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If you joined us at Uptown on the 6th, we are sure that you (like us!) couldn’t resist stopping at the Chef Demonstration table — the aromas coming from Chef Robson’s Paella dish demonstration were simply mouthwatering. We were honored to have Chef Robson, of Otro Cafe, join us to create this signature dish that is a staple at his restaurant, and he sure drew quite the crowd with his GIANT pan!
For this special edition of Robson’s Paella dish he used several ingredients that can be found right here at Uptown, including: organic bell peppers, onions, kale, butternut squash, purple cauliflower, and garlic from McClendon’s Select. He also sourced locally raised Chicken Breasts from Double Check Ranch, Dry Chorizo from Jojoba Beef Company, Olive Oil from Sogno Toscano and canned tomatoes from another local favorite, Bianco DiNapoli. To add even more uniqueness to the dish, Robson threw in Chayote Squash — a vegetable commonly used by Caribbean and Southern chefs which has a mild flavor and tends to take on the flavors of whatever it is cooked with.
At first, Paella (or even the pronunciation!) can seem like a daunting dish. However, Robson assured us that this is something that can easily be made in your kitchen on a weeknight for dinner — as he whipped up a large batch to feed the crowds at Uptown in under an hour! The first items he added to the pan were the meats and the butternut squash. Once that seared nicely, it was time to add in all of the fresh vegetables, plus what Robson calls “the sofrito.” Robson’s Sofrito is a combination of onions, garlic, peppers, smoked paprika and tomatoes that have been pulsed in a food processor or blender, creating the perfect, chunky sauce for your Paella. Chef said we should think of all the veggies and meats as our “base” and the sofrito as the “mouthwatering sauce that truly develops all the flavors of the dish.” This combination rendered down for a little more than 40 minutes, and then Chef added Calasparra Rice, a Spanish Rice that has a rich texture, similar to Risotto.
Once the rice has been added, don’t stir the dish until it’s finished (easy enough!) If you stir the paella after you’ve added the rice, it will form a crust. You do, however, add the liquid, in this case chicken broth, and make sure the liquid is HOT — if it’s not, you will double your cooking time. What is Robson’s trick to a vibrant and flavorful broth? “Good quality broth, one bay leaf, and steeping saffron into the broth in order to develop that beautiful, rich yellow color.”
Many Uptown go-ers asked Robson if this dish was similar to Valencia, which is a type of Paella that includes fresh seafood and is commonly found in coastal cities in Latin America. Robson said, “Yes, this dish is very similar — however, we are using dry chorizo and chicken instead of seafood. With the addition of the dry chorizo, it makes for a paella that can typically be found in the countryside of Latin America.”
Lastly, Chef recommended that if you are making this dish at home to let it set over heat for 20-35 minutes, allowing the vegetables to become soft and the rice to soak up much (but not all) of the juices. Viewers waited patiently for the paella to finish cooking, and boy, oh boy — was this dish worth waiting for! Absolutely divine, Chef Robson!
We’d like to give a special thanks to the C-CAP students for chopping, dicing and helping to hand out the samples and to Chef Robson for coming out and preparing such a spectacular dish, as well as to all our vendors who contributed to this demonstration: McClendon’s Select, Double Check Ranch, Jojoba Beef Company and Sogno Toscano Olive Oil. Congratulations to those that won the $50 gift cards to Otro — it’s our favorite way to say thank you for coming to Uptown. Stay in the know on upcoming Chef Demonstrations and events at Uptown by subscribing to our weekly e-mail newsletter and following us on social media (find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.)