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Jun 8, 2015

The Best of Spain ~ Cooking Class 121

My time in Spain consisted of a long layover in the Barcelona airport but that doesn't mean I don't love the food and still dream of going there for the full experience. Minus of course that whole bull fighting thing. Tapas? Yes please. Sangria? Thank you. An angry bull chasing me down the street? No thanks. Those days are (thankfully) long over.

I'm a little behind...I know this. The Best of Spain cooking class was in March. Yes March, as in three months ago March. I totally blew by it and went straight to Pizza. But this is about Spanish cuisine and when I made Paella again, the other day it reminded me that I had not posted any of the reicpes. From March.
     However, we nailed Spain with our Paella, Salmorejo, Potatas Bravas and Goat Cheese Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. Never mind the fact that I lost (and still haven't found the Membrillo, which was to be part of the dessert.
Salmorejo; a cold tomato based soup, topped with chopped egg and Serrano Jamon.

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers...Smoked Paprika Aioli

Patatas Bravas are super easy to make and are a beautiful way to spiff up the plain old spud. These oven roasted potatoes are served on a smoky tomato bed and topped with a garlicky aioli. This is a hearty appetizer and both the Bravas Sauce and the aioli can be made a day or two ahead. 

Lets talk Paella: No Spanish cuisine class would be complete without this simple rice dish that originated in the mid-nineteenth century, in the Spanish region of Valencia.
      To make it you don't have to have a real Paella pan; any wide, low sided round pan will do. Pans run the gamut from 8" to a mile wide and from about $15 to $500+. The cheap steel ones will rust so if you are going to do it, do it and right spend about $50 and get a stainless steel one. It will cook more evenly and clean up more easily. Win-win.    
     I like Paella Mixta, which invites everyone to the party...chorizo, chicken, shrimp, lobster and mussels. (Side note: Valencian's would NEVER add chorizo to Paella and would be offended by this bastardized version. They would probably add rabbit, which would offend me if I were offendable, so anyhow....we're even.)
     You have to use an authentic medium grain rice, such as Bomba or Calasparra and DON'T STIR IT! Stirring it releases the starch and starch = sticky rice. (We are in Spain now, not Japan.) 
     You MUST use saffron, even it costs $500,000,000 per gram. It's in the Paella rule book. You won't necessarily taste it in there but if it's not in the dish you'll definitely miss it, so just suck it up and buy some saffron. While you're at it get some real Spanish smoked paprika too.

La Tienda is a great resource for real Spanish ingredients so if you want to make it authentic as  possible do your shopping there. I love their meats; especially the Iberico and Serrano Jamon; the anchovy stuffed olives are tender and briny, the cheeses decadent. And I really love their Black Truffle Potato Chips. (Confession to make: One bag (out of the three that I ordered) arrived a little smashed up so I opened it up to check the contents and ate the ENTIRE bag right then and there. I could not stop myself and had the bag been bigger I would have crawled all the way inside of it. They are that good. Consider yourself warned.) They also have a great variety of Paella pans at all different price points. (And they aren't even paying me to say this.) A word of caution: a plane ticket to Spain may cost about the same amount as some of their meat products.

Never the less, Spain's cuisine is bold, fresh and flavorful. With the right ingredients you can be transported right there....without ever buying a plane ticket.
Class dismissed.
Get two of the recipes by clicking on the links below.

PRINT RECIPE:  Potatas Bravas with Garlic Aioli

PRINT RECIPE:  Paella Mixta

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