And making Spanish food there is a long sense of history coming alive in the food that I do not feel in France (although I did in Portugal). Like other countries, almost all the fare centralized around what is nearby, handy and cheap. Sure, you can see the handprint of Greece and Rome, Phoenicia and Jewish culture; however, Moorish culture had the most prominent influence on Spanish foods. From the Moors, Spanish foods get their reliance on rice; combination of fruits, nuts and meats; and use of saffron, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Enter, the PAELLA.
First up, you have to have the traditional equipment!
What does PAELLA mean?
- Paella comes from the Latin ‘patella’ The Latin word ‘patella’ means ‘pan’ and it is from this word that the Valencian word ‘paella’, which also means ‘pan’, is derived
- Paella comes from the Arabic ‘baqiyah’ Baqiyah (sometimes spelt ‘baqiya’) is Arabic for ‘leftovers’. It is said that paella was originally a poor man’s dish and was a way of using up leftovers from the previous week.
- Paella comes from the Spanish ‘por ella’ The Spanish ‘por ella’ means ‘for her’ and is said to come from the fact that the first paella was made by a man for his fiancée.
So which is the true origin of the word ‘paella’? The dish used to make paella today is certainly called a ‘paella’ (though there is a retronym for the dish now, ‘paellera’, as ‘paella’ has become so associated with the meal). This lends weight to theory 1. However, rice was indeed brought to Spain by the Moors, so it is possible that an Arabic word could be used. However, ‘paella’ is a long way from ‘baqiyah’.
Special K favors the theory that men cooked this dish on Sunday for their lady friends, “for her,” or “para ella”
What I learned from this month’s cooking club is the pure delight and skills of making Spanish sofrito. And perhaps this concoction is the perfect compromise between masculine and feminine tastes. Tomatoes, onions, garlic green peppers and olive oil are sautéed in a frying pan, so that the acid in the tomatoes mellows and mixes with the flavors of the onion, pepper and garlic. Top eggs with it, potatoes, white fish…anything and you will be in heaven. Allow the smokyness of a fire to char the veggies a bit and you’ll think you are eating divine food indeed.
Third, you’ll need some GREAT ingredients. Do some gourmet shopping for top of the line SAFFRON. CHORIZO and Fresh SEAFOOD (we had shrimp, mussells, and de-double-de-lish scallops).
Finally, you need a group of friends. We’re talking 10 people for a main dish, about 15 for a small dish.
And wine (if you like me, a superb Rioja pleases EVERY time…and next up is a blend from La Mancha area)
Paella with Seafood, Chicken, and ChorizoRecipe
- 4 chicken thighs
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
- a few big pinches of saffrom
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Spanish chorizo sausage
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 Spanish onion, diced
- 1 (16-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
- 1 cup Spanish rice, short to medium grain
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 3 cups fish stock (easy! just use shrimp shells and clam/mussels!)
- 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled with heads and tails on
- a dozen scallops
- a dozen mussels
- 1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Rinse the chicken pieces and pat them dry. Mix the oregano and paprika with some salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the pieces of chicken; marinate for 30 minutes so the flavor can sink in a bit.
Heat the olive oil in a paella pan or wide shallow skillet over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the pan, skin-side down and brown on all sides, turning with tongs. Add the chorizo and continue to cook until the oil is a vibrant red color. Remove the chicken and sausage to a platter lined with paper towels.
Return the pan to the stove and lower the heat to medium. Make a sofrito by sauteing the garlic, onion, and tomatoes; cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld; season with salt and pepper. Fold in the rice, stirring to coat the grains. Stir the saffron into the rice. Pour in the water and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Do not cover or constantly stir like risotto.
Add the shrimp, lobster, clams, the reserved chicken, and the chorizo. Give the paella a couple of good stirs to tuck in all the pieces and then set on the FIRE just let it simmer, without stirring (this is why it was so easy for the men!), until the rice is al dente, about 15 minutes. Scatter the peas on top and continue to cook for 5 minutes, until the paella looks fluffy and moist. The ideal paella has a toasted rice bottom called socarrat. Allow to rest, off the heat for 5 minutes, and garnish with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges.