We met Nuria (young woman with black hair in the photos below) at the language group which meets at the Portland bar every Tuesday. She claimed her mother made the best paella during one of our discussions. I’d asked about paella in an effort to broaden my understanding of what constitutes ‘paella’ in the land of paella. More of this below.
Nuria’s parents invited us to their house for paella one afternoon. They are very warm and friendly. Her mom, who runs a small clothing factory in the basement employing 5 (down from a peak of 12), loves to cook and has a great kitchen. In fact the house is great. It was remodeled not too long back. It was her parent’s house, which she inherited I assume. There are 3 floors and about 3 bedrooms, tiles floors and baths, quite Spanish in look and feel, and modernized as well.
She offered to teach Peg how to make paella. But I am the paella chef so I looked on. (continued below the slide show)
She used a traditional paella pan. This is a flat pan about 2-3 inches deep. To get a wide flame, so the heat is not just in the center of the pan, they buy a big ring which they connect to bottle of gas. Sometimes they cook outside. She just put the gas ring on her gas cooktop and fired away.
She told me that you put in enough olive oil to cover the pan bottom to within about 2″ of the edge. Then you add the chicken and rabbit.
After the meat is cooked, you cook the onions, garlic and a bit of pureed tomato- it may have been sofrito, which is garlic, onion and tomatoes cooked in olive oil. When the onions are slightly brown you add the stock and the paella spices. She did not measure anything. Since there is no cover on the pan you need more than a 2/1 ration of water to rice. She add broad green beans and the garrafon, large white beans. Her recipe is pretty similar to another of our local friends.
Before dinner there was plenty to eat. Nuria’s father sliced smoked ham off a leg (complete with hoof). This kind of ham is generically referred to as ‘serrano ham.’ The Italians call it prosciutto. It’s in the same family. There was some strong cheese, probably sheep. Manchego cheese is made with sheep’s milk but other varieties are too. There was some fine wine, too, while we waited. In the meantime Sari and I chatted while she cooked.
The paella was lovely and once again better than what we’d had in restaurants a few months ago when we arrived.
Figs grow in Spain and there are several right close by. The first issue of the fruit each year is very large, perhaps twice the size of one harvested in the second round. They weren’t ready yet so we could not have them for dessert. But the other dessert was wonderful, toron ice cream. Toron is made from almond paste, egg whites and sugar. It makes that dense candy that you might have seen or tried in the US. It is also found in Italy. Fabuloso!
They rolled me down the steps when it was time to go.