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Spanish Soul (Food)

Spain | Saturday, 7 March 2015 | 3 photos

Ingredients for the Paella:
1 tomato, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
Rabbit, cleaned, dried, and chopped
Extra virgin olive oil, 3 teaspoons
Fresh sardines, heads and tails removed
10 shrimp, heads removed
Long-grain rice, 1 cup per person
Salt, 1 teaspoon
Pepper, ½ teaspoon
Saffron, ½ teaspoon
White wine, 1 cup (Use only good quality white wine, not “cooking” white wine!)
Unsalted butter, 2 teaspoons
1 lemon, sliced
"Cariño" - love and care!

Ingredients for the Broth:
6 cups water
1 onion, minced
Celery, 1 cup chopped
1 carrot, diced
Head and tail of sardines
Heads of shrimp
Parsley, 3 tablespoon chopped finely
Salt, 1 teaspoon
Pepper, ½ teaspoon
Azafran, 1 teaspoon

Broth Recipe:
1. Fill a large heavy-bottomed pot with 6 cups of cold water.
2. Add heads and tails of the sardines and heads of the shrimp.
3. Add celery, onion, parsley, carrot, salt, pepper, and azafran.
4. Bring the water to a boil over high heat and then simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
5. Remove the fish parts. Keep the broth in the pot on high heat.

Paella Recipe:
1. Sauté tomato and peppers in olive oil on medium heat until the peppers start to get tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Sprinkle rabbit with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add to peppers and brown well on all sides, turning, about 8 minutes total.
3. Add rice to the pan of peppers and meat. Toast the rice until the edges become translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Add ½ cup of white wine. Stir until evaporated.
5. Add broth in very small batches, about 2 tablespoons each, constantly stirring, until the it evaporates. Repeat for about an hour or until the broth is finished. The ideal consistency should be creamy but al dente when done.
6. Add butter and stir.
7. Decorate the dish by scattering shrimp around the top. Add some cool slices of lemon.
8. Serve immediately, with wine or beer, and enjoy over a long afternoon with family and friends!

Story behind the recipe:
“Keep stirring! Don’t stop!” said my boyfriend’s mother, Franca, in broken English. When she offered to teach me how to make Spain’s famous Paella dish the day before, I did not imagine the time nor effort it would entail. How difficult could making rice be?!

I will tell you: fairly difficult and reasonably time-consuming. Paella is all about technique; when cooked right, it becomes a marvel of texture and al dente creaminess. Cooking it right, however, undoubtedly requires cariño—love and care. This is not a meal to be rushed or created on the fly; hence, the Spanish tradition for eating paella on Sundays, when family and friends have time to enjoy the meal together.

Paella, originally from the Spanish region of Valencia, is Spain’s national dish. Despite its many variations, all recipes use the same cooking technique, long-grain rice, and spices. Learning the nuances of Paella from a native Spaniard was an unparalleled, special experience.

Franca is the kind of Andalucían mother that goes out of her way to make you feel comfortable, so it wasn’t a surprise when she whipped out a bottle of white wine for us to share while cooking. For the next two hours, she was there to critique my technique—“Do not add too much broth!”—and to praise my efforts – “Beautiful! Stir slowly, like that!” with a hand gesture suggesting I was doing a good job. When gestures weren’t enough, I ran around the house for a Spanish-English dictionary to look up a word, an experience that was met with laughter for both Franca and I. In fact, it was during this experience I learned much of my Spanish cooking-related vocabulary!

Despite Franca's old age and broken English, she had a smile permanently painted on her face—a reminder that cooking is an act of pleasure and love with the power to unify different cultures. The joy, laughter, and praise of deliciousness from my boyfriend’s family afterwards were a testament to how gratifying cooking can be, regardless of culture or language.

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