For Valentine's Day, Edan and I stayed in and made moules normande. I have to say, if you like shellfish (and if your religion allows you to eat it), mussels are the absolute easiest, most satisfying dish to make. You can prepare them as simply or as dressed up as you like. We've been making the same basic mussels recipe for a few years now -- the Barefoot Contessa's mussels in white wine -- mussels cooked in a broth of white wine, plum tomatoes, shallots, and saffron (we make a slight alteration and add some spicy chicken sausage; it adds a little spiciness to the buttery flavor of the wine). It's delicious. Edan usually drinks the broth with the empty mussel shells...now you know her secret shame.
This time, we steered off the path, making Anthony Bourdain's mussel dish, which had cream, apples, and Calvados, along with the obligatory bacon and shallots (Everything tastes better with bacon...and shallots don't hurt, either). I thought the flavor of this dish was terrific. The sweetness of the apples blended perfectly into the creamy broth, and the crispy bacon on top gave the dish a textural element that our standby mussels lack. But Edan wasn't convinced. She called it a good "cold weather dish," which is Edan-speak for "a little heavy." She was probably right, in that it was more of a chowder than I was expecting. I suspect we'll make the dish again, but probably not before we make our standby.Sorry you can't see the mussels very well (They're the little black things). If you peek behind the Pinot, you'll spy Omar Little. "Oh fo sho."
Through Edan's job at the cheese store, she procured some really good, blood-red Portuguese-style chorizo (which I totally wish I'd photographed...), so we decided to try paella. We had a whole chicken, cut up, in the fridge, so when we found this recipe for seafood paella (which, for some reason, has chicken in it), it seemed like God was speaking through the interwebs. We picked up the requisite seafood -- shrimp, clams, and, of course, mussels -- at the local fancy supermarket, and we were ready to go.
Paella, the traditional Spanish rice dish, is usually made in a big pan over an open fire. We live in an apartment, so the fire thing was out. The recipe we found called for baking the paella in a very hot oven for 45 minutes, I think mainly to cook the chicken through. After browning the chicken in bacon grease, sauteeing the chorizo with onions and garlic, and stirring in two heaping cups of rice, I started to wonder if we were making too much food. Edan assured me we weren't, and I figured the paella would make good leftovers (if one removed the shellfish; I love mussels, but not on the second day). As you can see, by the time I arranged the chicken, chorizo, shrimp, mussels, and clams, then sprinkled bacon and peas all over the dish, there was hardly any rice visible at all.
After a while in the oven (I didn't use the chicken breasts so I lopped about ten minutes off the baking time), it was ready. I pulled the foil off, and an incredible aroma wafted up. Salty and earthy, with a smoky taste I can't explain, the paella tasted perfect to me. The chicken was overkill, for sure, but it did make great leftovers. The only problem with the dish was that the chorizo, which was cooked and cured (I think) when we got it, got pretty dried out. Maybe this wouldn't be the case if we'd made paella in a pan instead of baking it. I dunno.
Now that I've made this type of paella, I'm curious if anyone with more experience can point me in the direction of a more authentic paella recipe. I don't think I'll have access to an open fire anytime soon, but maybe a stove-top recipe? Anyway, if anybody out there has one, let me know. Paella is officially in the repertoire.Thanks to all you Apronites who've sent in links. If I haven't gotten to them, it's not because I didn't find them interesting, it's because I'm a lazy, pathetic person who can't be bothered. Oh, and I have a small puppy that I have to chase around my apartment.