It has been more than a week now since I started work in a Danish shipping company, and I must say, blogging is now proving to be a luxury. However, I must admit that cooking, regardless of my busy work schedule (not to mention graveyard shift!), still proves to be an all-too-irresistible activity. Yesterday, while reading “El Comedor: The Recipes of Lourdes P. del Rosario” upon waking up at 6 in the morning, I decided to make Paella de Mariscos for lunch.
I literally hopped off from bed and headed to Cubao’s expansive Farmers’ Market and Shopwise Grocery. The wet market was teeming with people in spite of the light drizzle. The fresh live shrimps were jumping from basins while the veggies and fruits section was fragrant and paradise-like, the kiosks filled with lush, colorful produce.
As soon as I got home, I immediately made the stalk. While making the stalk, I began chopping all the spices and vegetables needed as well as the tedious process of opening cans, jars and sachets. Yes, it’s best to do all of these before the cooking process to lessen the stresses that come with cooking.
One thing, however, that I would greatly emphasize here is the undeniable importance (and benefits!) of cooking paella in nothing else but in a paellera, a round, shallow two-handled pan that is often cast-iron. In fact, the paellera does not take its name from the paella; it’s the other way around.
Unfortunately, there was no paellera in sight yesterday at home and with all the ingredients already chopped up and prepared, what else can I do but cook them? “But where?” I asked myself. Sadly, I made the wrong decision of cooking the dish not in a pan (kawali) but in a caldero, a non-stick pot. Although the dish was highly-successful, cooking it was a painstaking and energy-draining process because of the constant stirring. It also caused me great anxiety and nervousness because it was so difficult (next to impossible actually) cooking the rice evenly.
But, all’s well that end’s well. It was a scrumptious dish that the entire family enjoyed yesterday for lunch and dinner. Enjoy this recipe hecho ayer!
1 kilo of Jasmine Rice (55 Pesos in Farmer’s Market per kilo)
1/2 kilo of Prawns
1 kilo of Halaan or Clams
1/2 kilo of Squid
4 slices of Bacon
5 Chicken Parts (I prefer wings)
5 tomatoes, sliced
1 whole green bell pepper, diced
2 whole red onion, sliced
5 cloves of garlic coarsely chopped
Salt and Pepper
Saffron (comes in the paella mix I bought)
First make the the sofrito. You must caramelize the onions in generous servings of olive oil for a considerable amount of time. Make sure the stove (or the fire) is on low heat. While doing this long caramelizing process, I began making my equally time-consuming broth. First, I boiled the clams and some prawn heads and shells in a cup of water. When the shells were cooked, I took these out and added a half a litter of water and also the chicken parts. I also added sea salt, pepper corns, some olive oil and rosemary into the broth. I let it boil for a good hour.
Then, I added the garlic, tomatoes and bell peppers until these were wilted in the pot where the onions were caramelized. I added more olive oil, and at one point, butter as well. I then added the prawns and sauteed it there, letting all its flavors and juices combine with the mixture in the pot. Next, I seared my meats (chorizo, left-over pork adobo fats, bacon and boiled chicken) in olive oil and added all of these into the pot (oils included!). Next were the clams and the squid. I then added a cup of tomato sauce, some paprika and 4 cups of the rice. Since I used 4 cups, I had to add in 8 cups of the broth. Finally, I added the paella mix with saffron (first diluted in hot water), olives and capers.
The finished product was a rice, decadent and almost creamy rice dish that was packed with flavors that were savory and exciting. As one ate a spoonful of my paella yesterday, one would make the occasional “yum” or “mmmm” sound/remark as a sign of its simple but frank approach to the palette. The nuttiness of the Spanish Parika, the sea-like flavor of the saffron and the enjoyable taste of the broth, seafood and other herbs gloriously lifted my paellera-less paella into gastronomical heights.
It is important, again, not only to make a good sofrito but to cook the paella in a paellera. I just got lucky that 2nd time cooking paella not in paellera (the very first time I cooked paella was in a friend’s house and we used a kawali), but again, as I mentioned earlier, it is not advisable.
Try cooking this marvelous, flavorful and decadent dish for your your family and friends for you to appreciate not only the different wonders offered by multiply ingredients and flavors but ultimately, life. How beautiful it is that we humans have a dish that tries to combine all the wonders of the earth (meats, seafood, grain, herbs, vegetables, earth, fire, water, etc.) in one pan! It may be a tad expensive and laborious but it’s surely full of meaning and packed with flavor.