Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Our Paella Adventure, Part II

OMG it was fabulous!!!

The seven of us managed to eat all the meat and seafood, with just some rice leftover. The only things we would do differently next time: more chorizo and more lobster tails because they were so extremely yummy. Also, we had to add extra liquid during cooking as the Arborio rice needed more than the recipe's Spanish rice needs. Finally, I would have been braver about getting a nice crispy bottom during the final stages of cooking. All in all it was a blast to make as a family, and it was absolutely delicious.

Abby was an excellent garlic chopper.

Tito's assisted throughout the process.

This chorizo was excellent, but we wanted more.

Chandler crushed the tomatoes. 

Jim cut up the chorizo with a little help from Ol' Grand-Dad.

'De-sanding the clams (does a cornmeal bath really work? I wasn't taking any chances), thawing the peas and washing the tails.
Everything was organized before we began.

Willow was hoping for a shrimp to fall.

3 burners worked out great.


This was Chandler's Instagram photo.

The Paella Paparazzi 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Our Paella Adventure, Part I

So tomorrow we are making Paella.

It all started on our trip to Spain where we were we ate copious amounts of yummy paella, and we took a paella-making class at Vanencia Club Cocino, a cooking school in Valencia where Paella is said to be the best. When you eat a good Paella it makes you close your eyes and say "ummmmmm!" in an embarrassing manner. My favorite from our trip was actually in Granada where Chandler and I sat on the sidewalk outside of a little place on the street where he lived while studying at the university. Spain is notoriously very hot in the summer and we had walked several blocks to get there, but all the little restaurants had misters that would periodically send down glorious clouds of cooling mist.  The Paella was served in a small pan that was positioned over a little flame, keeping it warm. There was nice crusting, or "socarrat", on the bottom, and the flavor was heavenly. We were also served icy cold sangria, and the combination was spectacular. I will never forget the feeling I had there, so happy to be on this adventure with Chandler, and also feeling so proud to think that he had lived on this street and studied here all by himself. I had a mom moment, I'll admit. But I digress - we are really still talking about Paella.

There is a ton of information about Paella online along with many authentic recipes - some of which do not sound appealing based on the ingredients (no thank you on the chunks of fish, no thank you on the chunks of bunny rabbit). There are also a million recipes that are entitled "Paella" but are not made in the traditional way - there should be no "popping it in the oven" at any point in time.

Our goal is to make a relatively authentic Paella using ingredients that we enjoyed eating, and making it in a relatively authentic way.

We must start with a pan large enough to serve a crowd. The pan needs to be wide and shallow, and heavy enough to prevent scorching the rice before it is cooked. Last summer I purchased a pan on Amazon, and it is currently taking up a large amount of space in my mudroom closet. So I could share info about the pan on this post I looked up the actual item on my Amazon account (wow - I have purchased a lot of stuff on Amazon in the past few months!!) and here it is:

Lodge L17SK3 Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, 17-inch
Sold by: LLC $81.31

Then there was the task of finding a recipe to follow. If I bake, I follow the recipe exactly as it is written because baking is a fairly scientific endeavor. When I cook I enjoy reading many recipes and then creating something using elements of each recipe. With this Paella - knowing that the ingredients would be expensive and a crowd would be observing - I really wanted to find a recipe that I could follow exactly. I searched and searched and searched, and I came across Tyler Florence's version and I think it fits our goal of yummy and fairly authentic. Here is a link to the recipe along with a video (bonus!): The Ultimate Paella

I do plan on changing a couple of things: I am not going to stir the rice into the sofrito as the recipe calls for but rather I am going to add the liquid, heat it, and then sprinkle the rice without stirring, just as we were taught. There's a reason for that and it has to do with the starches. Also the rice we will be using is going to be Arborio, or short-grained Italian rice. It's easier to find than Bomba (short-grained Spanish rice) and based on what I have read will do the trick. Read an interesting article about rice here. Also, I intend to replace some of the water with a little wine and and chicken stock. 

The shopping creds go to my husband Jim. I gave him a copy of the recipe along with the shopping list so that he could refer to the recipe should he have questions about amounts, etc. He loves good food and he loves cooking so he is 100% on board with this Paella Adventure. $130 later we have everything we need including the saffron. Disclaimer: we needed olive oil (extra virgin only, ever) so that bumped up the cost a bit.

Tomorrow I have a long day at church, but when I get home the prepping will begin! I am super excited to roll up my sleeves and CREATE. Chandler and his sweet girlfriend Abby will be my sous chefs, and Chandler will also be taking some photos so hopefully my next post will be all about our successes :)

~ a Geography Lesson, because I am a teacher, after all ~

~ not us nor our pan, but just a cool paella photo! ~

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Dreaming of the Beach

It's been a busy summer and a busier fall. After my wonderful travels with Chandler ended, I got right to working on projects around the house and farm. Then our priest delivered the sad news that she would be leaving us at the end of October, and as one of the Wardens of our church my life became much crazier. School started in September, and church activities were thrown into high gear -- church became more like a second full time job. In addition I had a bit of a health issue that was time consuming and anxiety causing (breast issues, but more about that in another post, maybe), then throw some holidays into the mix and you have a perfect storm for a very hectic several months.

But now it is 2016, my tenure as Warden is over this Sunday, my next boob appointment isn't until an MRI scheduled at the end of June, school is now on auto pilot, the holidays are behind us, and it's time to take some deep breaths and relax. This is a perfect time for some reflection, too.

> I am so blessed by my son and my husband. Both are good men that I am very proud of and both of whom I love dearly.
> I love the home that Jim and I built. It serves the purposes we designed it to serve: as a peaceful daily retreat for us and as a place to host our family and friends.
> Good health is key to everything, but when trouble threatens one must stay positive and maintain a sense of humor (I now have what we call my Frankenboob).
> St. Andrew's is one of the most important parts of my life, and I love my church family - the kookie people and all. This is an exciting year for us as we continue on our mission but also search for a new priest. It's like dating!
> I love nearly all of my students and I love teaching art, but I am looking forward to not working 5 days a week (7 years from now...). I dislike the politics of school, especially now that I am more active in our union as a Building Rep, but I love my work friends. Between my colleagues and my students I laugh a million times a day - and that fun I will miss when I retire.
> My animals continue to be my therapy as they fill me with joy and happiness. They also keep me active and healthy, and I cannot imagine my life without them.
> I have amazing friends and family. They are kind, generous and fun people, and they make me want to be a better person.
> GRATITUDE is our Stewardship theme this year, and Gratitude is what I am filled with.

> Finally, I love snow and winter, and so this mild winter has been a real bummer to me. But ---- I am looking forward to relaxing in Florida during February break, just Jim and I. No Mom, no Chandler, no other couples. Just us, with our toes in the sand, a cocktail in hand, and books and naps and awesome food and sunsets. Marco Island, here we come. 'Found this sweet condo on VRBO, and whenever I feel a little grumpy I just pull up these photos and dream of the sun and the sand, just Jimmy and I.