For my entry in the May edition of Is My Blog Burning? I decided to try something I've never made before. I don't know any French rice dishes and so I opted for one from south of the border: Paella. As usual, I extensively researched recipes before beginning and decided this one was the best. Actually, the recipe wasn't all that well written as it has conflicting instructions: one of the first steps says "add vegetables" and then later in the recipe you are instructed to add the peas. After explaining how to cook the rice and for how long, there are instructions on how to know how much to add...it's all very ambiguous. However, the charm of the recipe is in the repeated mantra after each paragraph:
Take a sip of a cold dry white wine.
With insight like this, how can the recipe go wrong?
Actually, it turned out pretty well. The beginning explanation in my recipe states that everyone in Spain has his or her own recipe and the quickest way to start an argument is to proclaim that yours is the best. So this levels the field a bit - if it tastes good, mine is good as the next man's. To me anyway.
So I played with the recipe and came up with the following:
Chinese French Paella (just kidding)
1 dozen large shrimp (cooked, as they are hard to find raw in Paris)
1 dozen large mussels (raw, wash thoroughly and throw away any that don't close when tapped)
4 small filets of monkfish
1 cup of Spanish rice
1 tomato, chopped
1 red pepper, roasted and skin removed
1/2 tsp saffron
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
3/4 litre of shrimp stock (made the last time I had shrimp - boil the heads and skins in water for 45 minutes and freeze)
First cut the fish in bite-sized pieces and fry in a bit of olive oil in the bottom of a cast-iron wok. (That's the Chinese part - I don't have a paella pan.) Add the shrimp stock and bring to a boil. Add the mussels and cover. After a few minutes they will start opening and will look like this:
Add the saffron, tomatoes and rice and cook for 20-30 minutes. Add the rosemary, chopped, and stir again. Slice the roasted pepper in strips and stir into rice. Cover and cook another five minutes.
Serve with a nice red Rioja wine.
A few notes on the ingredients:
If you compare my recipe with the original one, you'll see I left out quite a few items. This is partly because I was only feeding three and was afraid there would be enough for an army. Paella is usually made in very large quantities, as you can see by the amount of meat and fish that is usually included. So I just kept the parts I like best for mine. The rice and the wine came from a speciality shop in the 17th. I asked the fellow behind the counter which kind of rice to buy and he pointed to two: this one is good, this one is good only if you know what you are doing. I took the former. It was good. When I asked which wine to go with it, he answered "Why the most expensive in the shop, of course!" Ha, ha, everyone's a comedian. When we calmed down, he recommended the Rioja. I would have thought that I white would be better with the seafood, but he was right: it complemented the paella very well.
Lastly, why is it that nearly every recipe I read (including this one) listed "saffron or yellow food dye if you do not have any saffron"? Am I the only person in the world who knows there is a difference in taste between saffron and food coloring?? Sheesh...
Here is the finished product in all its glory. It was very good, if I do say so myself!
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