Ernie Pino – amazing chef, columnist, and most of all a dear friend, passed away earlier this month. I can’t find the words to express my sadness, so I will only say this: “Ernie I know that your table in Heaven is set with great food and drinks and that you’re surrounded with friends and love ones passed. We will miss you greatly, but you will live on in our hearts forever.”
Ernie and I in 2004 Getting Ready to Cook Paella!
Years ago, Ernie did some amazing classes for us during the early days of the Food Studios on Spanish cuisine. I found in my files an article he wrote on his beloved paella. Here is his original followed by the recipes he did for the class. Thank you, Ernie for teaching so many chefs and food enthusiasts the fine art of paella; your passion lives on with us. –Kathy
Paella—By Ernie Pino, 2003
I love teaching cooking classes. Sometimes, I focus on NW themes, like chowders, salmon and shellfish. Often, I teach tapas, gazpacho, paella or any combination thereof. My students are always attentive, sometimes passionate, and never dull. Recently, a group of students was preparing to head home after one of my summer picnic salads classes, and for whatever reason my Hispanic heritage became the subject of conversation. I suddenly found myself waning nostalgic, extolling the virtues of being raised in a bilingual and bicultural home. Soon, some of the classmates began to share their own experiences of visiting Latin countries; a few even demonstrated their Spanish-speaking prowess (keep in mind, it was a warm and lazy summer evening, rich in camaraderie, food and just a wee bit of wine). Inevitably, this sort of dialogue results in an exchange of favorite Spanish terms, cerveza (beer) ranking among the top 10, closely followed by the Spanish word for bathroom, baño. Occasionally, a naughty phrase or two is dispensed but on this particular night someone said the word “paella”. Surprisingly, even the non-Spanish speakers raised their hands when asked if they recognized this term.
So, in the midst of a course on al fresco foods, the focus shifted to the dish most closely associated with Spain, paella. Interestingly, although my students recognized the word, very few of them could tell me much about paella—a dish as rich in tradition as it is ingredients. And so today, the topic is paella. Grab your dictionaries—we’re talking Spanish.
“La paella” or “paellera” is a metal cooking utensil—a flat, wide and shallow pan with two curved handles on opposite sides. The word itself is old Valencian and it’s roots stem from the Latin “patella”, which, in Galicia, Spain, means a flat basket. Today, the word paella is synonymous with both the luscious rice dish and the vessel in which it is prepared.
Paella is traditionally cooked over firewood, which allows the smoke to permeate and add a robust flavor. The Spanish language has two different words for wood “leña”, which is firewood and “madera”, any type of wood…of which, some may become leña
On the southeastern coast of Spain, below Barcelona, an area named El Levante is known as the Region of the Rices. The Moors brought the art of rice growing to this territory more than 1000 years ago, by establishing elaborate irrigation systems throughout the fertile deltas of the land. Understandably, rice has become a traditional staple there and it’s preparation, a delicious art form. As with most legendary foods, the origin of the dish called paella is hotly contested, yet the region most closely associated with this hearty stew remains Valencia. Thus, the title “Paella Valenciana”, which appears often in recipes and on menus.
After rice became standard fare in Spain, the peasants of Valencia would prepare paella with common ingredients found in the countryside, such as onions, tomatoes and even snails. Occasionally, a rabbit or duck would be added and, when possible, a chicken or two. Eventually, the “Valencian rice” became widely known. By the end of the nineteenth century, “Paella Valenciana” had established itself.
Today, tourists and locals alike will visit Spain’s restaurants and enjoy paella in its various interpretations. Some adventurous souls might even try their hand at preparing it at home. The basic foundation for true paella requires using short grain Valencian or Arborio style rice (the west coast equivalent being California Pearl rice), infused with saffron. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit. Paellas can be all vegetarian, strictly seafood, a meat lover’s smorgasbord, or any combination thereof. You can incorporate squid, langoustines, guinea hen and quail, and make it up as you go—though a tried and true Spaniard may cry foul and proclaim his to be the recipe for a traditional and authentic paella. Beware; this dish has been known to stir passions as well as appetites. Although the list of ingredients may seem exotic and somewhat daunting, ask anyone who has made a paella or two and they’ll tell you—preparing paella is a Spanish piece of cake. Think about it: paella is a one-dish meal, it’s the perfect party food and it feeds a small tribe.
Now, repeat after me, “pah-ay-ah”. It’s a Spanish word that you can say with conviction and authority. So roll up your sleeves and start practicing what you preach! – Ernie
Ernie Pino’s Spanish Paella Dinner Menu & Recipes< Ajo Blanco con Uvas de Málaga (White Gazpacho with Málaga Grapes) Paella Valenciana with Seafood Torta de Manzana Cantabria (Apple Cake)/p>
Ajo Blanco con Uvas de Málaga
(White Gazpacho with Málaga Grapes)
Serves 4 to 6
This traditional, pre-Colombian, Gazpacho came from southern Spain’s Andalucía region, where almonds and grapes are grown. For centuries it was a common meal for the poor and working class, who grew most of the ingredients themselves. Then, when the rare and expensive products of the Latin American “New World” (tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers) were brought to Spain, the wealthy added these new vegetables to the dish and gave it an upscale edge. They also turned their backs on the more traditional white Gazpacho, and never looked back. This started a new wave of cooking in Western Europe, and made popular many of the foods we still enjoy today.
2 cups water
8 ounces French bread slices, crusts trimmed and torn into pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, chopped and puréed
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 1/2 cups ice water
1 1/2 cups green grapes
Pour 2 cups water over bread and let soak for 5 minutes. Drain. Squeeze bread until dry. Transfer bread to food processor. Add oil, vinegar and garlic purée. Season with salt to taste. Add almonds and ½ cup ice water, and blend until smooth. With machine running, gradually add remaining 2 cups ice water. Taste for salt.
Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours (the flavors need to blend) and preferably over night.
Serve chilled, mixing well before serving. Garnish each serving with grapes.
Recipe by Ernie Pino.
Paella Valenciana with Seafood
Serves 6 to 8
1 1/2 pounds raw jumbo shrimp
5 large garlic cloves, crushed and minced (divided)
1 – 2 1/2 lb. rabbit (or chicken), legs, thighs and breasts separated
1 medium yellow onion, quartered, and 1 large onion, minced (divided)
3 teaspoons salt (divided)
1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup sliced chorizo sausage (Spanish style)
1 4-ounce jar pimientos, drained and cut into strips
2 large tomatoes peeled and chopped (see note)
2 cups uncooked short-grain rice, such as Arborio or pearl
8 ounces fresh, minced clams, drained, or one 6-ounce can, drained
8 ounces fresh squid tubes and tentacles
12 fresh mussels, scrubbed
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup fresh green beans
Marinate prawns in their shell with 2 of the minced garlic cloves (prepare the night before and refrigerate.)
Reserve the breast, legs and upper joints of the rabbit (or chicken) Combine the remaining pieces with 3 cups of water; add 1 the quartered onion, 2 teaspoons of salt, and ½ teaspoon of saffron threads. Boil 30 minutes, strain and measure out 2½ cups of the stock. Set aside. (Can be prepared earlier and refrigerated.)
Cut the reserved pieces of rabbit (or chicken) into small pieces through the bone (or ask your butcher to do this for you).
Dust the pieces with flour and 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a paella pan or large heavy skillet on medium heat, and cook until crispy-brown and tender. Set aside.
Add reserved shrimp and chorizo to the same pan, cooking until shrimp turns pink. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add minced onion, remaining 3 cloves minced garlic, pimiento and tomatoes to the pan and cook until the onion is tender.
Add the rice to the onion mixture and stir to glaze.
Bring the reserved stock to a boil and add to the rice mixture.
Add clams, squid and mussels, bringing to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the peas and green beans, and cook 5 minutes more, uncovered.
Arrange the rabbit, shrimp and chorizo atop the rice, amongst the squid and mussels. Cover the pan and place over hot coals or low heat on the stove, or in a preheated 400°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. Serve with a crusty bread and Rioja wine.
NOTE: To peel tomatoes, cut an “X” at stem end and on the bottom. Plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove immediately and plunge into iced water. Skin should slip off easily.
Recipe by Ernie Pino.
Torta de Manzana Cantabria
This rich, rustic Cantabrian confection has a delicate spice-cake quality and somewhat of a pudding texture. It may be served warm or at room temperature.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 Gala or Golden Delicious apples (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges
2 Tablespoons Applejack or brandy
1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup apricot jam
1 Tablespoon applejack or brandy
Powdered sugar (optional)
FOR CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9” diameter spring form pan with
2 3/4” high sides. Dust pan with flour. Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add apples, cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer 16 apple slices to processor. Add applejack and purée. Add flour, sugar, eggs, milk, baking soda and cinnamon and just combine until blended. Do not over mix. Pour batter into prepared pan. Drain remaining apple slices and arrange atop batter in a circular (star-burst) pattern. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool.
MEANWHILE, PREPARE GLAZE: Stir jam and applejack in small pan over medium heat until jam melts, about 1 minute.
Brush some of glaze over warm cake. Cool cake 30 minutes. Release pan sides. Heat remaining glaze and brush over cake. Dust with sifted powder sugar.
Recipe by Ernie Pino.