Another cooking class at Gretchens, this time focusing on one dish: paella! Knut Christiansen of Paellaworks catering brought his big pan and lots of good stuff to put in it, and Randy Finley of Mount Baker Vineyards brought wine to go along with it all. Paella is something Knut does especially well, even when he’s making it up as he goes along, so it was great fun to watch it all come together. And even more fun to eat it at the end.
Paella takes a while to cook, of course, so to keep people occupied and happy Knut put together some tapas to pass out. One was a leaf of Swiss chard wrapped around a tasty filling of cheese and sausage, paired with a salad of shredded asparagus, olives, chard stems and a tangy tangerine and cinnamon dressing. Everyone ate those immediately, so after that he toasted some crostini in the paella pan, I rubbed it with raw garlic and he swiped a bit of tomato sauce across it. Simple but good. We ate the tapas with two white wines, a blend called Rosetta Blanc and a Viognier (Mount Baker makes a really nice vio).
While we cleaned up the tapas, Knut was busy getting the paella going. He started by crumbling loose chorizo into the pan and cooking it, then added coarsely diced onion and red and green bell peppers. He dumped in bomba (or was it arborio?) rice and sauteed it all together so the rice was well coated with oil. He mixed in a bunch of grated tomato (hand grated by me – my arm nearly fell off), then patted the rice mixture into a firm circle and ringed it around with pieces of chicken.
Then he started ladling in his smoked duck broth. As the rice cooked, he added to the arrangement, laying pieces of bread around the outside of the rice-and-chicken ring to sop up the extra broth, and setting sliced zucchini, tomato, chard and tangerine on the top in an artful pattern. Near the end of cooking he added clams, tucked in around the rice where they gradually opened and added their juice to the pan. The extra clams he tossed into the remains of the stock and steamed them separately, to be added to the final plating.
There wasn’t nearly as much left over as you might think! The rice was deeply flavored, the shellfish and vegetables just done, and the bread had sopped up the duck broth and then crisped up on the bottom. Each serving got a little bit of everything. Yum.