History and geography have intertwined to create one of the most varied and rewarding cuisines in the world. Its history began with the Romans, and more importantly the Moors, bringing with them elements of their own cooking which lingered and blended with Spain's culinary heritage. Imports from the New World included the tomato, potato, sweet potato, vanilla, chocolate, many varieties of beans, zucchini, and the pepper tribe. There are olives in profusion, vineyards and citrus fruit. Spaniards are very fond of garlic, they love all types of sweet and hot peppers and their beloved jamon serrano -- cured ham. The golden spice saffron enhances many Spanish foods, paella in particular. Spain's most famous wine is sherry, both dry and sweet, which flavours entrees and desserts.
Cuisine southern Spain echoes the cooking of the Middle East (honey and cumin) and that of the Americas (dishes combining meat with chocolate). Yet, essentially, it is family cooking that is simple to prepare and characterized by fresh ingredients. Besides meat, poultry, game, and fish entrees, there are a wealth of dishes featuring beans, rice, eggs, vegetables, and savory pies that make a meal. Tapas -- small morsels or appetizers in great variety -- play a role in meals throughout the day. The north-western area, prominently displays its ancient Celtic heritage. Meat and fish pies are found here along with famed scallops and fine veal. Farther east along the coast is known for its legendary bean dish, fabada, and a strong blue cheese, queso Cabrales. Hard cider is preferred as a drink.
A typical dining pattern involves a light breakfast at 8 a.m.; a mid-morning breakfast at 11 a.m.; tapas at 1 p.m. with a three-course lunch following at 2 to 3 p.m.; a merienda for tea and pastries or a snack at 5 to 6 p.m.; evening tapas at 8 p.m. or later, and a three-course supper at 10 p.m. The two main meals of the day are la comida, or lunch, and la cena, dinner.
1. Make stock from mussels. Boil water and add mussels (in batches, if necessary) to boiling water for up to one minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. When cool, take mussels out of their shells and discard shells. Mussels will continue to release water, which you can add to your pot of mussel stock. Keep stock on the stove, at a simmer.
2. Rinse squid under water and dry with a towel. You will notice a clear, tough, plastic-like tendon running along the side of each piece. Remove with a knife. Cut pieces into triangles and set aside.
3. Prepare shrimp (cutting into smaller pieces, if necessary), monkfish (slice into smaller pieces) and set aside.
4. Heat up the paella pan and add olive oil. When pan is hot, add squid to saute, for about 2 minutes, before adding shrimp and monkfish. When shrimp becomes opaque and pink in color, remove all seafood from pan and set aside.
5. Add more oil and cook garlic, (When heated, the garlic moves around the pan in the bubbling oil.) Add tomato and let it cook for at least five minutes, until the color has transformed from red to a more golden, orange-brown shade. Add bay leaf and saffron. Then add white wine.
6. Return all seafood, except the mussels, to the pan. Add stock. Bring up to a boil. Salt well. You want the mixture to be slightly salty. This is your last chance to add salt before the rice is added.
7. Add rice and set timer for 14 minutes. For the first four minutes, you may stir gently. After this point, NO MORE STIRRING OR TOUCHING. Otherwise, you will have a gummy rice concoction. (This is also why you can not add salt at this stage.)
8. Add mussels and let them rest on top. Reduce heat rather than add more liquid if you find the paella absorbing liquid too rapidly. The end result should be on the dry side, by the way.
9. Turn off heat and let sit for at least five minutes. Serve immediately.
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My Fellow Europeans - the site that aims to teach you all about European food.