Humble Paella

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 11.29.49 AMI was once accused by Catalans near Valencia — which is the home of paella — of knowing nothing whatsoever about paella, and of making at best what they called “arroz con cosas”: rice with things.

Fine. My culinary heritage is so limited that almost everything I make is an adaptation. But my rice with things is better than just about any other I’ve had in the United States. And to make real paella, you probably should start with a wood fire; anything else is a compromise.

Anyway, paella really is just rice with things — as is risotto, as is pilaf. There’s a technique to it, and it’s pretty straightforward, and by applying that technique to a variety of ingredients in a variety of ways, you can make something that really approaches great paella, even if a Catalan might scoff at it.

Read the rest of this article here, and get the master recipe here.

Posted in Recipes, Spanish

An Endive Experiment by Way of Spain

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By Edward Schneider

Jackie and I hadn’t had a Spanish-type rice dish (I daren’t say paella lest it be pointed out that I am misusing the word) in a while, and when I was thinking about one on the way home it occurred to me that whole heads of Belgian endive might cook nicely if nestled into the rice and other ingredients. So I bought a couple. In addition to rice, the ingredients into which I slipped them were previously cooked pork shoulder, red bell peppers, vegetable stock and the usual p**lla aromatics: strongish flavors, all, especially with the sprig of rosemary I tossed in.

From a technical standpoint, the endive worked beautifully. It was cooked but not at all mushy – still slightly crisp in fact. Nice and juicy, with good bitterness down at the stem end and that almost-sweet mildness toward the tip. Fun to eat, too.  Continue reading

Posted in Spanish

I Made Chorizo!

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By Barbara Walton

I tasted my first dry-cured sausage in France, purchased on impulse in Beaune’s Saturday open-air market. My husband and I brought them back to our rental house, where we ate them in the walled garden paired with a bottle of Burgundy. I remembered those sausages a few years later when I purchased Ruhlman’s and Polcyn’s book “Charcuterie” and there it was – a whole chapter on dry-cured sausage.

It was daunting. If the sections on identifying good-versus-bad mold or avoiding trichinosis aren’t scary enough, check out the half page dedicated to the dangers of botulism. But given the state of food lately, with salmonella in eggs and E-coli in hamburger and lettuce, how much scarier could it be? I had to try it. Continue reading

Posted in Spanish

Sunday Supper: The Simplest, Best Shrimp Dish Ever

[This week I wrote about shrimp in my column at Kitchen Daily--offering up tips for buying, prepping, and cooking this beloved crustacean. Lots of good info in that piece, but if you just want to make something fabulous tonight, this recipe is one of my faves. In fact, it's the best take-to-a-party or stay-at-home shrimp dish I know of.]

The Simplest and Best Shrimp Dish

Makes: 4 servings

Time: About 30 minutes

Adapted from How to Cook Everything

Excuse the superlatives; this spin on a Spanish tapa is my favorite, and everyone I serve it to loves it. The shrimp juices infuse the oil, and the sum is beyond delicious. It’s good with bread, over rice, tossed with pasta, or stuffed into tacos.

Other seafood you can use: similar-sized scallops (or larger, though they’ll take longer to cook).

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed

3 or 4 big cloves garlic, cut into slivers

About 1 1/2 pounds shrimp, 20 to 30 per pound, peeled, rinsed, and dried

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons hot paprika

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Warm the olive oil in a large, broad ovenproof skillet or flameproof baking pan over low heat. There should be enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan; don’t skimp. Add the garlic and cook until it turns golden, a few minutes.

2. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp, some salt and pepper, the cumin, and the paprika. Stir to blend and continue to cook, shaking the pan once or twice and turning the shrimp once or twice, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish and serve immediately.

Posted in Recipes, Spanish

Sunday Supper: Meat-y Paella

[This week I wrote about peas (and offered up some recipes) in my column Kitchen Daily. My feeling, in general, is that frozen peas work just fine in many applications, and throughout most of the year, so there’s no reason to get hung up (or feel guilty) about using them. Of course if there’s any time you’re going to use fresh peas, this is it (as long as you don’t mind shelling them). That’s especially true if you’re going to serve them solo, but, really, for a paella? I almost always use frozen and neither I nor (I think) anyone else knows the difference.]

Meat-y Paealla

Makes 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

[Adapted from How to Cook Everything]

Far from a major production, basic paella is a simple combination of rice and other good stuff; terrific Sunday night dish and a staple in coastal Spain for centuries.

3 1/2 cups any stock or water

Pinch saffron threads

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 medium onion, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces Spanish chorizo or other cooked or smoked sausage

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1/2 dry white wine

1/2 cup tomato puree

2 cups short- or medium-grain rice, preferably paella rice or Arborio

1 cup peas (frozen are fine)

1 cup peeled shrimp (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/2-inch chunks

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Warm the stock with the saffron in a small saucepan. Put the oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the chicken until deeply browned on both sides, then add the onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the chorizo, paprika, wine, and tomato purée; bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice, scattering it in the pan as evenly as possible, cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s shiny, another minute or two. Carefully add the warm stock  and peas and stir until just combined, then tuck the shrimp into the top before putting in the oven.

3. Put the pan in the oven and bake, undisturbed, for 15 or 20 minutes. Check to see if the rice is dry and just tender. If not, return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes. If the rice looks too dry at this point, but still isn’t quite done, add a small amount of stock or water. When the rice is ready, turn off the oven and let it sit for at least 5 and up to 15 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with parsley. If you like, put the pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

Posted in Recipes, Spanish