Tuesday, 25 May 2010
here's the thing. Us food bloggers (floggers?) like to post lots of pretty pics and luscious, mouthwatering recipes. At least I do. I mean, WHY would we post our failures? I am guilty of sometimes NOT posting pics when the recipe was awesome, but the pics made it look like cat's vom.
Originally, I intended to post almost everything I cooked, but nearly 3 years of blogging has taught me that it's impossible to post everything. I have a file, labeled "guilty pleasures" chock o' block of pics I have taken for posts I intended to write, and never got around to.
So here's a post you probabaly thought you'd never see.
It's about my abject, dismal failure last week.
I twittered and facecracked all day about my new paella pan, and how excited I was about de-virginating it. Like a book whore, I rubbed by hands together in anticipation of my new toy, and the myriad of new flavour experiences it would bring to my table.
I googled recipes, ways to season said pan, history of the dish itself. Hell, I read a discourse on whether Andalusian or Basque paella was more authentic.
I purchased nearly $60 of seafood, and sourced real saffron and calasparra rice.
I hit the ground full of vim and vigour, convinced that my au fait-ness with risotto would set me in good stead. Hell, I'd eaten paella in Spain, so I TOTALLY knew what I was doing.
The whole thing ended up in the dog's bowls.
It was AWFUL.
I spent the first hour seasoning the pan. I boiled water in it for 10 mins, to remove any dirt and oils, dried it fully and then added a cup of peanut oil and placed the pan in the oven, on the hottest setting for 35 mins.
As I expected, the pan cam out with a beautiful golden glow over 3/4 of the pan.
Yes. only 3/4 of the pan. There was a whole quadrant where the oil had pooled which had remained pristinely chrome.
So I took my favorite horsehair bristled pasty brush to swirl around the oil.
And melted the damn thing.
Threw out the pastry brush, discarded the oil, wiped the pan down, ignored the pathetic looks of my hungry family and soldiered on to start cooking the dish itself.
It was about 7.00 when I began to actually cook the dish.
The first problem was, I think, that I overloaded the pan. During the cooking process, as the rice swelled, it caused any remaining juice (chock full of that hideously expensive saffron) to drip over the sides of the pan. I estimate I lost at least 250mls of juice.
The next problem was the heat. I just couldn't get it right. I moved the pan around the hob, trying to ensure that all parts of the dish received heat (as you don't stir paella), but to no avail, I just couldn't get enough heat to cook the prawns, calamari and mussels on the top of the dish, without coming dangerously close to burning the bottom rice.
After more than 40 mins, the prawns had only just pinked, the mussels hadn't even opened, the calamari hadn't curled and the rice at the edges was barely cooked.
I upped the heat, which only made the juice flow over the sides of the pan faster, and I detected a nasty whiff of burning rice.
So I turned down the heat and gave it another 20 mins of turning the pan constantly.
So in the end, I committed the ultimate paella sin.
I stirred it.
And sure enough, the rice on the bottom had stuck and started to burn in the centre, while the rice grains at the edges were barely cooked.
I fished out the as-yet-un-opened mussels and fed the whole lot to the dogs.
Ordered pizza for the fam and went to bed in a huff.
I WILL attempt it again, but this time, I will avoid all the Belgiam Whistles of chicken AND rabbit AND prawns AND mussels AND calamari AND tomato AND peas, and use half the quantity of rice.
Any other hints and tip gratefully received.