n. An admirer of Spain or of Spanish-speaking countries or peoples.
Doing my own half-baked reverse engineer on the Greek root here, I figured that if Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love, my philia for all things Hispano at our little dinner gathering last night was like drinking too much at a family reunion and then finding out at breakfast the next morning that the guy you’d been flirting with all night was your husband’s cousin. Meanwhile Italy, my Number One Dude, had been compelled to spend the evening brooding at the far end of the table in the guise of an experimental panna cotta (beet, to be exact — photos and tale of woe forthcoming), gloomily observing the all too frequent flash of my wine-stained teeth, my foolish giggling, and the lightning-speed sedentary can-can of my legs uncrossing and crossing in response to florid accounts of sunsets in Barcelona. Damn you, Spain! — he thought, covering one eye with white chocolate ganache in the hopes of making himself seem more attractive to the other party goers — What’s your game? You’re not the only one rolling your R’s and carbo-loading! Sure, she thinks you’re hot stuff now, but when she wakes up in the morning she’ll realize that paella IS JUST YELLOW RISOTTO.
I went all-out for this meal, starting with a pretty killer (if I do say so myself) gazpacho before bringing out this saffron-tinged Busby Berkeley number. I’ll include the recipes for both, even though JM didn’t get a chance to take pictures of the soup. And Pops, just so you know: there are no shortcuts on these dishes in the carb department, so don’t even ask. The idea is that you’re just too tipsy to notice and wake up feeling guilty — because that’s what inappropriate flirtation is all about.
-1/4 cup of olive oil
-1-2 cups of medium-sized scallops
-1 onion, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, diced
-2 cups of arborio rice
-1/2 to 1 cup of dry white wine
-4 cups broth (I used vegetable)
-a pinch or two of saffron, for color (turmeric also works)
-salt and pepper to taste
-1 or 2 roasted red bell peppers, sliced into strips
-1 cup of artichoke hearts, marinated in fresh lemon juice
-1 lemon, cut into wedges (for serving)
-1 tbs chopped parsley (for garnish)
*Note* You’re going to need a cavernous pan for this dish. Seriously. Take the biggest pan you have and water it with Miracle Gro for a week before even attempting this funny business. You know why? Because paella multiplies, and very quickly. It is the rabbit of the dinner food kingdom.
Act I: Okay, got your man-sized pan? Good. Put it over high heat and pour in half of the oil. When it’s good and hot, throw those scallops in there and cook each side for about a minute. Take the scallops out and put them aside in a bowl, also pouring out any liquid left over in the pan.
Act II: Pour the rest of the olive oil in the pan and reduce the heat to a healthy medium flame. Sautée the onion and garlic for about five minutes, and then add the rice. Stir it really frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn. Actually, the paella will pretty much own you for next 30 minutes, so make sure you’ve got your wine glass, your TV, and your fire extinguisher handy so that you don’t need to go anywhere. Stir, stir, and stir some more. After another five minutes, add the wine. Stir, stir, stir. Add the salt, pepper, saffron, and stir. Now start adding the broth incrementally, letting the rice soak up the liquid but being sure not to let it dry out too much. After about ten minutes, add all but a few strips of the bell peppers (which you’ll need for garnish). Stir, stir, stir. Add more liquid and stir. You’re almost there, so don’t give up hope. After another ten minutes have passed, taste your handiwork. Is it salty enough? No? Add some salt, then. This all depends a lot on the broth you’ve used — I like low sodium broth, because A) I like to control how much salt goes into my food, and B) because I like the challenge of transforming something that tastes like dirty water into culinary artistry. Anyway, go on and toss the artichoke hearts in there, stir, and then add the scallops and stir. See, the whole tasting exercise a few stirs ago was also designed to bring you up to date on how done the rice actually is. You want to add your artichoke hearts and scallops 3-5 minutes from donezilla.
Act III: This is where your knowledge of Busby Berkeley will come in handy. As you set the lemon wedges, additional pepper strips, and parsley on the serving dish, you’ll want to have ‘Gold Diggers of 1933′ or ‘Dames’ playing on that TV you brought in earlier. Think symmetry. Think a cat’s whiskers. Think wine-induced OCD. You need to make the meal’s looks worthy of its flavor.
-5 tomatoes, blanched, peeled, de-seeded, and diced
-1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced (reserve the other half for garnish)
-2 large cloves garlic, chopped
-2 stalks celery, chopped
-1 piece baguette, soaked for a few minutes in water
-1 shallot, chopped
-salt and pepper
-roasted red & green peppers, peeled, de-seeded, and chopped
-splash balsamic vinegar
-1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 – 1 tsp smoked paprika (regular also works)
-1/4 cup olive oil (a little less if you’d like to use oil for garnish)
-1/2-1 cup water (depending on desired consistency)
This one is way less intensive: Put everything except the water, salt, and spices in a bowl and puree. Add the spices to taste, and thin out with a bit of water. Boom. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill — both the soup and your fine self. Top with finely chopped cucumber before serving, and bring out some bread for dunking. Gazpawesome.