In my eyes, the best comfort food is everything in one dish in the rustic style. My grand-parents lived on a farm and I remember numerous meals taken around the long communal table in my grand-mum’s huge kitchen. The chances that every day, people would drop by and stay for lunch were pretty high. Vous resterez bien pour manger! J’vas chercher un pâté à la cave! (You are staying for lunch, aren’t you? I am going to get a pâté in the basement) *. One more plate to take out was no big fuss and would not make a big difference. As we say, quand il y en a pour 6, il y en a pour 7! (when there is food for 6, there is food for 7). And so to be able to feed so many mouths, I remember my grand-mother’s everything-in-one-pot dishes. The best! Especially if you could dip your bread in a very rich sauce. Just writing this makes me think of my beloved campagne (countryside). Nothing makes me happier than being on a bike in the countryside or bushwalking (as kiwis say) in the middle of nowhere. Quel est le rapport – what is the point? – you will ask me. Well, after hours of good exercice, I cannot but feel like indulging in hearty rustic foods, all eaten from the same large pot. So even when we are not sweating on the top of a hill, when I get a bunch of friends together, I love to prepare those kinds of food, and amongst those is paella. Of course my grand-mother never made paella (as we are from the North-East of France) but my mum did. And let me tell you, although my mum is not Spanish, her paella is good!
* My grand-mother used to make this adorable mistake to say “J’vas” instead of “Je vais” in French. For those interested in language matters, this is due to the fact that her French was very tainted by German because of the identity of the Lorraine area in France, which kept changing from being French to becoming German. People from her generation were very affected by this time in history. Enough to make you lose your latin, and I surely relate to her in many ways, as I sometimes feel I am this French/English hybrid! Terrible identity to have at times!
No introduction is needed to paella I am sure! When we think of paella, we think of Valencia in Spain, we think of a large recipient used and we think of a dish featuring rice, chicken, rabbit, peas, saffron to name a few ingredients, and seafood if the paella is a seafood one. Many different Spanish regions have their own version even if the origin is Valencia. A few words about the origin of the word can be interesting as well. Are you interested? Tant pis if not! (Bummer if not!) In the Sanskrit language the word pá meant to drink. From this word, the Latin patera, patina, patella were derived, all meaning a kitchen utensil used to fry. In Castilian, we found the word paela and an old definition saying “Patella is a pan or paela for frying”. As for the French, I was very pleased to learn the origin of our word poêle, which actually comes from that same origin, and means a frying pan. It all boils down to the same root!
Today of course we just think about that beautiful one dish meal: le plat complet par excellence! Thank God for Spanish people! (and it is worth noticing that the size of a paella dish can vary from 4 to 35″ depending on the crowd to be fed).
I recently had a nice table of happy friends with whom I decided to share a bit of this food rusticity I love. So amongst other things, I prepared a paella. At the end we started dancing flamenco! (you almost believed it, didn’t you?) The theme of the meal was not really only Spanish but definitely mediterranean: the appetizer had prosciutto and melon, we ate anchovies and avocados, we drank Spanish wines and finished with some port. As to the dessert, I could have made flan but amongst all things, I had this urge to make my first cupcakes. I cannot live in America and have never tried to make cupcakes. Pas possible!
You can discover all of this from the pictures below, with recipes which I will write in future posts. The evening was fun. And you know what? This made me nostalgic for my campagne.
So I am actually going to go back to my rustic Lorraine countryside, and hopefully will be able to eat everything-in-a-pot dishes. In other words, I am on vacation for 2 weeks in le pays du fromage puant (la France, the country of stinking cheese) to refill in all sorts of things! I cannot wait to be able to taste my mum’s and my friends’ food again!
I shall return with stories and pictures I am sure!
In the meantime….
- 5 large chicken legs
- 1 lb pork
- 20 slices of chorizo
- 2 lb fresh mussels
- 1 lb fresh squids
- 20 large shrimps
- 1 lb + 2 oz round rice or paella rice
- 2 large onions
- 2 lb tomatoes
- 1 red pepper
- 1 green pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 10 artichokes hearts
- 4 garlic cloves
- 6 oz fresh peas cleaned (or frozen)
- 1 bay leaf
- 7 cups + 1/2 chicken stock
- 2 saffran capsules
- About 1 + 1/4 cups olive oil
- 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper
- Cut your chicken legs in halves.
- Chop the pork in cubes.
- Heat some olive oil in your paella dish (I use an All-Clad braise pan as I do not own a paella dish). When hot, brown all meats on all sides and set them aside.
- Wash and brush your mussels and place them in a large pot.
- Cook on high heat for a few mns until they open. Remove them but keep the juice they give out.
- Heat some olive oil in a pan and cook the sliced squids for 5 mns. Set aside.
- Heat some olive oil in a pan and cook the shrimps for 2 or 3 mns and set aside.
- Blanch your tomatoes for 1 mn. Rinse them in cold water, peel them and remove the seeds. Chop them.
- Heat your chicken stock.
- Slice the peppers (remove all white parts and seeds).
- Slice the onions.
- Heat some olive oil in the paella dish and when hot, cook the onions and peppers until softer (on medium heat for at least 10 mns min.)
- Add the tomatoes, the saffron, the bay leave and the rice, and mix well.
- Cook for a few mns before starting to add the broth and mussel juice. Add a few ladlefuls and then add all the pieces of meat. Stir to make sure it does not gets sticky to the bottom, and continue with the rest of the broth. Do not cover your paella.
- Cook the chorizo in a frying pan for a few mns (no oil is needed). Place on a paper towel to absorb the excess of grease.
- 10 mns before the end, add the peas and the artichokes hearts.
- Chop the garlic and parsley and add them to the paella 5 mns before the end, along with all other ingredients set aside: the mussels, the squids, the shrimps and the chorizo.
- Serve without waiting!
As to the rest of the meal…
We ate amuse-bouches: Wrapped Zucchini with Avocado and Anchovies (recipe will follow),
Melon Soup with Prosciutto Skewers as an appetizer (recipe will follow):
and Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Whipped Cream for dessert, my first cupcakes ever!
- 5 grosses cuisses de poulet
- 500 g d’échine de porc
- 20 tranches de chorizo
- 1 kg de moules
- 500 g de calamars
- 20 langoustines
- 500 g de riz rond ou spécial paella
- 2 gros oignon
- 1 kg de tomates
- 1 poivron rouge
- 1 poivron vert
- 1 poivron jaune
- 10 fonds d’artichaud
- 4 gousses d’ail
- 200 g de petits pois frais écossés (ou congelés)
- 1 feuille de laurier
- 1,8 l de bouillon de poule
- 2 doses de safran
- 30 cl d’huile d’olive
- 1 càs de persil frais
- Sel et poivre
- Coupez vos cuisses de poulet en deux.
- Coupez le porc en gros cubes.
- Faites chauffer de l’huile d’olive dans votre paella et lorsqu’elle est chaude, faites saisir les morceaux de viande sur tous les côtés. Réservez de côté.
- Lavez et brossez les moules et faites-les ouvrir à feu vif dans un faitout. Sortez-les mais gardez leur jus.
- Faites chauffer de l’huile d’olive et faites saisir les calamars coupés en tranches. 5 mns suffisent. Mettez-les de côté.
- Faites chauffer de l’huile d’olive et faites revenir les langoustines pendant 2 ou 3 mns, et réservez.
- Ébouillantez vos tomates. Pelez-les et retirez les pépins. Concassez-les.
- Faites chauffer le bouillon de poule.
- Lavez et tranchez les poivrons en fines lamelles (enlevez toutes les parties blanches et les pépins).
- Émincez les oignons.
- Faites chauffer de l’huile d’olive dans votre paella et ajoutez les oignons et les poivrons. Mélangez bien et cuisez pendant au moins 10 mns min, jusqu’à ce qu’ils soient translucides.
- Ajoutez alors les tomates, le safran, la feuille de laurier, le riz et mélangez bien.
- Cuisez pendant quelques minutes et ajoutez le bouillon et le jus des moules. Mélangez et après quelques louches, ajoutez tous les morceaux de viandes. Mélangez de temps en temps pour éviter que le riz n’attache. Ne couvrez pas la paella.
- Faites revenir le chorizo dans une poêle à sec. Placez sur du papier absorbant pour l’excès de graisse.
- 10 mns avant la fin, ajoutez les petits pois et les fonds d’artichaut.
- Émincez les gousses d’ail et hachez le persil. Ajoutez-les 5 mns avant la fin, avec les langoustines, les moules, les calamars et les tranches de chorizo.
- Servez sans attendre!