I was serving a crowd with a mixture of seafood loving and vegetarian guests for the housewarming of our new holiday house on the island of Santa Maria, Azores.
Finally after a year and a half of buying and renovating we are able to stay in our own home. It has turned out even better than we anticipated! How often can you say that?
Here is what we arrived to at 8 pm one Saturday night…
The following Saturday it looked like this….
I have already learned that on this 17 X 9 kilometer, volcanic rock island in the mid Atlantic you check for the best ingredients at the market and then decide what to make. I had seen spice packets specifically for Paella in the grocery store already so I was pretty sure I could get the right chorizo and seafood and rice to make paella.
It was also a perfect dish to be able to divide into vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Rice for paella should be a medium grain rice. You want it to absorb liquid but not be creamy or sticky. I soaked the rice for about an hour and rinsed it a couple of times so it would separate nicely when cooked. Then I sauteed the uncooked rice in a frying pan with oil, garlic, onions and red peppers – just enough to slightly soften the onions and coat the rice. I gave the whole mixture a generous splash of white wine and let the the pan sizzle until the wine had been absorbed or evaporated.
Then I divided the rice mixture into 2 separate pans. Paella is traditionally cooked in a shallow pan over an open fire. It is supposed to be only about 1/2 -1″ deep in the pan so you can create a caramelized crust on the bottom. That didn’t happen with mine but I was pretty happy with it anyway!
For the vegetarian version I used a vegetable broth with the paella seasoning and added chickpeas in lieu of sausage and seafood. For the non vegetarian version I used a wonderful chicken broth I had made, the seasoning and a mixture of piquant and regular local sausage.
I covered my pans with foil and baked them in the oven for about an hour until the liquid was absorbed and the rice was cooked and fragrant.
In another non-traditional twist I steamed my seafood – clams, mussels, shrimp and calamari on the stove in a garlic and white wine broth. That way guests could spoon some over the rice based on dietary preferences.
I prepared a side salad – Melon and Crispy Prosciutto Salad because the melons here are the island are incredibly flavourful and juicy. Prosciutto is also readily available here. I left the prosciutto bits to the side so people could build their own salad with our without it!
Dessert was an almond cake brought by one of the guests. A perfect ending to the meal!
So.. not traditional but it worked out beautifully.
And… here is a picture of a perfect ending of the day…