Madrid Spain is one of my favorite cities in the world. Cosmopolitan and full of history, outstanding museums and sites, and INCREDIBLE FOOD (the male flamenco dancers are pretty amazing too but we will leave that for another post :)!!!
The coolest thing about the Spanish is that they start their day at about 10, stop for lunch around 1, siesta from 2-4, work from 4-8, and then their evening begins. They adore being out and about, young and old, it doesn’t matter. It is SO refreshing to see kids playing in the streets while the parents visit and take in a meal or a stroll. I totally dig it.
Typically, they don’t just hit a restaurant for dinner although, that may be slowly changing with the influx of tourism but instead, start out by “tapa-hopping”. This is so awesome….they go to a local tapa bar, order a sangria or drink of choice, pick a tapa or two (small appetizers), share with friends and then off to the next spot. This goes on till about 10 or 11 when it comes time to gather at a restaurant for the main course. After this, dancing till 2 or 3……gotta love it!
On my first night in Madrid, we decided to try this ritual; I mean, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?” Plus we are suckers for trying whatever is new and part of the culture. Anyway, we made it through with flying colors for the first 4-tapa stops and I am thinking “seriously, this rocks, I must have been a Spaniard in my last life!” Partying for 6 hours every night? What????
Time came for the main course and our hotel concierge led us to the direction of paella, the infamous rice dish of Spain. We pranced off to the hot spot only to be stopped about a block away with a line of giddy and hungry patrons. We asked the group in front of us if this was “normal” or should we try another place less busy? They looked at one another and giggled, I am sure thinking….AMERICANS, and answered back that all of Madrid comes out at night so hunker down and grab another sangria! NICE!! I can follow directions…
Another 2 sangrias and we finally made it into the restaurant to be seated at a cozy table bustling with laughter and pan after pan of mouth-watering paella. We were salivating!
We perused the menu consisting of 50+ varieties of paella, each one made to order, and realized we probably still were at least an hour away from chow time and it was nearing midnight. It wasn’t helping that the flowing glasses of sangria throughout the tapa bars and in line were finally catching up to me and my eyes were getting so heavy that it felt like someone was standing on the lids. Great, I see it now, the paella comes and I fall face first into it, what a rock star partier. Pathetic.
I managed to somehow stay awake and sober up and when the paella was presented to us, we were ready to devour! We stayed classic and ordered the Valencia paella, laced with chorizo, chicken, seafood, veggies, and topped with huge mussels and clams. Not only did it look delicious it was a culinary art piece. It was colorful and carefully crafted and each piece of food was meticulously placed in a methodical order, it was amazing…no wonder it took an hour, it was worth it and we hadn’t even taken a bite. We look at each other and decided if it tastes as good as it looks, we are moving in.
It did and more. We finished it all, it was 2am and dancing would have to wait. —Eatentions
- Serves 10
saffron (about 8 threads)
red bell peppers
skinless chicken thighs cut in thirds
pound Spanish chorizo sausage
1 1/2 pounds
med-sized shrimp (raw)
sea scallops cut in thirds
cloves garlic chopped
med sweet onion chopped
arborio or bomba rice
white wine (Sauvignon blanc preferred)
med ripe tomatoes (cut in half, grate, and discard the skin)
mussels or clams or combo
peas, fresh or frozen
lemon wedges for serving
- Heat chicken stock on stove in large pot with saffron, salt and pepper. Steep on low heat until adding it to paella.
- Roast peppers under broiler until charred on all sides, remove and put in plastic bag to steam, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and gently peel, remove seeds and veins. Slice in strips and set aside.
- In paella pan, either on stove, barbecue, or paella burner, add olive oil until somewhat hot. Add chicken and cook until 80 percent done. Add a little salt and pepper to start building flavor. Remove and cover. Add sausage in same oil until flavor is distiller into oil. Remove and save. Add shrimp and cook until there is color. Remove and cover. Add scallops and cook till translucent. Add a little oil if needed.
- In same oil add garlic for about 20 seconds and then onion. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir until translucent.
- Take measured rice and create well, add turmeric and spread over onion and garlic. Add grated tomato and paprika and stir. Now this is all being flavored with ingredients that went into oil, flavor will flow into rice as paella cooks. Cook this for 3 minutes. Add wine and stir. Raise temp underneath pan for a couple of minutes and then add stock, stir. Turn heat down until liquid has mixed well with other ingredients.
- Start putting in chicken and mussels or clams, spread evenly. Add sausage, shrimp, and scallops the same way.
- Observe at rate liquid is absorbing the rice, if too watery at beginning, fine. You want low simmer so paella cooks evenly.
- Cover with foil and simmer for about 45 minutes. DON'T STIR!
- ADDITIONAL TIPS: DRY VS MOIST The paella can stay moist for about 20 minutes, if left too long on fire, it will dry. A lot of Spaniards like it crusty on bottom and some soupy, you choose.
- INISHING TOUCHES Just 5 minutes before done, put on bell peppers and peas. Place decoratively for color. Place on table and eat out of pan or buffet style and serve with lemon wedges
- PREPARATION The French have a wonderful saying, mise en place, meaning to have everything in place and chopped, cleaned, and ready.
- SEAFOOD Keep clams or mussels closed and cold before using them by immediately running them under cold water and washing them when you return from store. Use a wire mesh colander. Place a large plate underneath and put in fridge with a wet cloth over them, this keeps them moist and breathing. You want the shells closed, they will open during cooking. If they don't, throw them away.
- SUBSTITUTIONS You may substitute other shellfish and various vegetables to match to your liking be creative!!!
- SHOPPING TIPS: Shopping can be done 2 days ahead for all ingredients except for chicken and seafood, purchase these the same day you cook paella. It is essential to use arborio or bomba rice, other types don't hold up to cooking.