A romería is a pilgrimage to a country shrine, a grand occasion for a fiesta with singing and dancing and paella cooked outdoors. In the fall there is a romerķa on the banks of the river that cuts through the valley below me. A parade of riders on horseback and decorated carts pulled by oxen or tractors leaves from town to arrive at the riverside to claim campsites for the day. Elegant horsemen with women in traje flamenco, flouncy, ruffled flamenco dresses mounted behind them, parade their horses around the area.
Among the trees, where children run and play, family groups get their fires burning brightly to make big paellas. The men do the cooking, while the women unpack food to nibble on while the rice cooks. Croquettes, olives, potato omelets, sliced ham, and sausage are spread out on a folding table. There's plenty of wine, cold beer, and soft drinks for the children. After the feasting, some take up their guitars and singers and dancers gather to clap and stomp and twirl. The fiesta is in full swing!
Paella in southern Spain, where I live, usually contains chicken or rabbit plus shrimp, mussels, and squid. The top is gaily garnished with strips of red pimiento, green peas, and pink shrimp. Real fiesta food.
With paella, you want a happy wine. Serve a young red (tinto joven) or chilled rosé (rosado).
12 mussels, scrubbed
1 pound jumbo shrimp
1/4 cup olive oil
1-1/2 pounds chicken legs and breasts, cut into small pieces
4 ounces pork, cut into 1-inch cubes
12 ounces squid, cleaned and cut into rings
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed, or parboiled fava beans
2 small artichokes, quartered and parboiled (optional)
4 cups chicken broth or water
2 cups Spanish medium-short-grain rice
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/2 teaspoon pimentón
4 drops yellow food coloring in 2 tablespoons water
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 canned red pimiento, drained and cut into strips
1/2 lemon, for garnish
Place the mussels in a pan with 1/4 cup water. Cover the pan and cook over a hot fire, shaking the pan until the mussel shells open, 3 to 4 minutes. Discard the empty half shells of the mussels. Strain the liquid and reserve it.
Cook 4 to 5 unpeeled shrimp in boiling water to cover for 1 minute. Reserve them and add the liquid to the mussel liquid. Shell the remaining shrimp and set them aside. (If you are preparing a broth in which to cook the rice, the shrimp shells can be boiled with the bony backs and wings of the chicken. Add the mussel and shrimp liquid to the broth or water.)
Heat the oil in a 14-inch paella pan over medium heat. Sauté the chicken and pork until they are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the squid and continue sautéing 5 minutes more.
Add the green pepper and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes more. Add the tomato and increase the heat so it quickly loses its liquid. Stir in the peeled shrimp, peas, and artichokes, if using, and sauté 5 minutes more.
Pour in the 4 cups broth or water and turn up the heat to high. When the liquid is boiling, add the rice.
Combine the saffron, pimentón, and food coloring. Dribble this into the pan. Add the black pepper, bay leaf, and salt (if the broth was salted, less will be needed). Stir to distribute all the ingredients. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes.
Lower the heat so liquid is barely simmering, and cook for 10 minutes more. Do not stir the paella. Arrange the mussels and cooked shrimp on top of the rice. Garnish with strips of pimiento.
Cook for 5 to 6 minutes more, until the rice is tender and all the liquid is absorbed.
Let the paella set for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Place a half-lemon in the center or lemon wedges around the edges. Many people like to add a squeeze of lemon to their serving of paella.
Variation: Here's an alternative method for an 18-inch paella pan to serve 6 to 8. Increase the quantity of rice to 3 cups; increase the liquid to 6 1/2 cups. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the sofrito on top of the stove. Add the liquid to the paella pan and bring to a boil. Add the rice and bring again to a boil. Very carefully place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
My Kitchen in Spain
225 Authentic Regional Recipes
by Janet Mendel
Hardcover, 368 pages
$34.95; $52.95 (CAN)
Recipe reprinted by permission.
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This page created October 2002
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