Sunday, June 18, 2006
Manola doesn't usually write about food, but today is father's day and instead of thinking about Colin Farrell's penis, she is cooking for el viejo. Mind you, the old man only likes to eat the following: sugar with café con leche, butter with cuban bread, and salt with the following: steak, rice, black beans and fried plantains. Feed this to her father and he will be a happy, silent and satisfied man. Deprive him of this and he will turn into a seventy-something curmudgeon or a three-year old spoiled brat, depending on the tenor of the complaints.
Speaking of which, after spending nearly three weeks in Spain complaining about the food, no sooner did Manola's father arrive in Miami that he prepared himself white rice and black beans for supper. It's true, you can take the Cuban out of the rice and beans but you can't take the rice and beans out of the Cuban!
Occasionally, however, Manola's father will take a wild culinary foray into paella, because Manola's is simply the best in the world, period. Try it at home and make sure you put lots of love in the pot!
Manola's paella is not cooked in the traditional open flat pan. In all her travels, she has yet to try a traditionally cooked paella that is any good -- the seafood tends to be overcooked and the rice underdone. Hence, Manola's paella is an easier version of this peasant dish from Spain that is basically glorified rice.
Note: it helps to wear a pair of Manolo Blahniks while cooking, but it's not absolutely necessary. If you have a man in the house be cautious, as it is a universally known fact that men become frisky at the most inconvenient time. Before he props you up on the counter top for wild, passionate sex, make sure you have already sauteed the garlic, as you must be very attentive during this phase of preparation!
OK, MANOLA, THE RECIPE ALREADY!
Bring water to a boil and then let simmer until cooked your choice of fish, preferably something meaty like mahi-mahi, until done. If you are a wealthy mogul, you can add lobster, but the paella will not suffer without the buggers. Do add shrimp, however, remove from heat and let stand. The shrimp will cook automatically yet remain tender as the broth cools. Drain, conserve the broth and set the seafood aside.
In a large pot over low heat, sautee chopped onions in gobs of the best possible olive oil until golden, just at the point when the house starts to smell really good. Add chopped bell peppers, preferably in a variety of colors. Continue sauteeing until slightly tender. At this point, tell your man that if he touches you again, you will clobber him with the wooden spoon.
After you clobber him, add an outrageous amount of slivered -- not chopped -- garlic. Simply toss it around the pot until it has released its flavor and you become intoxicated with the delicious scent of sauteed garlic. THIS PART OF THE PROCESS IS CRUCIAL: DO NOT LET THE GARLIC OVERCOOK AND BURN. If you do, start all over again, trust me. And yes, it will provoke another round of man-clobbering.
Next, add red pepper flakes to taste, a generous dash of paprika and Valencia short-grained rice. Stir around to coat each grain of rice thoroughly in the sofrito, or seasoning base, you just prepared. Then add the broth, a bottle of clam juice, Pomi chopped tomatoes, a can of beer -- yes, beer -- salt, pepper and a few threads of the best possible saffron to the mix. Saffron is the KEY INGREDIENT: if you don't have saffron, don't even bother making the paella. If available, add your choice of raw shellfish now and if you like, some frozen peas. Bring to a boil and then let simmer until the rice is done.
Now pour yourself a glass of wine and get drunk on the heady aroma of garlic and saffron. This is also the appropriate moment to please your randy man without even having to take off your optional Manolo Blahniks. Just make sure you dramatically sweep away any sharp objects from the countertop. Besides, the family will be coming over and you want to make sure you have sex BEFORE they ring the doorbell.
(Manola will skip this step as she has yet to find a hurricane season boyfriend.)
In a large, round oven-proof ceramic platter (the Spanish terracota style is classic), fold together the cooked rice, bite-sized pieces of the fish, the shrimp, Spanish capers and finely chopped Italian parsley. Make sure you FOLD and not stir, because you don't want the various components of the paella to become gruel. You can add canned Spanish mussels at this point, even if you have used fresh shellfish, because they contribute wonderful flavor. Keep warm in the oven.
When ready to serve, drizzle the top of the paella with olive oil. Garnish with white asparagus, green olives stuffed with pimentos and a few parsley sprigs.
Manola's dad is not a regular drinker but he would enjoy this dish with a cold, piss-water beer like Miller Lite.
Manola, however, recommends you serve the paella with copious amounts of good Spanish red table wine mixed with tonic for an "instant" and not-too-sweet sangría.
Oh and most importantly, serve it with a smile and lots of love!
P.S. Al, what do you think of Manola's paella?