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Friday, August 14, 2009

Paella, My Way

The August Daring Cooks Challenge was hosted by Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes. She chose a dish from José Andrés, a renowned Spanish chef who trained under Ferran Adria at his three Michelin star restaurant El Bulli. José now lives in Washington DC where he owns several restaurants. I’ve been most fortunate to dine at Jaleo, Zaytinya and Oyamel, and at each had a satisfyingly memorable and unique meal.

The paella-like recipe Olga selected is from José’s TV show Made in Spain. Of course, being the cook that I am, I made my own modifications. Namely, I eliminated the cuttlefish. I made paella my way…finally. This was a long time coming. More than several years ago, fresh off the plane on my first trip to Europe, sitting in an outdoor café in Madrid, I ordered paella. Be it youthful naivete or general stupid-Americanism, I tried to customize my order with the waiter in horribly broken Spanish. Really all I wanted was yellow rice, vegetables and beans, with NO fish! (Still working through this: I am squeamish about the fishy things of which traditional paella abounds.) He nodded in what I thought was understanding and promptly brought me the unedited version. Chagrinned and not knowing enough Spanish to protest, I picked around the shells and fishy bits and swallowed politely. Oh well, I was hungry.

For my version, cuttlefish was substituted with potatoes that I purchased from a particularly proud farmer at the market. He gave me his recommendation on (in his opinion) the prettiest, brilliant red-skinned spuds. The gorgeous mushrooms in this dish were grown at Tantré Farms. As another ingredient note, I used Calasparra rice, a short-grain variety that is particularly suited for use in paella due to its capacity to absorb large amounts of broth while remaining firm. It really cooks up beautifully like plump little toothsome sponges brimming with saffron flavor! Unlike risotto, which also uses short-grain rice as a foundation, the preparation of paella requires minimal stirring and fretting. Try making it yourself. It really takes very little effort to prepare.

Ingredients (serves 4):

4 Artichokes (because of the season, I used a canned variety)

12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)

1 or 2 Bay leaves

1 glass of white wine

4-6 red-skinned potatoes, medium-size dice

Sofregit (see recipe below)

2 cups short grain rice (Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain.

6 cups vegetable stock

1 pinch of saffron threads, crushed

Allioli (see recipe below)

  1. Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook stirring occasionally to prevent sticking to pan.
  2. Cut artichoke hearts into eighths. Clean the mushrooms and cut them into fourths. Add a bay leaf, artichokes, and mushrooms to the potatoes and sauté until potatoes are golden. Next pour in enough white wine to deglaze the pan and then add several tablespoons of sofregit, stirring to incorporate.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and bring it to boil. Stir in the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes on heavy heat. Add saffron and stir once or twice to incorporate. Reduce heat to low and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”). Remove the pan from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes before serving with allioli.

Sofregit is a fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and also sometimes includes different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms.


2 Tbs of olive oil

5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped

2 small onions, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 Bay leaf

1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped


Touch of ground cumin

Put all the ingredients together in a large swallow pan and sauté slowly for about an hour until all vegetables are soft. Taste and salt as needed.

Allioli (Traditional recipe)


4 garlic cloves, peeled

Pinch of salt

Fresh lemon juice (several drops)

Extra-virgin Spanish olive oil

Finely mince the garlic along with the salt using the flat side of your knife to mash into a smooth paste. Add the lemon juice to the garlic and drop by drop slowly pour in the olive oil as you continue to crush the paste with your knife. It takes time—around 20 minutes— and a bit of patience to create a dense, rich sauce the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise.

1 comment:

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It looks like a gorgeous version - I still love the seafood and chicken, though. ;-)