Our Spanish Disaster – Sort of…

So far, all the dinners we cook have turned out pretty great. I think there comes a time in every cooks life where you look back at a dinner you made and think. oh gosh, that was pretty darn awful. Last week we decided to cook Spanish. I have cooked Paella once or twice in my life, Steve has never cooked Spanish food. We pulled a menu together and went at it the next day, me showing up early for prep. 10 people for dinner again (we’ll call them our “regulars”). Our friends have started to contribute to dinner which has made it more fun.

For an appetizer my friend Sabrina brought Spanish Fondue made from manchengo cheese (A Spanish cheese from the La Mancha region in Spain) . For dipping in the fondue we had Spicy chorizo and bread and olives. So yummy. You can find the recipe here. I highly recommend this recipe. I think fondue is a good way to catch up with friends, while doing something interactive (such as eating and dipping).

Our next course was our salad. When I saw the recipe Stephen had picked, I thought, no way people are going to like this. But it actually fit pretty well together. A mix of fresh cantaloupe, spicy chorizo and artichoke hearts, made this very balanced. It was sweet spicy and tangy all in one bite.

The Recipe is as follows:

Ensalada de Melon Chorizo y Alcachofa “Salad of Cantaloupe, Chorizo and Artichoke”

INGREDIENTS

1 small cantaloupe
1 16 oz can of artichoke hearts
about 6 oz of chorizo
handful of fresh cilantro

Dressing:
6 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2 TB red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 ts Dijon mustard – we ended up omitting this. We didn’t have a lot of mustard fans out there.
salt and pepper to taste

You can find the recipe online as well: http://www.easy-spanish-recipes.com/ensalada-melon-chorizo-alcachofa.html

The salad is very easy to make. Chop the cantaloupe into squares after rind and seeds are removed, add cooked chorizo, sliced and chopped artichoke hearts. Add the chopped cilantro. Mix in the dressing and enjoy.

The Main Course:

Vegetarian Paella and Beef Stew

I’ve never made vegetarian Paella before. I have made Paella, but its been a while. This recipe is as follows:

  • A pinch of Saffron
  •  

  • 1/4 tsp of Cayenne pepper
  •  

  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz) of olive oil
  •  

  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  •  

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped

  • 4 cups (32 fl. oz) vegetable broth

  • 2 cups (16 oz) rice

  • 4 medium tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

  • 1 zucchini peeled and chopped

  • 1 cup (4 oz)  green beans (we used freshly cooked)

  • 2 cups (14 oz) artichoke hearts, tough outer leaves removed and quartered (or 1 1/2 cans)

  • 1 lemon

  • Lemon wedges, to garnish

  • *Very important note* Before adding the saffron, you must soak in room temperature water. We soaked ours for about 30 minutes in a full regular sized coffee mug and it turned the water a rich yellow color.

  • Add the olive oil to a hot pan on medium low heat. Add onion and garlic. Saute until tender. Then add the zucchini. saute for 2 more minutes, along with the green beans and artichokes. While the vegetables are cooking, put the broth in a saucepan and bring it to a low simmer. Add in the saffron water, and the cayenne pepper. Set the heat to medium. Add the tomato, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Taste the broth and season if needed. Add the rice and saute for about 1 minute, until it starts to turn translucent, just like you would for a risotto. Spread out the rice evenly over the bottom of the pan. The broth should cover the rice. As the rice cooks down, arrange the vegetables on the top. Do not stir the paella only “shake” the pan occasionally. Cook this for 8 minutes and 3 minutes with the lid on to make sure the top rice is cooked. Serve hot when ready.

    *Important lessons we learned from this recipe: first, the rice had a great, rich buttery taste from the saffron. The paella definitely needed to be seasoned more. Make sure you taste the broth more frequently as it cooks down. Our needed more salt, pepper, and a dash more of cayenne. Also, make sure to keep the heat as low as possible. We kept ours on medium low, and that was WAY too high. The bottom was not burned but it browned and stuck to the pan. This leads me to the next mistake. Next time we’ll make sure to use more of a frying pan than a pot. All in all though, it was a pretty Summery and fresh paella.

    Estofado de Tenera “Spanish Beef Stew”

    INGREDIENTSabout 2 lbs of beef
    1 lb potatoes16 oz can artichoke hearts quartered
    8 white asparagus (cooked)
    2 cups beef stock
    1 cup red wine
    3 cloves garlic
    1-1/2 onions finely chopped
    1 leek finely chopped
    2 TB fresh flat-leaf parsley finely chopped
    5 TB olive oil
    1/2 cup flour

    Salt and pepper to taste

    DIRECTIONS

    Begin by cutting the beef into rough 2-3 inch pieces. Lightly coat them in the flour. Heat about 2 TB of olive oil in a skillet and sear all of the sides of the beef. Remove from the heat.

    In a large stock pot or heavy iron casserole, heat about 3 TB of olive oil and add the garlic, onion and leek. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetable soften and become slightly translucent.

    Add the meat, red wine, beef stock and parsley. Cook over low heat for about an hour stirring occasionally.

    Peel and cut the potatoes into 1-2 inch rough pieces. Heat about 1/2 cup of olive oil in a pan and fry the potatoes until they are golden brown. Remove from the oil.

    As the beef is about done, add the asparagus and artichokes. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Cook for about 5 minutes. Just before serving, add the potatoes and cook for a couple minutes.

    *Changes for next time. Do NOT add the cooked potatoes, artichoke, and asparagus until the very end. They got pretty mushy and made the stew look gross. Not very appetizing.  It did taste ok, but again, more pepper for this stew.

    So in the end, we had a lot of fun cooking this stuff, but I should stick to what I said about menu planning before and test the recipes first. It definitely wasn’t my favorite cooking thus far. Maybe we’ll come back to it someday. Everyone had a lot of fun, and this whole dinner party thing is about trying new things right? That’s what we did.  Next week, our friend Marco will be cooking homemade pasta. He is straight from Italy and his pasta always has great reviews!

    Any comments or feedback you have, please feel free to email or post on here!

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