Australian winemaker Chris Ringland never had tasted paella until a business partner took him to lunch at the Paco Gandia restaurant in the Alicante hillside village of Pinoso, Spain. His meal was unforgettable. Instead of serving the familiar Valencian seafood paella, Paco Gandia specializes in arroz alicantiño—a recipe that includes sautéed chunks of wild rabbit as well as snails collected at local vineyards. The restaurant’s namesake owner/chef prepares the dish in the open-hearth kitchen in a huge, shallow frying pan (also called a paella) over a smoky fire of vineyard cuttings. He seasons locally grown Calasparra rice with a saffron-laden broth and covers the pan with a thin layer of grains to ensure that the rice develops the crusty edges, or socorrat, prized by paella connoisseurs.
“I thought [the dish] would be a superb way to entertain friends at lunch,” says Ringland, who now owns three paella pans. He has adapted the recipe to Australian ingredients such as Barossa rabbit, and he fuels his cooking fire with vine cuttings from his 100-year-old Shiraz vineyard. “Unfortunately, I don’t have edible vineyard snails,” he says, “but yabbies [crayfish] from my vineyard dam make a good alternative.”
Paco Gandia, Pinoso, Spain, +34.965.478.023, www.pacogandia.com
Chris Ringland of Ringland Vintners in Angaston, South Australia, recommends: Bodegas El Nido “Clio” 2005. “An easy-drinking young red, it’s a perfect complement to the juicy pieces of rabbit and the aromatic saffron in the rice.”