M's Cooking Diary

Musing about food, wine and cooking.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Paella

We were at the airport this morning, waiting for my mother-in-law with N. and C. N is also from Brazil and she was telling me how she had never tasted paella. So I told her to come over for dinner that I was going to make one.

Basically I follow the recipe that I found in the book “To the Heart of Spain, Food and Wine Adventures Beyond the Pyrenees” by Ann and Larry Walker. This book is a travel narrative Spain though its wine and food. When I read that book the first time I had never set foot in Spain. I was salivating the whole time.

Although the method presented in the book to make paella on a stove is easy. I did not attempt it before having tasted the real thing in one of the best Madrid restaurant specialized in paella. It was important for me. The first I did it, I used basmati rice. Which did gives a nice “paella” but not the real texture. It was good and tasty but not authentic. When I asked a friend in Madrid if Arborio could be substituted for the real Spanish rice I was told no. Then I found a place in Montreal where I could buy the real rice for paella. Just where I had bought my paellera in the first place. The LIBRERIA ESPAÑOLA on St-Laurent Boulevard.

Because I yesterday I bought chorizo to make caldo verde and some Cornish hen, and my freezer had shrimps I decide to make a Cornish hen and shrimp paella. In general though, I prefer having chicken and rabbit and some mussels and squid.

The paellera is thin so if you use it right on top of an electrical stove, you will burn everything you put in it. I use one of those rings they sell in Chinatown to hold a wok. I put the paellera on top of it and turn on the burner to the max. I use olive oil liberally and brown all pieces of different meat in the center, pushing them to the edge as they become golden to make place for more. It’s important not to put everything at the same time. When this finished I make the sofregit (in Catalan, sofrito in castillan) from onion, garlic and tomatoes and some fresh thyme. This is critical, I make sure the falvour are well blended.

Then I mix everything, add some homemade chicken stock (now I can because there is chicken in the paella), reduced it, add the rice and some more stock and saffron thread that I roasted and mixed with hot water. I cover the paellera with aluminum foil and put it in the oven at 400 for about 30 minutes on the lower rack (important). I check then if the rice is cooked. If it is I add green peas and/or green beans already blanched and put it back in the oven to warm the vegetable. Of course, I could have mixed the greens in the rice at the beginning but then you end up with beans that are soggy and grey.

The paella is probably the most complicated dish of Spanish cooking, (I exclude dessert and anything Fernà Adria does). Everything else is just fresh ingredient and olive oil and simple cooking. For my money, I always eat better in Spain than in France.

There is even a place in Madrid where I go just to have the house salad the Ensalada "Rincón de Jaén" at the Rincón de Jaén restaurant on C/ Don Ramón de la Cruz. That the only place in the word where I remember the salad.


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