Last week, while in Spain, I helped my buddies plan a concert and after party. The main event was the concert, but after the show we chowed down on a delicious cheesy stuffed pork appetizer and a hearty rabbit arroz — a dish that is similar to a paella. I spoke with Javi, the sous chef who created the pork rolls, and he gave me both of the recipes! These dishes would work wonderfully at a Spanish themed dinner. To see how they are made, read more
As you may or may not know by now, I have a great love for everything Spanish. After living there for two years the culture, way of thinking, and most importantly, food practices have become ingrained in me. When I returned from Spain, my grandfather invited me to his house to make a Spanish rice dish, commonly known as paella. With my Spanish spices and olive oil in hand, I set out to make my first arroz on American soil. Unfortunately, the rice turned out far from what I had expected, it was mushy and lacked the correct texture, consistency, and color of true Spanish paella. I added too much broth, and the rice turned out more like a seafood risotto rather than a Spanish arroz. However, a failure in the kitchen only made me more determined to master said dish, and I became obsessed with arroz. I researched recipes in both Spanish and English, purchased authentic Spanish paella rice, and practiced rice recipe after rice recipe until I finally had a paella I was happy with!
As you can see from the before picture (above) the rice is too yellow, appears mushy, and lacks a solid form of presentation. The rice in the after picture (below) is more appetizing in color and presentation and you can identify the ingredients. I realized the importance of using a large saute pan (after) instead of a large soup one (before). In Spain they have special super flat wide pans specially for making paella (if anyone wants to send me one, I would be so happy!).
I hope you see my before and after as a source of inspiration: if a recipe doesn't come out as planned take a deep breath and remember that cooking, like all skills, perfects with time, experience, and practice. Sometimes it does get frustrating and difficult (I practically had a heart attack when my gravy didn't thicken during Thanksgiving and actually cried one night when my chewy chocolate cookies came out like burnt crispy crackers), but keep at it and you'll discover how rewarding and relaxing making a meal can truly be. For my ultimate paella recipe, read more