Tuesday, June 19, 2007

paella for thirty

june 19

Last night at Kitchen on Fire, Kevin from the local shop, The Spanish Table, threw down a raucous Paella fest for thirty with five wines and a huge paella pan you could curl up and sleep in.
Things I learned about this mighty Spanish staple:

-it's esay, takes two hours no matter how big the pan.
-yes you need the special pan
-the more fat and bone on your meat, the better. Think chickhen wings and drummettes, split.
-saffron is for the flavor, not the color.
-the color comes from the paprika and the smoked pimenton
-smoked pimenton would make dog doo taste great. get some
-if your fishmonger sells you clams wrapped in a plastic bag, he's an idiot. Open it and put them over ice when you get home.
-once the rice goes in, DO NOT STIR. It aint risotto.
-it's really hard not to stand around a four foot wide paella and stare like an speechless idiot
-the pan is also called a paella.
-spanish wine is f**king amazing. (the aperitif was a litely bubbly Avinyo Vi D'Aguilla 2006, like something a bee would pollenate, a wine "with a prickle")
-paella can be made with anything (though i'm skeptical about this, but Kevin insists any leftovers can be made into one)

Mike C the Culinarian Barbarian made a garlic Aioli that was f**ing outrageous, we spooned that over the brick-red slightly wet paella, or just dipped baguette slices into it. The yellow chiffon colored stuff was mouth puckering and sat really well with the smoky fishy, saucy paella. I learned something about this mayo too; don't use too many yolks. there were only four in the whole big bowl.

The highlight? All these random strangers spread around the giant kitchen spooning this stuff down, opening up stubborn mussels, mumbling excuses for getting a third plateful (they were small plates). Then leaning on the cuttingboards talking with one or two people that were now a little more than strangers. Trading stories of learning. ("Before I met Mike, all I did was stir fry!")

buttermilk is king

June 19th

This morning my son Moe and I made Buttermilk Biscuits from page 794 of the James Beard American Cookery Cookbook.
Lately I've discovered that Buttermilk tastes really good. I made ice cream with it too. It's a little hard to tell when it goes bad because it is sour to begin with, but otherwise it's just like milk except with flavor. Where the hell has it been all my life?
Things i wanna try with it: Cold soups, like buttermilk-cucumber gazpacho maybe.
Try buttermilk ice cream, about one part to two parts regular cream or half and half. It's not for everyone. The first batch I made i actually had to trash because it was too sour, so don't be afraid to sweeten it.
Pancakes, of course, and biscuits, go all in with it.
Buttermilk, even my corner liquor store has it , so someone is using it. You feel a little Little House on the Prairie at first, but you'll get used to it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

June 17th

baby octopus stew

The whole thing started for three reasons; leftover marinara in a jar. A craving for baby octopus just because they look so cool. And an appetizer I ate about six years ago in Boston's North End in a little place called Limoncello.
(The appetizer was just a few of the cephalapods stewed in a tomato broth with garbanzo beans, pretty minimal actually, but somehow unforgettable.) So here's what these three things created yesterday:
I put some olive oil in a hot pan with some garlic and onion. When that smelled perfumey, I tossed in the marinara, let that hiss for a sec, poured in some white wine from the fridge, a little of the strangely rose colored octopus boiling water. (I had boiled them for about 40 minutes with a wine cork floating in the water to tenderize 'em) Added a few chunks of potato I had sneaked into the boil, half a can of cannelini beans from a can with some of their oozy liquid.
I Let it simmer. Put in six or seven of the majestic but tiny eight legged wonders (with their legs curled up in the coolest way, their grape shaped heads cocked back, devil may care).
Simmered. Seasoned with pepper, red pepper flake, some sea salt my son had mashed up with oregano, a stray fennel frond I found at the bottom of the drawer.
I ate it right out the pan, a la Calamari's (also Boston, also North End, Hanover street. No plates used there, only shining 9 inch all-clads)
Oh I Forgot- squirted olive oil over it at the end. It was SLAMMIN! The octopus were not chewy at all, just sweeet little pieces of sea candy. You gotta do this. The octopus probably cost me three dollars. Try eating it out of the pan too. Go outside if there is any sun .
Enjoy. (I ate it alone too. i gotta confess, Cooking for yourself rules! )

Saturday, June 16, 2007

School's out and i'm a chef now.
I teach drama at berkeley high school. Usually in the summer I act in a play if i can. And in fact i was cast in a musical but at the last minute decided to ditch it and follow a deam i've had for a while; to really learn how to cook. Not only that, but to actually cook large meals for guests in my house, which is something that has always terrified me. So i just started a series of cooking basics at Kitchen on Fire in berkeley. each tuesday another piece of basic cooking territory is covered. Last tuesday it was Stocks and Soups.