I recently ran across some pictures from when our daughter, Alexis, lived in Spain. During her junior/senior year of college, she lived in Sevilla & Madrid, studying and working (and, of course, traveling). Needless to say, Skip and I couldn’t get there fast enough to visit, and had the most wonderful trip, eating and drinking our way across the country! One of my favorite dishes from there is Paella, primarily a rice dish, loaded with whatever suits your fancy! There are as many Paella recipes as one can imagine, and probably every Spaniard has their own favorite version, much like Americans have their favorite version of Chicken Noodle Soup! So, craving some of that Spanish food, we invited our friends, Nancy & Lewis over, popped in some Spanish Guitar music, opened a bottle of Spanish wine and began to create our very own “Night in Spain”.
We started out with a few tapas. Bacon Wrapped Dates from Evil Chef Mom looked too good not to try! These were SO good, they could become addictive! We dipped these into a balsamic glaze and WOW–were they GOOD!!
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Makes 30, allow 5 per person
10 slices of bacon cut crosswise into thirds
30 dates, if not pitted, remove pits
3 – 4 oz of Parmigiano-Reggiano, broken or cut into small pieces about the size of a date pit
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Stuff 1 piece of parmigiano into each date, then wrap 1 piece of bacon around each date, securing it with a pick. Arrange dates 1 inch apart in a shallow baking pan. Bake 5 minutes, then turn dates over with tongs and bake until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes more. Drain on a paper bag or parchment. Serve immediately.
Cooking Light Magazine had a recipe for ROSEMARY ROASTED ALMONDS that looked interesting, so we gave those a try, too. VERY good and VERY easy!
The Paella was fun to make, and Nancy and I cooked it together. You can really use your imagination and use whatever ingredients you like. I used chorizo sausage, chicken, mussels & shrimp. For a really authentic presentation, you can use shrimp with the heads on. My store didn’t have them, so I bought peeled & deveined to save time.
Inspired by: The Columbia Restaurant Cookbook and Chef Hinnerk von Bargen, Culinary Institute of America
pinch of saffron
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
salt, to taste
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2-3 carrots, diced medium, blanched
1/2 red bell pepper, diced medium
1/2 green bell pepper, diced medium
8 oz Spanish Chorizo, diced (or whatever sausage you like)
1 lb chicken breast, diced (can use chicken thighs as well)
2 1/2 cups short-grain rice
6-8 shrimp (can be peeled or not)
1/2 cup green peas (if using frozen, defrost)
chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
lemon wedges for garnish (optional)
Add saffron to chicken stock, bring to simmer, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Salt as needed.
Heat oil in paella pan or saute pan on medium heat and brown chorizo. Remove and reserve. Add chicken, brown on all sides, remove and reserve. In same pan, add onions, peppers & carrots & garlic & cook 4-5 minutes. Add rice and mix well until all grains are coated with oil. Add chicken stock and the reserved chicken and chorizo. Bring to a boil and lower heat to establish a slow simmer. Simmer about 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks and evenly absorbs the liquid. Add the mussels and the shrimp, tucking them into the rice. Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 15 minutes. When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom, then it’s perfect. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with peas, parsley and lemon wedges.
NOTE #1: Alternatively, after adding the mussels and shrimp, you can put the whole pan into the oven at 325 degrees.
NOTE #2: The ideal paella has a toasted rice bottom called socarrat.
Nancy is quite the cook and baker. She brought a beautiful green salad dressed with Ina Garten’s Lemon Vinaigrette. LOVED the dressing!
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4-pound chunk very good Parmesan
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour enough dressing on the salad to moisten. Toss well and place the salad on individual plates. With a very sharp knife or a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmesan into large shards and arrange them on top of the salad.
For dessert, Nancy decided to try Evil Chef Mom’s Kahlua Coffee Chocolate Cake. It was decadent! She brought homemade coconut ice cream and drizzled it with a delicious Kahlua Caramel Sauce. YUM!!!
After dinner, Skip pulled out the Port, Sherry & Madeira for some tastings. Thanks Nancy & Lewis for making it such a FUN evening! Can’t wait to do it again!