|Donald Made a Diva Cake|
We celebrated Ann's 50th with a lot of friends and family on Sunday and I was so wrapped up in having a good time that I forgot to shoot many pictures. I did get a picture of the awesome diva cake that Donald made for Ann, chocolate cake under the pink skirt and raspberry and white chocolate for the base.
For a fall day, it sure was unseasonably warm outside, especially when coupled with a roaring fire. Because of the 90-plus degree heat, Ann stayed inside in the air conditioning and so missed the making of the paella. So this post is for her and hopefully answers her question, "How did you make the paella?"
Speaking of paella, I may as well go ahead and call my concoction by the somewhat derogatory term arroz con cosas as a pre-emptive strike against those Valencians who insist that true paella can only be made in a single way. The paella snobs sniff almost sotto voce, "That's not paella, it's arroz con cosas (rice with things)." Sorry guys, this is my yard, my party, and my freaking paella. Thanks for the idea, but like The Chairman said, "I did it my way!"
|Chicken Wings and Salvadoran Chorizos|
While it was my first attempt at paella over a fire, I am no stranger to cooking over a fire, having done it quite a lot in the days of my misspent youth. Armed with a big stack of dogwood and cherry wood from the field behind us, it took almost no time to get a nice blaze going, especially after the last couple of months without rain.
|Then Onions, Red Peppers, and Hard Spanish Chorizo|
I also diced red peppers, yellow onions, green onions, and a small hard chorizo on Saturday and had them waiting in containers, ready to go in the pan to make my sofrito. In the photo above, you see that I have moved the meat to the outside of the pan and am frying the sofrito in the center. Once the vegetables started to soften, I added two huge scoops of minced garlic and Italian parsley and let it cook with a couple tablespoons of pimentón before adding heated stock to the pan.
|Stock is Boiling Gently; Rice Always in Sign of the Cross|
Once the rice was in the pan, everything was pretty much on autopilot and all I had to do was mind the flame and rotate the pan now and again to place a different part of the pan over the hot spot. There was no way to avoid a hot spot: a constant gusty breeze kept the leeward side of the pan much warmer than the windward, and that's nothing if not normal when cooking over a fire.
|Almost Done! Listening to the Crackle of the Soccarat!|
I started with a big fire when cooking the chicken and vegetables and then let it die down to a simmer while the rice cooked. At the end, I threw more wood to the fire to get it really hot again and spent the last few minutes listening carefully to the pan, listening for the stock to boil off and the soccarat to crackle. This pan rewarded us with the most amazing soccarat ever!