Being it’s hotter than the surface of the sun outside I figured it would be a good idea to cook outdoors. After all, with the ambient temperature pushing 100 degrees, I wouldn’t need much of a fire to cook.
I’d been wanting to try cooking paella over a wood fire. And I needed to go into Fort Wayne anyway, so I could pick up the ingredients for paella that we don’t normally stock. Plus since it’s so hot I thought I’d make a pitcher of sangria for a light and refreshing drink.
About 3:30pm I started a fire of hickory and apple wood in our Jay Rosswurm Signature Big Stone Cooking Area. That was cutting it too close, I should’ve started the fire a couple of hours earlier. As the fire settled into smoky embers I got the paella ready to go.
There are surprisingly few ingredients in paella. In the picture starting at the left I have shrimp, tomatoes, seafood stock, spices (paprika, safforn, salt), onions, clams and cod, olive oil, and rice. That’s all you need.
After the fire had burned down I put a pan over the embers with olive oil and the onions in it. We have a copper paella pan that is a functional work of art, but it’s big, big enough to cook a paella for 6 or 8 people. Since it was just Debbie and me dining tonight I used a small skillet.
The fire was pretty hot and the onions were bubbling away nicely. Nothing to do now but sample the sangria.
Just splendid on a blistering summer day.
After the onions had softened I added some chopped up tomatoes from our garden and cooked until they broke down. As things cooked I added pieces of grape vine to the fire for additional smoke and flavor. I saw a cooking show once where they were cooking paella in a vineyard with the grape vine trimmings. I’d saved a bunch of grape vines for just this occasion.
Then I poured in the stock until the pan was nearly full and added the clams.
The rock in the background is our raclette rock. We clean that thoroughly and melt raclette cheese on it. After a bit the stock comes to a nice boil, and the clams open.
The stock needs to cook down a bit before I do anything else. Time for another glass of sangria!
Once it was getting close to cooking all the stock off I added the shrimp and peas.
All to do now is to let all the liquid boil away and for the rice on the bottom of the pan to get crispy. That crispy rice is the famous socarrat without which a paella is incomplete. As the liquid cooks away the rice will begin to crackle (snap-crackle-pop!). That’s how you know when you’re done.
Into the house the beautiful pan goes.
Did I achieve that necessary socarrat?
Well, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but that’s certainly not the case here. It’s hard to describe how good it was. The rice was creamy and smoky, except for the crunchy bits of socarrat. The seafood was moist and lightly smoky. It was on all levels of taste way above paella cooked indoors.
And the best thing? Not an hour after I finished cooking the skies opened with a beautiful, beautiful rain.