Tag Archives: squid

PAELLA AND CHAMOMILE/LIME FLAN

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/

Paella on the fire pit

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.

Ready to eat

RECIPES

Paella

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  • 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.

Chamomile/Lime Flan

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  • 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.
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POP-UP DINNERS REVISITED

While I was in California the last two weeks, I got to see my daughter and son-in-law’s pop-up dinners first-hand. Not only did I get to give them a little help prepping (We just need to humor poor old Dad.) but also my wife and I got to enjoy the meal that they had prepared. Once again, the dinner was held on Monday night at the restaurant, Radius – a night when the restaurant was usually closed. The space is modern and sparely furnished and located in SoMa, so it attracts a younger crowd, and there were plenty in attendance at the pop-up. The waitstaff were all very capable and friendly. Most of them had known my kids from other venues around town and had volunteered to help on their nights off.

Dad prepping

Evan and Sarah Rich in the kitchen

Of course, as parents of the chef, we were welcomed warmly, but to my eye, everyone was receiving the same attentive service as we were.
The warm-up was a flute of California sparkling wine, Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley, to go with a plate of nearly transparent rice crackers sprinkled with crunchy poppy seeds. Then along came a beautiful amuse bouche of bite-sized corn fritters, nested on a creamy smooth red pepper coulis. The fritters were filled with fresh corn kernels and a creamy filling. They were crispy on the outside because of their coats of artisanal heirloom cornmeal.

Corn fritter and red pepper sauce

Next came a bright salad of tender beets topped with little clouds of goat cheese that had been whipped to an incredible lightness. Flame grapes were displayed along the edges, and snippets of fresh dill fronds made the classic combination of beets and dill.

The palate cleanser then made its appearance: a tiny little bowl of gazpacho which had been gelled and infused with air to practically float on the spoon. An icy granite topped the gazpacho, and garlic flowers on top provided the extra bite that made this dish memorable.

Beet and goat cheese salad

Gazpacho with granite and garlic flowers

The fish course was composed of perfectly sautéed bites of squid in a black olive vinaigrette and accompanied by the sweetness of red and yellow watermelon and the savor of crispy onions.

The meat course picked up the theme of black with tender, aromatic slices of roasted pork shoulder set in a pool of black garlic puree and covered with a bouquet of edible flowers. Bites of white cauliflower and tiny little heads of Roman broccoli completed the dish. It came with a tray of fennel-pollen-scented baguette. The bread was clearly intended to sop up any extra black garlic. One of the guests at the next table asked for extra bread to make sure his plate was completely clean.

Squid with black olive vinaigrette and watermelon

Dessert was labelled as “peach cobbler” on the menu, just to let you know it wouldn’t be your mother’s peach cobbler, and it wasn’t: a delicate panna cotta flavored with baked pie crust, laced with bits of fresh peaches, topped with a streudel that included crunchy bits of corn to return to the theme that started the whole evening.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we finished with two beautiful red curls that combined the earthiness of red pepper with the sweetness of candy. It reminded me of the fruit leather of my childhood, but with a sophisticated taste and texture that left those memories far behind.  All in all, it was a wonderful restaurant experience.

I also need to give special credit to two of Sarah and Evan’s friends: Daniel Brooks made these beautiful images while I was busy eating.  Danny is also a private chef in the San Francisco area. Jamie Law has been a constant friend who continues to provide amazing help in publicizing these pop-up events.

"Peach cobbler"

Sarah and Evan will be doing more pop-ups in the near future. If you would like to see the menus or reserve a place, you can check out their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ChefsNightOff or you can email them at chefsnightoff@gmail.com to be put on their mailing list for upcoming events and menus.

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