Monday, July 5, 2010

Paella Perfecta!

The Paella Project - an idea 3 years in the making

After a conversation in Spanish V three years ago, the dream of having a paella dinner finally came to fruition. With an open mind and little expectations, we came armed with fresh vegetables and spices, and hoped the sounds of Rodrigo and Gabriella would lure out our Spanish flare.

At first, the directions seemed intimidating ... how on earth do you peel a tomato with massacring it? Blanch green beans ... do they mean bleach? After a little help from, we quickly learned that both techniques were legitimate culinary processes and that chefs conquered these tasks in their sleep - but the true test ... could three 20-year-olds take on the challenge? With a ladle we surged tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and then with ninja like precision, plopped each tomato into a bowl of ice water. With skeptical thoughts, we took hold of the tomatoes, wondering if we would be able to peel them ... and low and behold, the tomatoes undressed themselves like a hooker in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Blanching the green beans, rather similar to the tomato peeling, proved to be an even easier task. From the boiling water to the ice water, we soon began to boast that blanching was our new favorite cooking technique and one that we preformed rather well.

The rest of the steps were interspersed with laughter and conversation until we read that once all ingredients were combined, there was to be no stirring of the paella until it was ready to be served. The statement caused us to reel in shock and horror ... not stir the paella ... wouldn't the poor ingredients need some help in intermingling, after all, it is such a large pan and how could the rice not need a little assistance traveling through the broth to meet their fellow comrades? Despite our nerves, we decided that we must attempt to keep our hands off the paella until it was time to eat.

Well, our need to check on the progress of our prize creation got the best of us - that's right, we did the paella "no-no". We stirred. But, after the 45 minutes it took to absorb all of the delicious broth, it still looked and smelled like paella... yet until it reached our lips, we were unsure of our culinary success.

With the paella spooned into large white bowls, we sat down at the candle lit table and squeezed lemon wedges over our steaming cuisine. With forks in hand, we closed our eyes and sampled our creation.

The cayenne pepper tingled our taste buds - the green beans crunched between our teeth - the artichoke hearts glided across our tongues and the tomatoes burst flavorful juices amidst a mouthful of saffron infused rice and vegetables. After three years of waiting, this, we soon realized, was heaven.

The evening progressed with "ohhs" and "ahhs" until we licked our bowls clean. The meal, far surpassing our expectations, is soon to become our newest tradition. I can only imagine that when any one of us peels a tomato, blanches green beans or hesitates to stir the simmering paella, we will think back to our first experience and remember that sweet taste of success, our Spanish paella.

- Taylor Smith 7.3.2010

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