Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Paella Dinner with Friends

A few weeks ago, Michael and I met these nice Italian guys and we quickly became friends.  During our 1st meeting we all spoke about the love of our respected countries' cuisine.  So, I invited them to our apartment for a paella night.  After we ask them over, one of our new amici told me that he doesn't eat any meat but he does love seafood.  No Problem!  One of the great things about paella is that it is very versatile. You can change it to your liking.  However, my biggest question was, what else was I going to make? You see, when people come over to eat, I don't like for them to leave hungry.  I rather have tons of leftovers than my guests not be able to enjoy as much food as they like.  Honestly, I was a little stressed out with the menu until Michael advised me to "Keep It Simple."  With that thought, I decided to make 2 appetizers or tapas, the paella, and 1 dessert.  For the tapas, I decided on Pan Tumaca and a Tortilla de Patata.  I was told that our friends loved chocolate so there was no question that I was going to make chocolate fondant for dessert.

Preparing The Fondant

I started by preparing the chocolate fondant.  I mixed all the ingredients and getting the ramekins buttered and dusted.  I did this so that when it was dessert time all I had to do was pop those bambinos in the oven and moments later...voila there you go. Oops, the voila should be Italian ;)

Chocolate fondant is a great dessert for chocolate lovers and if you can get them out of the ramekins (I had a little trouble getting mine out despite preparing them to come out easy) it is a very dramatic moment for the diners when they dig in and a river of melted chocolate oozes out. Despite the sinful nature of this dessert, I have figured out a way to make it with 1/2 the calories of a typical one.  I wanted to do this because we are all health conscious, being dancers and all.

First Steps in the Tortilla Making

The Most Fun Part Is The Flip!

My next plan of attack was the Tortilla de Patata.  This is perhaps the most typical of Spanish tapas.  It is almost impossible to find a Spaniard that hasn't been raised eating this dish.  I have great memories of making tortilla sandwiches (on baguettes, no less) and packing them up for the long summer days of  swimming and playing with my sister at the local pool.  To this day, every time I return to Spain having a good Tortilla is a must!

The Tumaca

Pan Tumaca is a great and easy tapa.  The traditional Catalonian style of making it is by toasting some bread and then simply rubbing some raw garlic and tomato on top the of bread.  You finish it off with a little olive oil and salt and your tapa is made. 

When I prepare Pan Tumaca for parties, I like to prepare it by grating the tomatoes in a bowl and adding the olive oil, garlic and salt to the mixture.  Then my guests can spread as much "tumaca" as they want and the bread doesn't get soggy.

The Star

After preparing the tapas and the dessert, I was in good shape.  I then tackled the star of the evening.  Paella!  Now the biggest one I have ever made was for 4 people however we were having 6 over so I borrowed my friends Bernardo's super size paella pan.  Bernardo uses his whenever we have paella night at his house for our monthly Spaniards in NYC nights.  

I started by chopping all the veggies and then made the sofrito.  The way that I make sofirto for paella, I use onions, peppers, tomato & tomato paste cooked in olive oil.  At this point, I had to stop and wait for my guests to arrive.  I never add the rice until my guests are enjoying their tapas.  You don't want over cooked rice.  I used the traditional rice called Bomba.  This rice is an ancient grain originally from the Murcia area of Spain.  It is used in paella making because of it's ability to absorb 3 times more liquid than other rice.  Once my sofrito was made and it was time for the paella making to start again, I added the rice and saffron.  I cooked them for a couple of minutes.  After the rice has a translucent look, I pour my liquid.  In this case, I used fish stock.  I let the stock start a light boil and added my proteins.  My proteins for this paella was Shrimp (yes, with the heads and all), mussels, and squid.  I allowed all the ingredients to cooked together and never mixed it or moved it.  Mixing is a no no in paella making. 

I am happy to say that "Paella Night" was a big success.  There was laughter, joy, good times and full bellies for all.  I left the evening having representing my mother country well.  OLE ESPAÑA! 

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