, such as adding a few drops of lemon to a fish that is no longer as fresh as it should be. Although the authentic Valencian recipe includes meat, not fish, this traditionally is paella Was it done with?

Lemon in paella does not work in any case



Santos RuizValencian gastronomy critic and Valencia DO Rice manager

“In the past, the use of lemon could very well hide that one of the paella meats, whether pork, chicken or rabbit, was not very fresh,” says Juan Carlos Galbis, reminding us of what they were like before they existed from the refrigerator. they were kept in rams, in small cages with mosquito nets, where they were treated with salt. If a piece was badly salted it could smell a bit bad, so “the way to kill that smell was nothing more than rinsing them in lemon juice, and the citrus flavor was absorbed into the rice when cooked in the paella.”

Rely on lemon as meat is scarce

Another use of lemon was when meat was scarce when there were lean cows. “If they had just one chicken and they had to have many portions, there was a risk that the rice would be too tasteless, so they added lemon to it to give it piquancy and some flavor,” explains expert paellero, adding that some aromatic herbs such as rosemary or pebrella thyme were also used.thymus piperella), called chili thyme in Spanish. This strongly and slightly acidic thyme is used to flavor meat stews and even as a sauce for olives.

thyme essential oil

Thyme and rosemary are two of the most popular aromatic herbs in the kitchen.

Getty Pictures

This costume note helps us discover that a touch of lemon is added before anything is done in the preparation of paella and should be kept as is because it suppresses hunger. It was not found in authentic products that were made with a quality product, plentiful and fresh. So why did lemons start decorating paella later, in the 1970s?

Tourist boom affects the decoration of paella

The answer lies in the tourism boom of that decade. Picnic areas on the beach, which make artisan paellas with vegetables and very tasty meat instead of wood, started to earn a lot of money by serving foreigners. They asked for traditional paella, but the rice has seafood. “So they placed crayfish and shrimp so tourists could take whatever photo they wanted, and they covered the coast with lemon slices to decorate the coast,” explains Galbis.

The foreigners squeezed lemon over the rice because they thought it was part of the meal and no one could stop them. “It was transcending and expansive,” says veteran paellero, who is part of the pioneering chefs who demanded the traditional preparation of paella in all its senses.

Fish and seafood paella

Fish and seafood paella

CLV

A pioneer restaurant in rescuing authentic paella

Galbis was a true innovator, so ahead of his time that in the late 1990s, he received much criticism from praise when he brought back the country dish at his restaurant of the same name. Valencia’s Michelin star. So much so that he even found a supplier who supplied him with birds and birds. rabbits He grew up in a murdered corral with all the sanitary warranties, but without even going through a butcher shop. It used the best traditional rice and local vegetables. You had to make a reservation five days in advance for the meal. “It was very expensive for me, but I thought that if an older person ate it, they would remember their childhood and discover new flavors when a teenager tried it.”

Now, with such care, he couldn’t let anyone rub lemon on him: “If I was striving for authenticity, adding acid to it was unreasonable. He forbade putting lemons on it and they were angry because they thought they could do whatever they wanted on the plate if they paid. Everything was crazy. They said I was a pretentious kid who thought I was the best, it was too expensive…” recalls the chef, who would be considered an example of the trend today. eat slowly 0 km, but at that moment had to abandon his offer.


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How was that ideal paella without lemon? “It was rice that was soft, subtle and elegant, with a balanced flavor, without excess or predominance, cooked with the finest raw material,” explains the master paellero, who is now retired. Types of rice from Spain and their different uses. He notes that in recent years the move to justify the original paella has removed the lemon from the plate, saying that “we’re trying to reclaim the honor of well-made rice that doesn’t require ketchup, peppers, or olives or any crooked weirdos. But the lemon issue is a never-ending affair”.

Lemon makes the grains heavier instead of loosening them.



Santos RuizValencian gastronomy critic and Valencia DO Rice manager

“I admit that I have seen paellas with lemon around my life, especially in restaurants where there are tourists, and I sometimes put them at home for decoration purposes, but I never intend to use them. I am not a supporter. In fact, today I prefer to put two sprigs of rosemary on it”, says rice cooker Juan Valero of Arroces Tartana, wondering what’s the point of continuing to place it for decoration if it’s clear he didn’t add anything. paella in terms of taste.

Santos Ruiz goes a little further and ensures that the lemon not only adds but also subtracts. “If we squeeze it finer, we can say that the lemon aggravates the grains rather than loosening them,” says the expert. “The phenomenon of acid hydrolysis occurs in starch. It’s like when we garnish the rice with vinaigrette to make it thick, but in this case it’s none of our business.” In general, the gastronomic critic notes that nowadays lemons no longer appear to garnish paellas in Valencian restaurants.

The lentil thing has nothing to do with rice.

The case of rice cannot be compared to lentils, which is preferred with a touch of citrus, as vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron. Yet there are rice dishes where lemon is part of the recipe. Raúl Aleixandre makes a grilled rice that he likes to add green lemon zest to, and we can’t forget Italian risottos like al risotto. Lemon. In general, “Neither Valencian nor Spanish cuisine has a tradition of combining rice with lemon flavoring,” says Galbis. This is also confirmed by the chef of Villajoyosa (Alicante) Marta Devesa at Hogar del Pescador restaurant, which has a full rice menu, especially very fresh fish and vegetables. “People in the area never buy them with lemons, I only see them with tourists,” says the chef, who sees it as an aberration to overshadow the flavor you get in the kitchen with a few drops of citrus, such as limes or lemons. .

lemon risotto

lemon risotto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to Raul Aleixandre, a possible reason for sprinkling a little lemon on the rice could be a desire to degrease if the broth is a little too hard or too thick – “I’ve seen customers put it in because they like it a little softer, either rice in soup, or banda or paella.” -even though he insists that the root cause is always family tradition. “You have to respect it. We make a sticky seafood pilaf with spring onion salad in the middle that makes you cry and no one rips your clothes.

Controversial lemon pops up even in ‘MasterChef’

We always talk about sprinkling a few drops of rice on top of it, because the thing not to do is to cook paella or prepare lemon juice, as it will directly spoil the cooking. “It’s an aberration,” they all agree. But in general, tolerance is imposed on those who – even if you do not agree – can not do without a quarter or lemon slice. It wasn’t like that when Jordi Cruz criticized it on TV three years ago master chef to a Valencian competitor for putting lemon in his paella. An episode that went viral on the networks.

Tolerance is imposed on those who cannot do without a slice of lemon.

As the Abac chef puts his head on citrus, his partner Pepe Rodríguez says, “Your rice is so bad it needs a citrus to hide something? I think it’s a disgrace, it takes away the flavor of seafood, meat… When asked to explain his decision, the boy burst into tears and said that it was for decoration, a nod to his wife for doing so at home. A new example of tradition in matters of pleasure.


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