Viva Barcelona


The other day I was trying to wedge a freshly made container of fig & sour cream ice cream onto one of the shelves of my too-small-for-my-liking-and-definitely-too-narrow freezer section of my side-by-side fridge. In my opinion, these sorts of fridges are stupid. Who wants a fridge that can’t even hold a box of take-out pizza? And the freezer – don’t get me started. It’s not like I’m some crazy person who freezes everything I can get my hands on ….. I mean, geezz… can’t a girl put ice cream in the freezer without having to clear off an entire shelf, meanwhile rearranging all the other shelves to do said clearing!?

To top it all off – as if it couldn’t get worse than not having room for ice cream – it’s really shameful when my ice cream runs low (which happens often with a human Dyson named Chris in the house) and I can’t even put the part of the ice cream maker that has to get frozen before making more ice cream into the stupid freezer without first eating the rest of the other ice cream. What’s so bad about planning ahead? So I’d come to a conclusion – my freezer is out to get me. And no – these are not paranoid delusions. The feeling was real.

spanish chorizo

But moments after cursing at the freezer and whining about how bad we need a brand new energy efficient fridge with a bottom-drawer freezer, the damn thing redeemed itself. Momentarily. In the midst of moving about items in the freezer, out popped a lil’ nubbin of Spanish chorizo. All of a sudden, all was good in the world and I loved my freezer for being so full that it nudged the chorizo out and into view. I felt as if that nubbin o’ sausage were a direct trip to Spain, and I immediately stood there, freezer door wide open, and started drooling. I was drolling because I knew what that chorizo-action meant – it was time for another round of paella.

making paella

I’ve made this dish a handful of times. That one sentence should automatically tell you something about its tastiness. If you’re clueless, here’s a hint: I rarely make something twice. There are just too many recipes out there to stick around and keep making the same thing. The only other dish I remember recently repeating is Pad Thai. And that’s because I can make it at home and have it taste just as good as the restaurants’ versions, but healthier and not loaded with oil. And then I can order all the other Thai dishes at the restaurants.
Paella is different. It’s loaded with veggies – tomatoes, peppers, peas – and the only oil used (in this recipe) is the oil from the chorizo, which gives an extra boost of flavor. For non-Spanish folk, it’s considered the national dish of Spain. But to the Spaniards, it’s considered a regional Valencian dish (a region of Spain on the east coast). Nevertheless, go to Spain and you won’t have a problem finding paella. Your problem, my friend, will be deciding what type of it to consume.

paella - almost there!

Perhaps you’re not heading over to EspaƱa any time soon. Sadly, I know I’m not either. But last year, I did smuggle purchase some lovely Spanish chorizo from La Boqueria in Barcelona. And that nubbin that jumped outta the freezer isn’t the last of it – I have a whole unopened link hiding somewhere in the trenches of that horrible favorite freezer of mine. If you can locate some Spanish chorizo and a pinch of saffron, you’ve done the hardest part of making this dish. And you might ask, “well what about that Mexican chorizo in the g-store? Can I use that?”, and my answer is, “not no, but holy heck no”. It doesn’t taste anything like its’ magical smoky Spanish cousin, and it damn sure isn’t studded with hot paprika. Read below for more info:

paella up close and personal

More about Paella: There’s three primary types: Valencian, seafood, and mixed. Valencian is the traditional paella with white rice, green vegetables, meat, snails, and beans. Seafood paella omits beans and green veg’s and replaces meat and snails with seafood. Mixed? yeah, that’s both, like a “kitchen sink” paella. But there’s many iterations aside from these three. The word ‘paella’ is Catalan (one of Spain’s many languages other than Spanish) and comes from the Latin word, patella, which means pan. Some people have special pans just for making paella – they’re typically round, shallow, and made of polished steel with two handles.

Tips: First, read here for a good chorizo review. Click here to buy Spanish chorizo online if you can’t find it in your area. If all else fails and you just can’t find it or you want to make paella without waiting for your mail-order shipment, substitute kielbasa. But next time, get the real thing. For realz.

Seafood Paella w/ Chorizo
Adapted from Cooking Light, June 2008; serves 4

1/2 c dry white wine
1/4 t saffron threads, crushed
3 oz Spanish chorizo sausage, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices*
1 c coarsely chopped onion (~ 1 medium)
2/3 c coarsely chopped red bell pepper (~ 1 small)
1/2 t hot paprika
1/4 t salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c uncooked short-grain rice
1 c low sodium chicken broth or chicken stock
1 8 oz bottle of clam juice
1 c chopped plum tomato (~ 1 tomato)
1/2 c frozen green peas
12 littleneck clams
1/2 lb medium shrimp, peeled & deveined

Combine wine and saffron in small bowl and let stand 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over med-hi. Add chorizo and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chorizo from pan. Add onion and pepper and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in paprika, salt, garlic and cook 1 minute. Return chorizo to pan. Add wine mixture, rice, broth, clam juice and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 15 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed. Stir in tomato, peas, clams, and shrimp. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until clams open slightly. If any clams do not open, discard them.

*No – don’t do it! do not substitute Mexican chorizo here as it is totally different. If you don’t have or can’t find Spanish chorizo (which isn’t sold in most grocery stores, including Whole Foods, at least last time I checked) use kielbasa