earning my keep

Generally business travel is not exciting or glamorous, or so I’m told by my husband. Anyone who does business travel knows that the reality of long plane flights, stuffy hotel rooms and long business meetings are unpleasant.  Although on occasion when my husband needs to meet face to face with his business partner it looks quite a bit different, since they work out of their respective homes.  We are in Southern California and his business partner is in Northern Pennsylvania in a beautiful lakefront home.  This summer their face to face was going to be on the east coast. When mention of this trip came up I thought I would offer my cooking service as a dutiful option in trade for the chance to luxuriate by a beautiful lake for the week.  My kind hubby was game for the idea so tickets were purchased, menus were planned, victuals were procured and off we went. 

I wanted to solidify my week of rent free accommodations, so I decided to pull out the big guns for our first dinner.  A beautiful seafood paella would be just the thing to wow our host, and it is a favorite of ours as well. It looks rather intimidating, but honestly, it is a pretty simple meal to put together. The only thing I would suggest is that since this meal is seafood based, try to buy the very best shellfish you can, it makes all the difference.  This is one of those meals that is as entertaining to watch as it is delicious to eat.  It is a true family style meal.

To get the evening moving along, I put out a few types of cheese with assorted crackers, olives and Marcona almonds to snack on while the paella was cooking.  Of course it didn't hurt to have a beautiful Spanish wine to go along side.

Paella can be cooked on a stove top or grill.  The main thing to know is that whatever direction you go there needs to be a lot of heat.  I like using the grill for the extra smoky flavor, but I have done it indoors on my stove top and it works just as well.  To make things run smoothly, I like to get everything prepped ahead of time and put on a large sheet pan.  When the grill is smoking hot, then the fun begins.  Each layer that is added to the pan creates such interest and beauty.  As things are added try to refrain from stirring.  The best paella are those that are able to form a crust on the bottom.  As the liquid boils down and you hear a crackling sound, panic may set in, but never fear that is what you want.  When it is complete bring it in to the table and let everyone dig in, serve a simple green salad and you have a memorable meal.  -s



serves 4

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

6 large scampi, cleaned, deveined, tails left on

1 medium Spanish onion, cut into ¼ inch dice

½ cup tomato puree

1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste

1 tsp. saffron threads

1 tbsp. sweet Spanish smoked paprika

1 lb. cleaned squid, cut into rings

2 quarts fish/seafood stock

2 cups Bomba rice, or other short grain rice

1 lb. lobster

1 lb. manila clams, picked over and scrubbed

Preheat a 14 to 18 inch paella pan over medium high heat.  Add the oil and heat until smoking.  Add the scampi and cook, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes. Per side.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  Add the onion to the pan and cook until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the salt saffron papricka and squid and cook stirring for 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir well to distribute it evenly.  Add lobster, clams, arranging them nicely, bring the stock back to a boil, and cook, without stirring, for 10 minutes.  Reintroduce shrimp to paella, taste for salt and add if needed, then cook again without stirring , for 10-15 minutes longer, or until liquid is almost completely absorbed and the pan starts to make a crackling noise (don’t worry, this is exactly what you want).  Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali