Paellaworks: Culinary masterpieces

by Aaron Kayser and Aaron Apple

Paella (pronounced “Pie-yay-uh”) originated in the mid 1800s on the eastern coast of Spain, and was cooked over an open fire in a large pan. According to Wikipedia, farmers in the Valencia region of Spain used paelleras (the paella pan) to cook rice outdoors for special occasions. Vegetables, beans, meats, and spices were added, and the dish was simmered to perfection.
Little has changed in this regard over the last 200 years. And luckily for those in Whatcom and its surrounding counties, there is Paellaworks. Since 2005, Paellaworks has used fresh, local ingredients to bring paella to the people. The Paellaworks team consists of Knut Christiansen and Michael Nutt, who are completely mobile with an ingenious propane setup. But don’t think for a moment that by being mobile, the quality will somehow lack. They use traditional techniques to develop rich, deep flavors in their dishes (and are also able to cater to many dietary preferences). Being mobile also allows them to setup and cook right in front of their patrons. This adds a whole new dimension to the experience, as watching them create their work of art is almost as grand as eating it!
Our first encounter with Paellaworks happened at a party celebrating the 4th anniversary of StrEAT Food. Fortunately for us, there were two paelleras set up; one for traditional paella, and the other for curry pork. Watching the dishes being prepared was mesmerizing, and tested the patience of every hungry (and drooling) onlooker. Nutt and Christainsen each tended to their own paelleras. For the paella, chunks of pork were added to a ground chorizo sofrito. Over the next hour, a plethora of fresh produce was added. This included asparagus, slices of blood oranges, mini sweet bell peppers, zucchini, and roasted red peppers. Wild Pacific scallops and oysters were also added to the pot, and garnished with a variety of cherry tomatoes and bright green Castelvetrano olives. We couldn’t wait to nosh!
The curry pork was being prepared on the second paellera, where a large slab of pork was browned in a bed of sautéed onions, sweet pineapple chunks, and chorizo. Coconut milk and sweet chili sauce was added as the base, along with garlic, saffron, lemongrass stalks, ginger, and turmeric root. Both dishes simmered for about an hour while all of the flavors developed.
Once ready, a line instantly formed as Christiansen and Nutt began to serve the hungry crowd at lightning speed. The first round was on them they stated, and it was a free-for-all for the second (or third) plate. Grilled shrimp and oysters were also available hot off the nearby grill, as well as a fresh salad of local mixed greens.
Being able to watch the paella and curry being created made the food that much more satisfying, almost as if we were all part of the creative process. The final presentation of the steaming paelleras was beautiful and full of color, and each dish tasted exquisite. The paella dish was rich and vibrant, with the seafood providing a salty backdrop that was enhanced with the blood orange citrus. The curry dish was also quite delicious. The pork was perfectly cooked, and was tender and juicy. The curry was also full of flavor, and the pineapple complimented the sweet, creamy coconut curry.
Paellaworks not only creates delectable meals, but also wonderful experiences. They are a great asset in our local community, and we would highly recommend attending any event where there are cooking.
For more information about Paellaworks call (360) 510-9055 or see www.paellaworks.com.