• Posted by Califia Suntree on November 7th, 2011, 4:00 AM

    Back in ’06, I posted from Spain about the cuttlefish and rabbit paella that I had learned to make there, fish head broth and all. The technique I describe there is truly no-fail, if followed to the letter, and I have since made all manner of variations (rabbit and cuttlefish both being, sadly, extremely hard to find Stateside). This time, though, in honor of my dad’s birthday, I went whole hog–or, rather, whole chorizo-prawns-shrimp-chicken-squid. When it comes to paella, the more most definitely the merrier, and this was one helluva plate of rice.

    I followed my previously posted recipe, with just a few tweaks to accommodate the pile of protein. Since I didn’t have a frozen bag of fish heads awaiting me in the freezer, as my Spanish roommate always did, I went to my local fishmonger and for $1 I bought a halibut carcass, which I boiled with onions and garlic to make a potently oceanic broth. The broth is your foundation, and it’s extremely important not to skimp on it–you are shelling out for pricey seafood and saffron (I use Penzey’s Spanish saffron, which is aromatic but not flowery), so why ruin it with nasty packaged broth?

    For this variation, I started by dicing the chorizo (Spanish, not Mexican–try Dona Juana’s brand) and frying it in olive oil until browned. I scooped it out with a slotted spoon and proceeded with the chicken and squid as per the posted recipe. In the final moments, I added the shrimp and prawns, so they cooked briefly and finished up during the all-important 5-minute rest period. I served the paella with a simple Spanish-esque salad (they aren’t big on salads over there…), made with Romaine hearts and roasted red pepper strips, dressed with a gently spiced yogurt dressing. Que delicioso!

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  • Posted by Califia Suntree on August 9th, 2010, 1:59 PM

    Q: I was in Madrid recently and splurged on some memorable Ibérico ham. I was tempted to bring some back to the States, but since you can now buy it here I thought I’d avoid the risk of having it confiscated at customs. Which raised the question—if you can buy it in the U.S. now, why are they still throwing it away at the border? The ham dealer in Madrid told us it was because it’s not actually the same ham. Is that true?

    Some day, I am confident that we will look back at this age of forbidden pork products as an American folly. Ibérico ham is truly the apex of cured pork products, and Spaniards have been eating ham made from wild pata negra pigs, cured in caves in the mountain air, literally since prehistoric times. But the USDA doesn’t take millennia of hale and hearty Spanish ham eaters at face value, and insists that imported meat products be processed in USDA approved facilities. (But ammonia-treated pink-slime burgers are totally A-OK. That’s logical.) Read on… »

  • Posted by Califia Suntree on April 19th, 2010, 3:09 PM

    Where oh where are the best peas in Spain?! I know I was. Thank you Iberia Airlines in-flight magazine!

  • Posted by Califia Suntree on April 12th, 2010, 3:38 PM

    Much as I love pintxos (and I do love pintxos), sometimes you need to just sit down and eat. And sometimes you need a salad. We ate two tablecloth-and-silverware set-price meals in San Sebastian, at Bodegón Alejandro and ni neu, which, we later discovered, share the same owners. (They also claim the Guggenheim Bilbao and the Michelin-starred but recently burned-down Mugaritz). We had three memorable dishes at Bodegón Alejandro, a small cozy place we stumbled into in the Parte Vieja (given my blood sugar level, the stumbling was literal): inky arroz negro (black rice) topped with a roasted tomato stuffed with squid and swirled with some creamy sheep cheese; a bowl of plain-looking penne, scallops, shrimp and asparagus that got a whole new personality from a clear bacon broth; and a post-modern millefeuille deconstruction made of lacy sugar crisps, raisin cream and armagnac ice cream. It was like rum raisin Haagen Dazs Platinum edition. Read on… »

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