The other evening we had some friends over for dinner. I had tasted a bottle of Spanish granacha, Cruz de Piedra, at our neighborhood wine tasting the week before, so of course I thought of making paella in our back yard over our open fire pit. It turned out to be Spanish night with manchego, membrillo, white anchovies, paella, and chamomile/lime flan with home-made cajeta. I was pretty proud of the result, and then I discovered that our friends’ daughter, who runs the first food truck in our town, serves paella on a regular basis. Not only that, she writes a food blog where she has done a very complete and scholarly description of the history and traditions of paella. You can read all about it on her blog, http://www.foodtruckclick.com/
We still had a good time at our gathering, and cooking the paella over an open fire was the hit of the evening.
We enjoyed some of the Cruz de Piedra, along with some vinho verde in deference to the Portuguese and a warm evening. Our friends brought a tasty green salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette along with a crusty batard of farm bread.
Dessert was a classic flan except that it was flavored with chamomile and lime. I served it with the traditional caramel topping but along with cajeta made with fresh goat’s milk.
As evening came, we just relaxed on the patio and watched the sun go down.
Paella is one of those things where you can just do whatever you please except for the required rice and saffron. The recipe that follows is the version I chose for the evening.
- ½ cup olive oil, divided
- 4 chicken thighs
- 3 ounces pancetta, chopped
- 2 chorizo sausages, one diced and one sliced crosswise
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ¼ x 1½ inch strips
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2½ cups Arborio rice
- 2½ cups fish stock
- 2½ cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- ½ teaspoon Spanish saffron (no other)
- 8 clams
- 8 mussels
- 8 large shrimp, shelled except for the tail and deveined
- ½ cup fresh or thoroughly thawed frozen green peas
- 4 medium squid tubes, each cut into 4 pieces
- On the stove, heat half of the olive oil over a medium high flame. When it is just shimmering, add the chicken thighs, skin-side down. Brown the chicken until the skin is crisp and brown, turning frequently so the chicken cooks through completely. Drain the chicken on paper towels and set aside. You may want to refrigerate if dinner is a long way away.
- Add the sliced chorizo to the hot oil and chicken fat. Turn frequently until lightly browned. Drain the cooked chorizo on paper towels and set aside.
- Add the pancetta and diced chorizo to the still hot pan. Stir frequently until the pancetta is just slightly browned but not crispy. Then add the onion, tomato, pepper, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are well wilted, liquid has boiled off, and the mixture is a thick sauce. This is the sofrito. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- About an hour before you plan to start the paella, build a fire in the fire pit. Although a wood fire is traditional, charcoal briquettes are perfect.
- Back in the kitchen, pour out the oil and chicken fat from the pan. Add the remaining olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Then add the rice, stirring frequently until it is well coated.
- In the meantime, combine the fish and chicken stock in a large pot and bring to the boil.
- When the rice is evenly coated stir in the sofrito, salt, and saffron. Then pour in the boiling stock, and bring it back to the boil.
- It is now time to take the pan out to the fire pit. Be careful not to spill.
- When the pan is firmly set on the grate, make sure it is bubbling gently. From now on, don’t stir.
- Now it is time to add the other ingredients. First arrange the chicken thighs around the outside of the pan. Then put in the sliced chorizo. After a few minutes, place the clams, hinge side down, deep into the rice. Next add the mussels, and then the shrimp.
- Sprinkle the peas over the top. Then check to see how everything is going. Add more water if needed. Stir only if the bottom seems to be burning.
- Cooking should take around 20-30 minutes, depending upon the heat of your fire.
- Just 3 or 4 minutes before you think things are done, bury the pieces of squid in the rice. They will get tough if you cook them too long.
- Serve immediately.
- 2/3 cup white sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 2 bags pure chamomile tea (some have mint or other herbs)
- rinds of 2 limes
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 quarts boiling water
- Preheat oven to 300° and set out 4 6-ounce ramekins
- In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir but continue to boil until the mixture is a light amber color.
- Working quickly, pour some of the caramelized sugar into each of the ramekins, turning them so the caramel coats the bottoms and sides. Set aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the cream to a simmer along with the added tea bags and lime rinds. Heat for about 10 minutes. Then stir in the sugar, and remove from the heat.
- Let steep off the heat for another 10 minutes. Then strain into a bowl.
- In the meantime, combine the eggs and egg yolks in another bowl, using a whisk. Make sure that they are very well mixed.
- Whipping constantly, Pour a small stream of the heated cream into the egg mixture/ Not too much so that the eggs don’t scramble. Add a little more of the heated cream to temper the eggs, and then pour that mixture into the cream, whipping to combine completely.
- Pour the egg and cream mixture into the prepared ramekins.
- Arrange the ramekins in an oven-proof pan which will hold them comfortably.
- Pour the boiling water into the pan ust to the level of the tops of the flans, being careful not to get water in the ramekins.
- Transfer to the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. The centers of the custards will still be soft.
- Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow the flans to cool completely in the water bath. They will finish their cooking as they cool.
- Cover the cooled ramekins with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and even over night.
- To serve, run a thin spatula around the edge of each flan. Invert over the serving plate. The flan should slide out easily. If it does not, twist gently and it should come free.