That Food Guy
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
  Seafood Paella from a Kit

Carmencita Paella Kit

Seafood Flavored Paella from a Kit

I surely did not need a paella pan. I have enough kitchen gadgets as it is. The wife agrees with me on that issue too! In fact, I already make a very tasty chicken paella in a cast-iron skillet. You can see that recipe at:

It is a very tasty paella and I can vouch for that. That was how it was and would have stayed until that fateful day I was walking the aisles of the local Kroger’s supermarket. One of the end-of-aisle displays caught my eye. There was a display by a Spanish company, Carmencita, makers of a “kit” for making paella. Them kit is a small box of rice, a cute vial of olive oil, and an envelope with dehydrated seasonings to make a seafood and saffron flavored paella rice. As an introductory offer it was paired with a traditional paella pan. On sale, the seafood paella kit and the paella pan cost what the paella kit would cost all by its self-in other words the paella pan was free. In a flash, I decided I needed a paella pan after all.

Later at home, reading the instructions on the kit box, it put me in mind of a product evaluation my sister, Pattie Sue, did awhile back for a Vigo Paella Valenciana kit. It too was an all-inclusive kit in a box containing an envelope of rice, a seasoning packet and a small can of bits and pieces of things that swim, float of crawl in the sea. Although it had some pieces of sea food in it, the Vigo version was pretty much a pan of seasoned rice with the yellow color of saffron and turmeric. Her finished dish did look a bit barren so she added the finishing touches herself. You can see her blog and serving solution here:

Examining my new treasure, I found a box with the paella makings nestled in an informational cardboard collar inside a 12-inch paella pan; all of that secure in transparent shrink wrap. The box contained a bag of rice, an envelope of dried paella stock and a small vial of olive oil. There is a picture of a “suggested serving” on the printed materials but the shrimp, clams and mussels are not included. The kit will make a pan of seafood flavored paella rice. This was not unlike Pattie Sue’s Vigo paella. Where possible I would make the rice according to the directions to see what the product was truly like.  I would also have additional food items to make my own suggested serving photo.

The free paella pan is enameled steel. It could be used over a campfire, on a barbecue grill on a camping trip. It is suitable for a gas range as well as an electric element or ceramic-top stove. A steel pan, it is also usable on an induction cooking unit. It feels to be about 16-gage steel with a nice enamel finish. With care it should last a long time.

Traditional paella is an all-encompassing term; it is more of a cooking style. Coastal regions will frequently be seafood paellas with the local catch determining the ingredients. Inland, chicken and other meats may be found as well as vegetarian versions. There is a variety of paella for just about everyone.

As much as possible… according to package directions… Traditional paella is finished over a high heat and that makes the socarrat, the caramelized layer on the bottom of the pan that adds so much to the flavor of the dish. The socarrat has also become a benchmark of traditional paella perfection. If I am making a batch for lovers of traditional paella, I finish over high heat and usually get a semblance of the socarrat. Americans, mostly on the other hand (and that includes me), like fluffy rice and often view the socarrat as the burned bottom. When cooking for them I finish the dish over low heat and make fluffy rice.

My plan to cook the basic dish to the instructions and later add my items had a flaw. I needed to cook the chicken bits, garlic, onion, Bell pepper bits, peas and carrots in with the rice. As it worked out, the dish was pretty much a batch of yellow rice with a few colorful items floating in the middle. It was augmented but it would give a taste of the original product. The garnishing and finishing touches, the Bell pepper rings, snow pea pods and the broccoli florets I would steam and add later. The chicken tenderloins I grilled with the lemon lime chicken breasts.

The basic directions for making the paella from the kit is to sauté the rice in the provided olive oil, add the flavoring packet and the prescribed water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over medium high heat until the liquid is absorbed.  What I did was to sauté the chicken, add the vegetables and cook for a few more minutes. I then added the rice and cooked until it started to brown. Instead of water, I added an equal amount of chicken broth. I brought that to a boil and then reduced the heat to a slow simmer and cooked until all the liquid was absorbed, about 20 minutes. As a side note, in reading the ingredients list it was noted that saffron was very near the bottom of the list; not too much there. I did add a bit of my own saffron.

I took a sample for taste test. The rice was cooked through, tender and there was a slight crust underneath. It had a distinct seafood flavor but no particular sea food stood out as predominate. It tasted very much as other seafood paellas I have tasted; good but not exceptional.  I then smoothed out the surface and added my presentation items. It was a colorful and attractive dish, very tasty and enjoyable for dinner that night. The pairing with lemon-line and white pepper chicken was a good one. The wife and I fully enjoyed the paella prepared in our new pan.

Come the next day it was time for some left overs for lunch. It was then I noticed I had apparently overlooked the night before. For convenience I had used chicken as the meat in the dish that was seasoned with a seafood mixture. Although it was unnoticed the night before when it was fresh, it was very apparent when reheated that there was a mismatch of flavors with the seafood portion winning out by a big margin.

I tasted a bit of the paella without any added food items and pondered what I had. Here is what I concluded… When freshly made it has good flavor, has lots seafood overtones, and it cooks up nicely and a socarrat crust easily obtained on a stove top. With a bit of added garnish it can serve as a main dish. On the second day things are a bit different. The seafood flavor seems to have intensified and is a bit overpowering the seafood becomes just “fishy.” Without things to pair the flavor to, clams, mussels, squid and the like, the fishy taste of the rice becomes rapidly less appealing.

In conclusion, I love my new paella pan. I like chicken paella and will use it often. The Carmencita Paella Kit makes a nice rice with seafood flavor and very handy if you require a paella in short order. As prepared from the package it would be more suitable as a side dish rather than a main dish. It would require additional items, shrimp, squid, clams and mussel for example, to serve as a suitable main dish.  Without any seafood in the dish to pair with the taste from the seasoning when reheated the fishy rice can quickly become unpalatable.
Additional information about this kit and other Carmencita products, check out:

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