Well, this was the big birthday weekend, and I do believe we did it up right. In honor of my birthday, my aunt’s birthday, my father’s 60th birthday and my parents’ upcoming 40th anniversary, we hired our friend Knut Christiansen of Paellaworks catering to come out and cook up a paella for us and about thirty friends and neighbors. Despite the annoyingly autumnal weather (wind AND rain, sheesh), everything went beautifully.
My parents put together this contraption for the paella pan – Knut said it was the best fire setup he’d ever used. The great thing about the metal rails was the way the pan could be slid onto the fire and off again. There was plenty of good fruitwood to burn, too.
The paella was built up gradually over the course of the afternoon. We all stood around and watched and got in the way while eating olive bread from the Anjou Bakery (thanks, Heather & Kevin!) and a wonderful goat cheese/pear/butter mixture that Knut had brought.
The first thing to go in was the chorizo, to render all that good pork fat into the pan. Hempler’s, of course – our personal favorite.
Next went in many, many chicken legs into the pan, to fry in the sausage fat.
Then some peppers…
Once the chicken was cooked, Knut arranged the pieces around the edge of the pan (although there were too many to fit, so some were set aside until later).
This is the rice going into the pan. Knut uses arborio, rather than bomba – it sounds like it’s very similar in its ability to soak up broth while maintaining its form and texture.
The rice was stirred up thoroughly and sauteed in all the good stuff in the pan, before the addition of stock, which was a mixture of chicken and smoked duck. Saffron went in at some point here, but I missed it.
Once the stock is in, all stirring stops, to let a good crust develop on the bottom. From this point, things were added to the top of the paella: lemon slices, olives, crushed tomatoes, cherry tomatoes…and finally shellfish.
Knut had stopped at Taylor Shellfish on his way down, and had some beautiful prawns, clams and mussels, as well as these incredibly gorgeous singing scallops. I don’t think I had ever eaten scallops from the shell before – they were delicious.
Some fresh basil…
Also wax beans, sliced zucchini, grated zucchini…eventually, the paella was declared done!
It was served with a fresh green salad with raspberries and blueberries, and a pear vinaigrette…
and we had a few bottles of wine on hand, as well.
The empty paella pan was shoved to the side and left til morning, while we built up the fire and relaxed. The rain even let up a bit! Now that’s a birthday party.