If you’re feeling sad, anxious or depressed, a recent study suggests your Facebook friends’ unrealistically positive status updates could be to blame.
I can relate. According to Facebook, everyone I know is having a more exciting summer than I am. One friend spent the last 5 weeks teaching in Spain. Another relocated to Dubai. And still others are filling their summers with urban weekend getaways, weeklong camping trips and monthlong European vacations.
I won’t be traveling this summer. While I could spend the summer scowling at your vacation photos on Facebook, I’ve decided to channel my fond memories of vacations past through food.
Last year, a NYT article inspired M to suggest a culinary tour of Spain. The crowning gem of a trip packed with medieval cities, cathedrals, wineries and some of the world’s best restaurants, was a three-day cooking class at the Catacurian.
The Catacurian is located in the tiny Catalan village of Masroig, about an hour south of Barcelona. To the north lie the high peaks of the Pyrenees and to the south, the clear waters of the Mediterranean.
For three days, we learned how to cook Catalan specialties: basics like picada and sofregit, seafood stews and Spanish favorites such as patatas bravas and Spanish tortilla. On our last bittersweet day, we learned how to prepare Catalonia’s most famous dish—Paella Mixta, or Paella Mar y Montaña.
Paella Mar y Montaña is a perfect marriage of sea and land. Chunks of pork rib, chicken thighs and sausage are sauteed (in copious amounts of olive oil) with green beans, garlic, parsley, red peppers, and plenty of smoked pimentón (Spanish paprika). After a risotto-like rice called Bomba and several cups of stock are mixed in, the paella is topped with fresh seafood—shrimp, mussels, clams and sweet langostinos—and cooked to perfection.
In Spain, paella is often cooked in large batches over open fire pits. It’s served most often for celebrations and holidays. But don’t worry: this impressive dish is not nearly as complicated as it looks.
- 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (depending on size), cut into 1” cubes
- ¼ pound fresh sausage (chorizo from Ideal is recommended)
- 4-6 boneless pork ribs or pork loin, cut into 1” cubes
- 1 lb mussels
- 1 lb clams
- 4-8 langoustines (or large shrimp), optional
- 3 tsp pimenton (Spanish paprika)
- ½ red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 handful of green beans, trimmed
- 3 tablespoons frozen peas
- Pinch of saffron
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
- Olive oil
- 2 cups Bomba rice*
- 8 cups chicken or seafood stock*
- Warm your stock in a small saucepan.
- Heat your paella pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add a generous amount of olive oil. Season your proteins and vegetables with salt and pepper. Sauté the chicken thighs until brown, then remove from the pan to a plate. Sauté the pork until brown, then remove from the pan. Continue sautéing separately the sausage, langoustines/shrimp (if used), then the green beans, and finally the red bell pepper. DO NOT add the clams/mussels at this point.
- Return all proteins (except for langoustines/shrimp, clams & mussels) into the pan, with a little more olive oil, and add pimenton. Sauté for 30-60 seconds, then add parsley, saffron & garlic. Sauté for another 30 seconds. Finally, mix in rice, and sauté for 1-2 minutes, or until toasted and well mixed.
- Shake the paella pan to spread ingredients evenly throughout pan. Slowly add liquid until all rice is covered. (You may not use all of the stock.) Shake gently to make sure all rice is covered.
- Place your mussels, clams and langoustines/shrimp decoratively over rice.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes, uncovered. Turn the pan a quarter turn every few minutes to ensure even heating. Check for dry-spots in the rice and add additional spoonfuls of stock if needed. After 20 minutes, or when all liquid appears to be absorbed, take a spoon and taste the rice. The rice should be soft, with a slightly al dente center. Season with additional salt/pepper/pimenton if desired. If rice is not done to your liking, add additional stock (if needed) and cook an additional 5-10 minutes.
- If you’re feeling brave: Once rice is finished, turn the pan up to high heat for 1-2 minutes to help create the soccorat (crispy rice crust at bottom of pan). If you smell the rice burning, immediately remove from heat.
- Cover the pan with a newspaper and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
- The recommended serving method is to place the pan directly on the table and allow people to serve themselves.