Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

On the 3rd Day of Christmas


Because of schedules, we actually celebrated Christmas three times. Once at home, with just the three of us, again a few days later with Matt's family, and a final time this past Saturday when my family came up for the afternoon.

The Biltmore keeps my mom pretty busy, so for her to have the day off was pretty amazing. My youngest sister was yet to head back to school, and my other (middle) sister had flown down from New York.

I'd been looking for an excuse to try Michael Chirarello's Spanish Style Paella, and this seemed like a good one.

I made it over two days, spending Friday night on the broth (and doing all the veggie chopping I'd need for the entire recipe). I foolishly wore a lavender turtleneck while cooking; with all that paprika, saffron and tomatoes, I'm worried that top may not be wearable again!

The stock began with a serious browning of ham hocks and vegetables, followed by seasonings and chicken stock, and simmered for 3 quarters of an hour. I made a halved, vegetarian version by (obviously) skipping the bones and tossing in a handful of Bacos (meatless 'bacon' bits) for the 'meaty' flavor, and by using a smoked paprika in my mine, for extra warmth.

The next day, with the house in order and a fear my family would arrive before it all came together...

In paella pans borrowed from my father-in-law, first Italian sausage, then chorizo and paprika-coated chicken, and finally shrimp (given the same treatment as the chicken) were browned, then removed and set aside. The previously-cut carrots, celery and onion were then sweated, garlic was briefly cooked, then Arborio rice added and mixed till 'pearly'. At this point, large quantities of white wine were added and cooked down, at which point the red & smoky broth was ladled in, and the dish pretends it's risotto.

Much ladling and stirring later, the meats were mixed back in and viola!: paella.

I used vegetarian substitutes for my dish, using a Boca sausage, Veat bites, a pretty intense chiptole vegan sausage, and these vegetarian shrimp we can only find at 99 Ranch markets.

The whole thing was amazing. Gorgeous, and rich, and deeply-flavored.

Of course there had to be sides, and I grabbed a couple from one of the many Moosewood books on the shelves.

This was a Spanish-style chickpea dish, and definitely not going on my 'make-again' list. It smelled wonderful, and by rights should have been delicious. However, when I had Matt taste it shortly before serving, he thought it a touch too vinergary. Funny thing was, no vinegar in the recipe.
I realized it was the 1/2 cup of lemon juice giving it the bitter taste...I'd looked at the amount three or four times to be sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. With the tomatoes and paprika and saffron (again!), this should have been amazing. But there was simply too much lemon.

This, however, was lovely. A Manchego Potato Fritatta. Sliced potatoes are cooked till tender, shallots and red bell peppers are cooked down, they join forces when many beaten eggs smother them, and a hearty covering of grated Manchego finishes things off. It's covered and cooked, and briefly finished under the broiler.

This was wonderful. Perfectly tender, slightly sweet from the peppers yet balanced by the mild cheese.

Dessert was very light and very simple: store-bought dark chocolate cups filled with sweetened whipped cream, flavored with either raspberry or lime syrups. No photos: they disappeared quickly.

Here Alex inspects the wonderful (to him) & icky (to me) stretchy and slimy snakes and frogs my parents gave him.

My 'baby' sister, Alison, laughing as we realized we'd just taken pictures of each other taking a picture of the other!

And 'middle child' Leah, cackling with glee at the latest edition to her Eighties movie collection.

For us, Christmas lasted through early January, but it's finally over.

I suppose that means someone has to take down the lights and ornaments, huh?

And don't forget! The guest list for Blog Party#30 is filling up now, and this month we're going Veggie-Friendly. For January, create meat-free appetizers, pair them with an appropriate drink, and join the party!
Entries will be accepted through 17 January (early is always good), and I hope to see you there!

But wait...there's more!

Sign-ups for Blogging by Mail: Little Things Mean a Lot are going on now!

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2 Thoughts for food:

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Beth G. said...

Oh YUM! I have been wanting to try that paella recipe too!! Looks delicious :)

At 2:50 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Beth G, it is. It's really, really, good.

I suggest using a smoked paprika, for a deeper flavor, too...

It's not a difficult recipe, but rather a time-intensive one. But it's worth it!


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