Spanish foods brings back memories of sitting at a roadside cafe eating a delicious paella. This is a popular Spanish dish. Paella is named after the paellera, a shallow round iron pan used for cooking this classic rice dish. The word paella comes from the Catalan language and means “skillet” or “frying pan,” although this dish comes from Valencia not Catalonia! There are many variations as to how to make your paella.
I enjoy cooking and eating the Valencia style paella, where chicken, mussels, clams, squid, and large shrimp (prawns) or scampi are used. You begin by cutting up your chicken, I prefer the dark meat of thighs, plus they are cheaper than breasts, into small bite-sized cubes. Brown your chicken in a paella or a large, deep-dish, pan with olive oil. After your chicken is browned, add to it one large, skinned, seeded, and chopped tomato and 2 1/2 cups of rice. You can cheat and use canned tomatoes. If you do, select the no salt added cans of tomatoes so you can regulate the amount of salt in your final product. Add to this mixture four cloves of peeled and chopped garlic, plus 1 teaspoon of paprika. Mix well and cook on medium heat for two minutes.
Add half a cup of freshly sliced green beans, plus a half a cup of freshly shelled peas. Add six cups of boiling water and cook until most of the water is absorbed by the rice. To make a lovely orange colour, add 8 to 10 threads of saffron. Season with salt and pepper. You may choose to use a chicken stock instead of just water to add more flavour to your paella.
Have precleaned your seafood that you will add on top of the rice. I like to use a dozen clams, 6 mussels, 3 small squid, cleaned and cut into rings, and 6 prawns. To make an attractive presentation to your dinner guests, slices of lemon should be used around your serving plate.
If you are adventurous, you can make your paella with wild game. In that case, you can use wild duck or partridge and rabbit instead of chicken and seafood. Your guests will be just as “wowed” by your culinary skills!
Another typical Spanish food is “jamon serrano,” a well-flavoured brick-red ham. You will probably find it in specialty stores in North America, or imported for special Spanish days. It is a usually well cured and has a distinct flavour. It is often thinly sliced and arranged slightly overlapping on a wooden chopping board or dinner plate. You might choose to serve them with fresh figs that are halved or quartered. They are also partnered with green honey dew melons that are scooped into tiny melon balls, served with cocktail toothpicks. Yummy in all ways!
A third delicious Spanish meal to prepare and devour is a braised Iberico pork with tomatoes, chorizo, thyme, and black olives. These are all ingredients that are from the central area of Spain. They combine exceptionally well and create an earthy, flavoursome meal. The following recipe is simple to make. Start with 2 1/4 pounds of boned shoulder of pork, cut into 1 1/4 inch chunks. Season with salt and pepper. In a casserole dish, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and then sear your pork. Once cooked, place in a separate pan. Use red wine to deglaze your cooking dish. Add this liquid over your browned/seared pork.
Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil to your casserole dish and add 2 medium onions chopped. Cover and fry for 15 minutes on medium heat. Once browned, uncover and add 6 finely chopped garlic cloves, 7 oz of skinned and chopped chorizo sausage and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 14 oz of skinned and chopped fresh tomatoes, thyme leaves, marjoram leaves, and fresh oregano leaves, plus 4 bay leaves. If you do not have fresh herbs, use more dried herbs as their flavour will not be so strong as fresh herbs. Mix together these ingredients with your pork in the same casserole dish. Cover and bake for 1 hour until the pork is almost tender.
Finally, add 3 1/2 oz of pitted black olives to your casserole mixture. In a separate pan place 3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar and 2 teaspoons of fine sugar and boil until reduced to about 1 teaspoon. Stir this mixture into the pork mixture. Cook another 20 to 30 minutes.
This hearty dish will definitely be great to serve on a cold and frosty winter night. After dinner bundle up with a good book to read and a nice glass of red wine. You have great memories of fine Spanish dining!
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