Sunday, July 8, 2012
Last Sunday, July 1, Spain beat the shorts off of Italy in the Euro 2012. We're talking four goals to none here, people. In soccer, that's a drudging.
Three days later, on the Fourth of July, I was made to eat not hamburgers or hot dogs or Italian sausage smothered in peppers and onions off the grill, but paella. It was a damn fine paella, one of the very best I have eaten, including those eaten in Spain.
But still, paella? On the 4th?
It did not occur to me that I was being made to answer for my team's humiliating defeat until later that evening, well after a splendid holiday meal with friends (none of them Spanish, by the way) had ended. A visitor to my Facebook page, viewing the picture you see above, asked (innocently, I think) whether I was celebrating Espana's decisive win over Italia.
"Ouch!" I typed sheepishly. "Hadn't thunk a that." (Proper English is not required in the world of social media, I find, don't you?)
Anyhow, I immediately confronted my associate, the one who had prepared the wonderful paella made of clams and calamari and chicken and sausage and shrimp, and demanded an explanation.
I didn't get one. In fact, I didn't get anything but a knowing smirk, clearly meant to be hurtful and unkind.
Like the team that could not once find the goal days earlier, I too was humiliated. At the hands of another who has not a drop of Italian blood running through their veins.
The recipe? That I got. It's a good one. Just don't gush over it too much, okay.
It's been a rough week. Unless you're Spanish.
My associate's excellent paella
6 small sweet Italian sausages (about 1 lb.)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 large pinches saffron, divided
1/2 tsp. cumin, ground
2 cups short-grain rice, such as Bomba or Arborio
6-8 cups chicken stock, as needed
12 small hard-shell clams, scrubbed
3/4 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 lb. cleaned squid, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
1. Poach the sausages in water until just cooked through, about five minutes. Drain and cool, then slice.
2. Salt and pepper the chicken thighs generously. Heat the olive oil in a large paella pan or oven-proof saute pan over medium-high heat until the surface ripples. Add the chicken thighs and brown thoroughly, about 5 minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate with a slotted spoon or tongs, then add the sliced sausage and quickly brown, about 2-3 minutes. Spoon out the sausage into the same plate as the chicken.
3. With the pan still on medium-high heat, add the onion and cook until golden brown and softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add 1 pinch saffron and the cumin and stir.
4. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until it is completely coated with the olive oil and onions. At this point, the paella can be set aside until you are ready to finish cooking it.
5. Preheat the oven to about 425 F. Meanwhile, "bloom" the remaining saffron in the chicken stock by bringing it to a gentle boil and simmering for about 5 minutes.
6. Arrange the chicken and the sausage over the rice, and ladle on 6 cups of stock. Place in the oven and cook about 15 minutes, until most of the stock is absorbed. Arrange the shrimp, squid and clams, hinge side down, on top of the rice, nestling them in with a spoon. If the rice seems excessively dry, add stock as needed and return to the oven for 15 minutes (the rice should not be soup, but if it is starting to "crater" on top, you will need more liquid).
7. Remove the pan from the oven, scatter the peas and roasted pepper on top, add a little more stock if it seems dry and return to the oven for 5 more minutes.
8. Remove the finished paella from the oven and let it settle 10-15 minutes, loosely covered with a clean dish towel, and then serve.