I never really had paella until I moved to the Northwest. I don’t know why, probably because paella is usually a seafood dish and the desert really isn’t the first place you think of when you think of seafood.
The northwest, specifically the Pacific Northwest – now that is a seafood kind of place. And so I have been introduced to the delightfulness that is paella.
The best paella I have ever had? That was just over a week ago. Seriously. Take a look at the picture and tell me if you don’t think that had to be incredible.
Sharon made it and she is a pretty awesome cook. Even if she likes to deny it. Even if she likes to pretend that no, really, she is just ‘okay.’
Back to the paella.
You see, brother Geoff was visiting Seattle and as he currently lives in a seafood desert – which is to say he lives in an actual desert – one of the first things on his list when visiting is seafood. Lots of it. Now.
We all went back and forth on what would make the best seafood dinner. We debated salmon. We talked about crab. There was a mention of other fish. In the end, however, it was paella. Because you can pack a lot of seafood into that dish.
And so it was that we headed off to get the ingredients.
Sharon is picky about what goes into her dishes. I am not complaining. This is actually, in my mind, a really good thing. Really good.
We started at Pike Place Market. The Spanish Table.
Oh how I love that place. Some women can spend hours in clothing stores, hours trying on shoes. Me? I love a good food specialty shop. This place is incredible. Cookbooks? Yes. Cooking utensils? Yes. Incredible spices? Yup. Not to mention wine, specialty foods, and silly stuff. All with a Spanish influence.
We started there because Geoff and I contributed the wine. We ended up with a bottle of red and another of white. Both Rioja. I learned that day about white Riojas. I never heard of them before, but wow was this one a winner.
Back to the Paella.
Next stop was De Laurenti, another favorite in the Market. We stopped there to pick up some antipasti for dinner, not to mention some roasted artichoke hearts that Sharon added to the dish.
Finally it was Sharon’s favorite seafood stall.
The thing about Pike Place Market, at least if you are a local, is that you end up with favorite stalls. That’s what the open front shops on the main hall are called. Stalls. At least that’s what I’m told.
Locals have a favorite produce stall (mine is Sosio’s). They have a favorite flower stall. They have a favorite seafood place. Generally you have a back up as well because, well, not everyone has everything all the time.
Back to the Paella.
Sharon hit her favorite place and got some beautiful sea scallops, beautiful prawns, a bag of gorgeous mussels. But not clams. The clams were too big. That meant going across the market to the backup place. They had the right clams.
Again – I am not complaining. Sharon knows what she is doing and I am happy to let her do it. It means that I get a great meal.
Then it was back to Mitch and Sharon’s, time for the magic to begin.
Sharon got to work chopping and peeling and cleaning and grating. She grated tomatoes. Tomatoes! Turns out this is a really great, really easy way to turn tomatoes into sauce. Messy, sure, but the end result was worth it.
First up was the preparation of a sofrito. Another new word for me! This is an aromatic base for the paella that involves onion, tomato and garlic cooked in oil. Then came the rice, the spices, and finally all the wonderful seafood.
I have to say, it is a blast to watch Sharon cook. She frets and worries, she stirs and adds and considers. She drinks wine. The audience drinks wine too – it would be rude not to, yes? Like a true artist, she is always thinking about what she is creating, what she can do to make it better, make it different, make it delicious.
Back to the Paella.
It was incredible. The scallops were sweet and meaty and delectable. The prawns were perfect, the clams and mussels were excellent. The grilled artichoke hearts? Brilliant addition. The wine accented nicely.
Best of all it was good friends and good food and good company. Like it always is at Mitch and Sharon’s house.