I have been wanting to make paella for quite some time for the blog. For a few months now, I envisioned a paella and Spanish tapas dinner fit to wow my friends. A couple weeks ago, my mom bought me a paella pan, and I knew it was a sign I had to put this plan into action as soon as possible.
My boyfriend was visiting, and we had a hike planned with our friends Laxmi and Rukesh. After a full day of hiking, I knew it would be the perfect time to refuel with a huge feast of Spanish goodness. Not to mention, it was extremely helpful to have Laxmi to help out with the preparation!
Choosing the right dishes proved to be a little challenging. (And, for you vegetarians that read my blog, some of these are veg friendly or can be made that way!) Tapas are quite a bit different in Spain than they are in the fancy restaurants here in the U.S. First off, they aren’t generally enough to fill you up, and they don’t come with a hefty price tag like they do here. Actually, tapas are called “tapas” because they are placed on top of your beer at the bar– and generally, the dish is that small (pint width).
Additionally, some of the dishes that we have here just aren’t the same. For that, I asked my friend Richard for a little guidance. He recently traveled to Spain, and he offered up his knowledge (as well as that of his new friend, who happened to run a restaurant in Spain) to assist me. That, and he helped me out by bringing back some Jamon Iberico!
Jamon Iberico is one of the many types of cured pork that Spain is known for. You can read a little bit more about it on the link provided, but, needless to say, it is awesome and not at all like the prosciutto that is often used as a substitute. I was happy Richard brought back a sample for me to try out and share!
Other than the cheese and jamon plate, I also decided on tortilla espanola and Spanish shrimp to accompany the paella. Richard said tortilla espanola was one of his favorite things to eat in Spain (other than the jamon).
I was happy to have some assistance in the kitchen. Although I paired the paella, which has a longer simmer time, with the tortilla espanola, which can be made in the time it takes for the paella to boil, and the shrimp, which I made after everything had finished cooking, I didn’t want to be eating at the traditional Spanish dinner time of post-9 p.m. It likely would not have been possible to so effortlessly get everything together without help from friends.
For the tortilla espanola recipe, one thing to note is it definitely seems more complicated than it ended up being in practice. Flipping with a large plate was not as cumbersome as I imagined, and I advise you to definitely shake the pan as instructed. My pan was a little hot, resulting in a browner tortilla, but I was otherwise quite happy with it. I would make it again for a fantastic and relatively quick brunch.
For the paella, the rice did not cook up as instructed in the recipe. While some commenters suggested adding more liquid, I found that simply putting a lid on it did the job. Make sure to monitor it, though, to keep the rice from sticking. There is nothing really to warn you about the shrimp recipe except that it is divine, and make sure you have some bread to sop up the delicious juices after you devour the shrimp.
This was the perfect way to end a day of hiking with my boyfriend and friends. Try out your own little paella and tapas party and dream of laughing over wonderful food to the passionate sounds of flamenco.