We’re more than halfway through Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept.15 – Oct. 15). This observation was first celebrated for a week in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan extended it to a full month.
Why does Hispanic Heritage Month start mid-month? September 15 is the anniversary of independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. The month-long period closes with the Día de la Raza on October 12, which celebrates the heritage, colonization, and cultural diversity of Latin America.
One of the zoom cooking classes I followed way back in August (when I felt like I was doing nothing) was presented by Chef Gabriella Ruiz of the local restaurant, Bulla Gastrobar (https://bullagastrobar.com/) and sponsored by Downtown Doral. Yes, Doral is the location of one of Trump’s golf resorts. She demonstrated her method of cooking paella.
Paella is a dish I enjoy making and the family enjoys eating it (see May 1 post). I have always used the Joy of Cooking recipe and realize what I make is nowhere near authentic. I was drawn to Chef Ruiz’s recipe and method. I tried it and it was quite an improvement. Thank you …
She starts by briefly searing the shrimp (for a serving for 2, she used 6 shrimp) in oil. Quickly remove the shrimp. She explained that this step starts the process of seasoning the oil to season the rice. Season the chicken (she used boneless chicken breast, I omitted this ingredient) with salt and pepper, add to the oil and sear. Add calamari, cook to reduce the liquid (I added a bag of shelled mussels from the grocery store and some baby octopus saved in the freezer for such a moment).
Add chopped chorizo (I used turkey sausage). Next is 1 tbsp of picada (garlic, paprika, parsley and some bread crumbs chopped in a food processor) and the sofrito (a basic mix of peppers, onion, and tomato – https://www.thespruceeats.com/basic-sofrito-recipe-2138283).
Blend 1 cup of calaspara rice to the mixture. I cheated and used a container of paella rice mix from Williams-Sonoma (I love shopping their mark-down shelves). After the rice is thoroughly coated add 1 ½ cups of fish stock and 1 oz of saffron tea (something the restaurant keeps on hand. Bring the mixture to boil, lower to medium high, stirring occasionally until the liquid thickens.
At this point add the seared shrimp and the clams in shell. Place into a 350 degree oven for ten minutes. At this point, decorate with roasted red peppers and green peas.
I stand by my Joy of Cooking. It’s a great resource. This, however, is my new recipe for paella.
Thought now I wonder about issues related to political correctness and appropriation (see 6-26- post). According to sources on the internet, Día de la Raza “celebrates the heritage, colonization, and cultural diversity of Latin America.” Heritage and cultural diversity are seen as good things lately. Colonization, however, continues to get a bad rap these days. Second, I’m not of Hispanic descent. Is it kosher for me to cook paella? Maybe we’ll chew on these questions the next time I make this delicious dish.