I was not really planning to do another "Cooking School" session so soon, but as things would have it, this is the ideal post for my own event the Monthly Mingle. The theme this month is Holiday Cuisine.
You folks probably thought I would be cooking up something Greek to celebrate our upcoming vacation. Nope! It is the perfect Paella.
You all want the story now, right?
Well it is a romantic one and if there are any sentimental ones out there (like myself) a few tissues would be handy.
Tom and I will be celebrating our 8 years together on September 9. We came together 8 years ago and have been going strong ever since. We've done and seen so much together that sometimes it seems like we've been together a lot longer. We both love traveling and have been to a few great places.
One place that I will always have in my memory is our very first vacation together. It was on the beautiful island of Mallorca in Spain. To be quite honest, we wanted to go to Greece (sound familiar) but had decided on the vacation spontaneously and on the last minute. We found nothing that fit our schedule. Finally our travel agent recommended Mallorca. We were very hesitant because Mallorca does not always have the best of reputations. What you see on the travel reports and often hear are the stories of the beach mile in Palma where everyone gets drunk and parties wildly into the wee hours of the morning. Hey, we like to party too, but it is not really our type of vacation to spend the days nursing a hangover and the nights in smoky bars.
The travel agent was brilliant. She put together a fantastic package and said that she would book us in a romantic hotel about 30 to 40 kms from Palma. We decided to rent a car and the agent gave us a few fantastic tips.
Mallorca is a beautiful place with lush green vegetation and an aquamarine sea. We stayed away from Palma for the most part and set out on our own tours discovering the East coast of the island. Romantic bays, sandy beaches, gorgeous sunsets and the food was to die for. We ate in rustical restaurants serving some of the most delicious seafood specialties I have ever had and of course my all time favorite - Paella.
It was in Valldemossa where Tom and I actually really fell in love.
There is always that one second when you look into someone's eyes and POW! you know you've been hit by cupid's arrow. For us it was in this quaint and charming little town and funny enough right there in the monastery where Frederic Chopin spent the last years of his life.
Valldemossa is famous thanks to Chopin and his lover, writer George Sand (wrote "A Winter in Majorca") who moved there to fight against Chopin's tuberculosis. The village is situated in the mountains and getting there from the coastal harbor is the most amazing drive. Through luscious olive and almond trees, always with the view of the turquoise colored sea below. The winding road up to the town was so breath taking that we kept stopping and taking pictures.
Once there, we wandered the town, including the monastery's gardens. Sitting in the courtyard just outside the monastery gardens we both wrote postcards to our friends. There on that bench it clicked. Just like that. I looked at him writing his cards and smiled, in that moment he looked at me and smiled back. My stomach did a huge turn and everything went pink.
Isn't that the color of love?
After this enlightening moment, we walked around and found a gorgeous little restaurant. On their board outside the words "Homemade Paella" brought water to our mouths. It was the best Paella I have ever had. Probably because the atmosphere surrounding it was so grand.
Ever since then I have been trying to make the perfect Paella. Some resulted in disasters others were very good, but always a lot of hard work and not quite that Valledemossa taste.
I did not give up. Experimenting and tweaking all the time. Eight years after that Paella I think I am ready to serve you what I believe to be that very perfect Paella from Valldemossa.
Music while cooking:
Lee Ryan - Army of Lovers
Album - Lee Ryan
4 chicken legs - separated into thighs and drumsticks
500 g Mussels - washed and cleaned. Sort out those that are opened.
150 g large shrimps or prawns - cleaned. You can leave the skin on if you wish.
400 g Fish filet - cut into bite sized cubes
2 bell peppers (yellow and red) - cut into cubes
1 large onion - finely chopped
2 garlic cloves - finely chopped
salt & pepper
250 g Paella rice
1/2 teaspoon of saffron
150 g peas - frozen will do fine
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 liter chicken stock
To start with you will need a large heavy pan with a lid that you can put into the oven. I used my Wok, which served the purpose very well.
In some oil fry the chicken on both sides until golden brown. Take out and set aside.
Heat up some more oil and add the fish, mussels, and the shrimps. Quickly saute these for approx. 2 to 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Take out and set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 150° C.
Adding some more oil (should you still have some oil in the pan then you do not need to add any more) saute the peppers and the onions. Add the garlic and the rice and mix together. Dissolve the saffron in the chicken stock (if you should accidentally spill the contents of the saffron on the kitchen floor like I did and there is no more saffron in the spice cabinet - please substitute with turmeric. LOL!).
Add some of the chicken stock/saffron (turmeric) mixture and the peas. Allow to simmer for a few minutes until the liquid has been soaked up by the rice. Then add some more stock. Repeat this process until all but the last 1/4 l of the liquid remains. Add this to the rice. Salt to taste and now add the mussels, fish, shrimps and the chicken to the wok. Mix well. Cover and put into the oven to allow the paella to cook slowly and soak up the remaining liquid - about 20 minutes. Do not open the lid too often as the paella needs to gently combine all its flavors and aromas together.
Take out of the oven. Keep covered for 5 to 8 minutes before opening. Salt and pepper to taste and pour the lemon juice over the top.
Enjoy with a chilled white wine on pre-heated plates.
I can't even start to describe the reverie of flavors and aromas. Once you open the lid you are hit with ecstatic fragrance of sea and land. Do you know what I mean?
The seafood brings that aroma of the ocean and the rice, vegetables and chicken takes you away back on the mountain village of Valldemossa. Fork after forkful, it was a delightful experience. The chicken and the shrimps, mussels brought a gorgeous harmony to the rice and vegetables.
Soeren at first did not want to eat the mussels. "You can't eat shells!" But as I scooped out the flesh and showed him that it was this part he ate, he was willing to try. Yes, he ate the whole plate, even the mussels and wanted more. So, any parents with kids who might think their kids will not take a liking to this do not have to worry.
Tom, looking at his expression, was back in Mallorca. He seemed to be in a trance and enjoyed every biteful. I had made a huge amount of the Paella. I was really surprised that a larger part of it disappeared.
Last reminder that the deadline for this month's Monthly Mingle Holiday Cuisine ends on September 7th. So, get those lovely dishes sizzling that take you away to that far off land or remind you of your fave holiday.
Ruth from Once upon a Feast is hosting the Weekend Cookbook Challenge this time round. She has chosen the theme (somewhat similar to the Monthly Mingle) "Foreign Dish". I figured this would be a perfect entry for the event. This recipe has evolved from several different cookbooks, magazines and hand-me down recipes from some of my Spanish friends and so I am unable to define one particular cookbook for it.
I hope Cate will also enjoy this dish for her ARF-5-A Day Tuesday.
paella, chicken, rice, spanish, seafood, food, recipe, Weekend Cookbook Challenge, shrimp, mussels