Saturday, September 12, 2015

Eating Around the World - Spain

Behold, the enormous and mouth-watering pan of Spanish paella that was our dinner tonight. This picture was actually taken by Collin, who pulled the pan out of the oven to serve to our dinner guests while I took our 4-year-old to urgent care in the next city over because she stuck a wooden bead up her nose. Anyway, I can't really say we got much of the Spanish meal experience that I was hoping for, but it did make tasty leftovers.

Paella is Spain's most well-known dish, but it isn't part of the regular meal rotation in the Hobbs household. (Actually, we don't have a regular meal rotation. Meal planning is an area where I really need to improve.) Before looking up any recipes, Collin and I discussed what we thought paella was, and each of us had a different impression. I thought it was like a sort of Spanish jambalaya - thick and saucy. Collin thought it was drier, and more like a Spanish flavored biryani. It turns out that we were both a little bit right, but he was closer to the truth than I was. Paella is often saucy or even mushy, but it's not supposed to be. Good paella is a flavorful rice dish, where the rice absorbs most of the liquid in the dish as it cooks.

I used parts of a recipe in one of my cookbooks, as well as the very helpful instructions in this video. One of the best tips I found was to place the whole pan in the oven to cook the rice to keep the heat even enough. I was using my biggest skillet - a 14-inch cast-iron pan - and while it does a great job holding a large amount of food, it doesn't heat evenly on my much smaller burner.

Although I had to make a number of substitutions that basically disqualify this dish from the strict definition of paella (I used long grain rice instead of short, I used turmeric instead of saffron, and I didn't have any rabbit meat) we enjoyed it very much. It was an especially great end-of-summer meal, since it used tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and green beans from our garden, all of which are pouring in right now. If I had a meal rotation, I'd definitely add this recipe. As it is, I'll just have to try to remember we liked it and that we should make it again sometime soon. And if it's on a night where I don't end up running out of the house in an emergency, I might even make gazpacho or churros to go with it.

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