Spanish InfluencesI know, I know, it’s been over a month since my last non-quick byte posting…but have no fear, later this month I’ll be making a trip the Windy City and will be visiting some of the trendiest restaurants owned by some of the Top Chefs of America (literally, I’ve already made reservations at Rick Bayless and Art Smith’s restaurants).
But, back to Spanish Influences…
A few weeks ago, my aunts threw a fabulous Paella Party (catered by Parsley Sage Rosemary Thyme after the company graciously donated this paella party to Sacred Heart Nativity's annual Fiesta Auction) to bid adios to summer, hello to fall.
Let’s just say 100ish people, one 6 foot paella pan and tons of pitchers of sangria later, it was a grand success that ended with my crazy aunts dancing outside in the backyard – although, I guess that’s not really uncommon for them ;)
Anyways, side notes aside, for those of you who haven’t had the luxury of eating homemade paella, it’s something you definitely need try – and I guarantee you’ll L-O-V-E it.
Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that can be made with meat, fish, vegetables or a combination of all three. But, I really doubt the Spaniards are vegetarians since I for one wouldn’t be able to do without some good chorizo or jamon (oink, oink).
You can find paella at local tapas bars such as Cascal's in Mountain View (which I just went to with some friends and it was AMAZING - the ceviche was to die for), Picasso’s Tapas in downtown San Jose (fun atmosphere which has a great, cheap, lunch menu) or even Habana Cuba that serves some paella platters (although, you’ll probably be tempted to try some of their other meat dishes and enjoy the sweet plaintains).
At the Paella Party, my aunts decided on meat paella consisting of sausage, chicken, bell peppers, onions and peas served with a side of grilled zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and more bell peppers.
If you want to make some homemade paella, you really need to have a paella pan. These pans allow you to cook on either gas/charcoal grills or gas burners. The shallow pans also allow for the rice to cook evenly and also picks up on the intense flavor. You usually don’t need a lid at all since the paella slowly cooks and doesn't steam like traditional white or brown rice.
Saffron is the spice that turns the paella its unique gold color. But, buyer beware, saffron can be a pretty pricey since it’s usually imported from Spain. It’s commonly sold in small packs – for a paella recipe you usually only need a few saffron strands at the most. It’s helpful to buy a mortar and pestle that will allow you to grind up the saffron.
But, if you are on a limited budget and cringe at the fact that saffron could be at least $20 bucks for one ounce, some cheater substitutions are:
- Turmeric: It’s another herb that is found in the powder form and is usually found in curry. The deep orange color will give you the same effect at saffron, but you’ll miss out on saffron’s unique fragrance.
- Packaged saffron rice: Well, wouldn’t you know, some geniuses have actually created “saffron rice” that pretty much tastes the same. Just be sure to follow the package directions since cooking time will be different.