I’m amazed at how people are dealing with the isolation and boredom of Covid. Robin called to tell me she was making paella, which I immediately took as a desperate culinary act.
I made paella. Once. I even bought an expensive paella pan, as well as my first saffron—also expensive. The recipe had far too many ingredients for me. After that I left the traditional Spanish dish to the professionals.
Zooming Around the World
Robin said her Zoom workmates (shall we call them Zoomers? Zoomists? Zoomies?) had arranged for Chef Helina Sanchez in Barcelona to make paella on line. Why do that, I thought to myself. I can find paella makers on YouTube. Then Robin explained that everyone on the Zoom call was making the dish along with the instructor. “Ahh,” I said, “that’s a horse of a different color.”
“The class starts at six,” she said. “Can you be at my house by then?” That, of course, was a funny question. Nowadays my main activities are blogging, going to the mail box, walking up and down my hallway for exercise, blogging some more, and watching Rachel Maddow—though she’s quarantined and off the air temporarily.
In spite of my “heavy” schedule, I agreed to be there.
AirBnB’s Online Cooking Experiences
If you miss the chance to travel or eat exotic foods, AirBnB now offers their Online Cooking Experiences. Participants have access to over 3,000 unique family recipes from more than 75 countries.
Popular chefs lead you and your Zoom buddies through every step in making a dish. Cooking sessions run from an hour to an hour-and-a-half and are capped at 10 people. The cost is $30 each and upward.
In the Virtual Kitchen with Helina
Helina, our instructor, went with a Seafood Paella, using squid, crayfish, prawns, and mussels. Vegetables and seasoning included garlic, sweet red pepper, tomatoes, smoked sweet paprika, rice, fish stock, and saffron.
Helina paused occasionally to see what the dish looked like in our kitchens and to answer any questions. (It was midnight in Barcelona, but Helina didn’t seem to mind.)
She also paused from time to time to lift a glass of wine. We all followed suit with a lusty “salute!” What a great cooking custom!
A Spanish Classic
The Spanish meat-vegetable-rice dish is pronounced pai-ei-uh. It’s the Spanish word for frying pan. Like most classical dishes there are as many ways of making paella as there are households. (Sorta like meatloaf and bread pudding here in the U.S.)
Some view paella as the national dish of Spain, but Valencia lays claim to its origins. In Valencia the ingredients vary, but include all, or some, of the following: rice, chicken, rabbit, duck, butter beans, seafood, vegetables, and saffron.
American chefs have been known to throw in a bit of sausage as well, but that’s frowned upon by paella aficionados.
Wait . . . Don’t Forget the Appetizer
In addition to making Paella and Sangria, Helina began with a rustic appetizer: Pan con Tomate (or “bread with tomatoes”). It was so quick to make, yet incredibly tasty. The appetizer has five ingredients: rustic bread (such as ciabatta), tomato, olive oil, garlic, and Maldon sea salt.
A Quick and Easy Recipe
Here’s the recipe (with photos) used by Chef J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. It differs slightly from Helina’s. He runs the whole tomato across a box scraper. She first boiled the tomatoes enough to make it easy to remove the skin and seeds by hand. I prefer Helina’s method of preparing the tomatoes.
Served with an Italian cheese topping and a bowl of soup, you have a meal.
Zooming in the kitchen! What a wonderful way to connect with people around the world!