We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Basquing In Boise and Paella Mixta

My Traveling Tales by Michelle

Vibrant Paella Mixta prepared by The Basque Market in Boise, Idaho.
   "Numbering about 15,000 Boise's ethnic Basque community is the largest such community in the United States and the fifth largest in world outside Mexico, Argentina, Chile and the Basque Country in Spain and France. A large Basque festival known as Jaialdi is held once every five years (next is 2015). Downtown Boise features a vibrant section known as the "Basque Block"."  ~Wikipedia

   "Basque Country, called Euskadi in the Basque language, is the easternmost region in Green Spain. Bordering France in the foothills of the western Pyrenees, it runs westward along the Bay of Biscay, with Cantabria to the west and Navarra and La Rioja to the south." ~Teresa Barrenechea, The Cuisines of Spain

The Basque flag.
   Last year I spent a lot of time on the road exhibiting at conventions, which translated to spending more than my fair share of time in Las Vegas. Or if not Las Vegas than Orlando. Back when the economy was booming I enjoyed spending exhibiting time in cities such as Chicago, Boston, Memphis and San Francisco. When the economy came to a grinding halt it seemed as if more and more show organizers could only be lured by lucrative offers from the casinos. Imagine my delight when a convention destination last summer turned out to be Boise, Idaho, a welcome break from neon-lit non-stop pulsating action that is Las Vegas.

The Basque Dancers entertain the dinner crowd.

The convention attendees join the revelry of the Basque Dancers.
Paella featuring shrimp, clams and mussels prepared by The Basque Market.                                                                             
   The first outing for both convention attendees and exhibitors was an opening night celebration, an outdoor dinner on a closed street on the Basque Block. Three large pans of paella were prepared over large burners. And when I say large, I mean the largest paella pans I have ever seen. The three paellas comfortably fed hundreds of people. This party was the impetus for me to try my hand making paella at home. It put my mind to thinking of how a paella can be deconstructed to serve guests whose eating preferences can be vastly different. In preparing a vegetarian paella, I was freed to grill any number of meats and to have pickled shrimp ready ahead of time.
   The next night my colleague and friend, Gary and I joined the convention attendees for a scenic ride on the Thunder Mountain Line. Our first class fares included a Mystery Dinner Theatre and no host bar. The actors kept us entertained along the way with the over-the-top plot and their tongue in cheek acting. The train follows the Payette River and ascends the mountains in the Boise National Forrest.

The lively actors, the stars of the Mystery Dinner Theatre.
Dinner in a standard class car featured tables and chairs and a three course meal.
   In between the conference and the planned events Gary and I had time to walk around downtown Boise, circle the Capitol building and stroll a small open market. I liked the vibe of the downtown area and locals were decidely friendly. Following are the photos I snapped during my short tour.

Can you tell I am a newly minted fan of Boise? I look forward to returning again... perhaps in 2015 for the Jaialdi Basque party. Now that would be a good time. I know the food will be worth the wait and the price of a plane ticket. Not that it takes much prompting, but I'll surely get my dance on, too!  The  Basque people know how to have a good time and paella is on the table for every celebration.
   Paella is surprisingly easy to prepare as long as you have the right pan and the right rice. With a little advance preparation you can treat a block party crowd of neighbors, friends and family to a fantastic meal.
My Paella served with Pickled Shrimp and Lamb with Kokkari Dressing.                                                                       
Paella Mixta

   "The rice is never washed before adding it to the pan, as it needs its starch to ensure the proper texture when cooked. When the liquid is combined with the rice, whether it is already in the pan and the rice is added to it or vice versa, it must always be at a boil. (Always keep a little extra hot liquid on hand, in case you have not controlled the heat properly and the paella is turning out a little dry.) Finally, once the rice and the liquid are together, the mixture is never stirred. The rice grains must remain whole, and even gentle stirring might break them up, or it can give the rice an undesirable sticky consistency." ~Basque chef Teresa Barrenechea, The Cuisines of Spain

   "When adjusting for more or less servings, you can usually figure about 4 people to each cup of raw rice, and nearly 3 times the amount of broth as rice. If you cover your paella and place it in the oven to cook, you will need to reduce the amount of broth to 2 times the amount of rice. When a paella is cooked completely on the stove top, you lose a fair amount of liquid in the broth to evaporation, which increases the intensity of the broth and thus the paella." The Basque Market in Boise, Idaho

   For me, this recipe is a great way to use a store-bought rotisserie chicken and leftover pulled pork. The paella is started on the stove top and finished in the oven. If you have carnivores and vegetarian in your group, the paella can easily be prepared with no animal protein and only vegetables giving you the opportunity to separately prepare fish, chicken or beef (preferably on the grill) to serve as sides. All you need is a leafy green salad with a Sherry Vinaigrette and perhaps some garlic bread and everyone is happy. A traditional dessert would be pears poached in wine.
   I purchased Bomba rice at Williams-Sonoma. Bomba rice requires more broth than other varietals of rice. The ratio is 3 cups broth to 1 cup Bomba rice, so scale your measurements accordingly. For Easter dinner I prepared all the meat and fish on the side, and doubled the amount of rice from 2 cups to 4 cups. I kept the vegetable and saffron measurements the same and increased the broth. I could have easily fed double the amount of friends and family at my table that night. Doubling the portion of rice, and preparing the meat(s) on the grill makes it very easy to serve 25 to 30 people. In this manner, too, the timing of the paella is flexible - just ladle on more broth and bake awhile longer - while the meat rests. Finish on the stove top to create the layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan called socarrat (read the note at the bottom of the post).

Bomba rice from Spain can be difficult to find locally, but well worth the effort.
Mix and Match Protein, optional:
rotisserie chicken breast or thighs, cut into bit size pieces, about 1 pound
leftover pulled pork, about 1 pound
Spanish chorizo sausage, about 3/4 pound, sliced into bite-sized rounds
diced jamon serrano, 1/2 to 1 cup
grilled lamb chops drizzled with Kokkari Dressing
Linda's Gremolata and Grilled Rack of Lamb
shrimp, one pound large, cleaned, tail removed, or Super Special Spicy Pickled Shrimp

2 red bell peppers, roasted, skin removed, seeded and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, skin removed, seeded and sliced
3 to 4 Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or grated
1 pound green beans, both ends trimmed and shocked, toss in Kokkari Dressing, if desired
2 medium onions, diced or 3/4 to 1 cup shallots, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced or prepared ahead
about 10 Spanish Manzanilla green olives stuffed with pimentos
about 10 artichoke hearts, halved
2 cups shelled peas (fresh or defrosted), optional

olive oil or garlic oil prepared ahead
2 cups Spanish rice such as Calasparra or Bomba, or if that is difficult to find you may use short grain risotto rice, such as Carnaroli, Arborio or Vialone Nano
about 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided (you will likely have some broth leftover) 
1/4 cup brandy
a large pinch (about 12) saffron threads 
2 Tbsps fresh thyme, minced
1-1/2 tsps smoked pimentón
1-1/2 tsps sweet paprika
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

sliced green olives, optional
1/3 cup minced parsley
lemon wedges

Special equipment:
15" paella pan, also known as a Paellera

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position.
2. For large batches of garlic and shallots, I like to prep both by putting my food processor to work. First I peel the garlic cloves and then the shallots. I cut the shallot cloves in half. While the food processor is running (with the steel blade inserted), I drop the cloves of garlic through the feed tube. When the cloves stop bouncing around the bowl, they are minced. Scrape out the minced cloves into a glass bowl with a tightly fitting lid. Stir in olive oil, cover and regrigerate until needed (can be stored up to a week). There is no need to clean the food processor between batches. Add the cut shallots to the work bowl, pulse the shallots 6 to 7 times until finely diced. Transfer the shallots to a glass jar, stir in olive oil, cover and refrigerate until needed.
3. For the roasted peppers, wash and dry and place on a pie plate or cookie sheet. Drizzle the peppers with olive oil and distribute the oil evenly over the peppers using your hands. Place in the oven for one hour, turning once or twice for even cooking. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skins, core and seeds. Cut the peppers into strips. Toss with sea salt, ground pepper, the juice of one lemon, 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and minced garlic, if you like. Stir and set aside if using within an hour or so, otherwise refrigerate until needed. The peppers can be prepared a day ahead.
4. For tomatoes and green beans, fill a large pot half way with water and bring to a boil. Cut a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato. Lower the tomatoes in the boiling water for about 30 seconds until the skin begins to peel away. Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon and let cool on plate. Next, cook the beans in salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the beans to an ice water bath for two minutes to preserve color. Then remove to a colander to drain. Set aside.  Remove skin from tomatoes, chop or grate, and discard seeds. Set aside.
5. To bloom the saffron: In a saucepan, bring broth to a boil over medium high heat, then turn to low to keep the broth at a simmer. Remove 1-3/4 cups broth; add brandy, pimentón, paprika and crumble in saffron, stir and set aside until needed. Reduce heat on the remaining broth and keep at a simmer.
6. Increase oven temperature to 375°F. 

I prepped the garlic and the shallots ahead.
7. Heat the paella pan on medium heat and add some olive oil or garlic oil. Fry the onion or shallots for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then add minced garlic and continue to stir fry for another minute or two. Add chopped tomatoes with some chopped parsley. Cook until well combined.
8. Add the saffron flavored broth to the pan plus 3 cups broth. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt a few generous grinds of black pepper. Bring to a low boil. Add the rice and thyme; stir. Add the prepared chicken, pork and chorizo (if using). Stir in the prepared vegetables. Do not stir again. Add additional chicken broth if needed, to cover ingredients. Bring to a gentle simmer and move the paella pan to the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed (check the rice half way through baking, if it looks dry, ladle more broth across the entire surface of the rice). When finished cooking, the rice should be tender but firm to the bite with a crust on the bottom of the pan, called socarrat, and no liquid remaining (see note at bottom of page). If the rice is undercooked, add an additional cup or two of hot broth over the top and continue baking until liquid is once again absorbed. Remove from oven, toast the risotto on the stove top (see note below) and then immediately garnish with roasted peppers. You may also garnish with pickled shrimp, if you like, or serve the shrimp on the side. Cover paella with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 5 to 7 minutes before serving.
9. Finish with the sliced green olives, green beans and minced parsley. Tuck in wedges of lemon. Serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10 as a main dish and 14-16 as a side dish.

Note: from Wikipedia, "Paella usually has a layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan called socarrat in Spain. This is considered a delicacy there and is essential to a good paella. The toasted rice develops on its own if the paella is cooked over a burner or open fire. If cooked in an oven, however, it will not. To correct this, place the paellera (paella pan) over a high flame while listening to the rice toast at the bottom of the pan. Once the aroma of toasted rice wafts upwards, remove it from the heat. The paella must then sit for about five minutes (most recipes recommend the paella be covered with a towel at this point) to absorb the remaining broth."

1 comment:

  1. Sounds delicious, really delicious. I have the time to prepare the dish. If I were really motivated I could do this. What a slug I am.
    OK, I will nuke a frozen thing and look at the picture while I eat. Love the pics and stories.


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