I spent my weekend preparing to cook a huge pan of Paella, based loosely on the Simplest Paella recipe on page 470 of the Bittman Book. We rented the 60 person paellera from Kitchen Window, and bought all the ingredients on Wednesday. The main changes we made were using short grain brown rice instead of short grain white rice, adding beans, and adding a lot of paprika & tumeric.
Cooking paella, a rice dish originating in Valencia, Spain, is the same regardless of pan size. While we were set up on a specialized propane burner, one can use a gas stovetop or a grill, or do as Bittman suggests and bake it. You start with what is called the sofrito, a mix of tasty veggies sautéd to provide an aromatic flavor base. It is usually garlic, onions, peppers, and we used tomatoes, too. We added fresh chorizo sausage. Once the sofrito is together, you toss in the rice. Since we were using brown rice, we had to cook the rice for about 20 minutes before using it.
The rice gets sautéd with the sofrito until it's brought up to temperature with everything else, at which point you add the liquid and the spices. Bittman calls for 3 and 1/2 cups stock to 2 cups of rice. We used about 18 cups of rice and 48 cups of chicken stock. After a quick stir, we left it to cook. It took about an hour and a half.
In order to get the socarrat, the charred layer of rice on the bottom of the paellera, you need to let the rice sit over low heat for a long while. After you're satisfied with your crustiness, you turn off the heat and let it sit until cool enough to serve. We squeezed fresh lemons over the top and tossed the lemon husks in as it cooled.