Monthly Archives: July 2011

Spain via Italy

Where do you get a good deal on a paella pan? The best (in my mind) kitchen store around. Fantes kitchen store, in the Italian Market of South Philadelphia is by far one of the coolest places I’ve been to in my culinary travels. Greeted by owner Mariella Fantes, she gave us a tour and shared some of the history of her family and the store. The Italian Market is the oldest open air market in the U.S. The streets are lined with produce vendors and great little shops that sell anything from freshly made mozzarella, to creamy gelato to huge barrels full of olives and other antipasti.

So how does Spain fit into all of this you might ask? Well, one of my purchases from Fantes was related to a dish I had been waiting for a long time to try, paella. In fact, I bought two small paella pans for the purpose of entertaining and having the option of two different paellas at the same time. You could have one for seafood, which is traditional for the coastal regions of Spain, or keep the meat eaters happy with chicken and sausage.

Paella is actually named after the pan itself. A low rimmed, wide cooking surface makes it easy to cook many different ingredients evenly. Original paella pans were made of terra-cotta, but now are mostly high carbon steel and stainless (which is easier to take care of). I made my first paella the day I got home with the pans. And it was all I could have hoped for! Topping the saffron rice with chorizo, chicken, clams and shrimp made it so every bite had its own character.

My first Paella

Recipe for paella: Good for 4 people

Shopping list:

2 1/2 Cups arborio rice

6 Cups low sodium chicken broth

1 pinch of saffron

1 Tbls canola oil

1 red bell pepper cut into strips

1 spanish (white) onion diced small

16 clams scrubbed clean

16 large shrimp shelled and deveined

1/2 lb chorizo sausage cut into small cubes

1 large boneless/skinless chicken breast cut into cubes

1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika

1 Cup frozen peas

Salt to taste (depends a lot on the chicken broth and clams you use)

Method: Preheat oven- 350

Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a sauce pot and add the saffron. In the paella pan or large flat skillet, heat oil  over medium heat, cook shrimp until opaque (about a minute per side), remove and set in a large bowl. Next, cook chicken and chorizo until done and put in the bowl with the shrimp. Add the clams to the simmering chicken stock and cook until they open @ 5 minutes. If any don’t open, discard them. As they open, add them to the bowl with the rest of your cooked meats.

Add onions and red pepper and saute until slightly soft @ 5 minutes. Add rice and stir. Cook while stirring until the rice is slightly toasted, another 5 minutes. Add half a cup of the chicken broth. Simmer chicken broth until rice absorbs all of the liquid. Continue adding the remaining chicken broth (1/2 cup at a time) until the rice is cooked through, it should take about 30 minutes. A small amount of crust from burnt rice is not a bad thing either by the way. Once cooked, spread rice out evenly and top with all of your cooked meats. Cover in foil and put in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes.. Serve family style at the table.


Duke’s favorite critter

"Just cook the damn thing, would ya!?!"

Growing up in the Midwest, I didn’t like seafood. No, let me rephrase, I didn’t KNOW seafood. Since I moved to the D.C. area 5ish years ago, I have found a whole new love in what I consider good food, even if it doesn’t walk around on land.
Lately, a new craze has hit us in the D.C. area. Lobster rolls! We even have a lobster roll food truck cruising the streets of D.C. during lunch hours like some demented ice cream truck for adults. At 22 bucks average cost per roll around here, I figured I should give it a try myself, instead of spending what I normally would for a good filet that shows up on four legs.
Keeping a keen eye out for when lobster went on sale, I decided to have one of those giant bugs plucked from it’s watery home and come over to my house for dinner, and to meet my cat, Duke, who also now likes lobster.
A true, good lobster roll is very simple. Depending on the part of New England you might be in, there are family feuds over what goes in a good roll. And the big question is: butter or mayo? As in, what you toss the lobster with… I personally decided to go the mayo route as that is the type I’ve had, and liked. Other than that, a split top hot dog bun (I’ll get into that later), some lemon juice, paprika and a green of some sort.
So, what is a split top hot dog bun? I have no idea. I know what they look like and taste like, but my local stupermarket sure doesn’t sell them. So instead… Get a full, unsliced Italian bread loaf. Slice pieces of bread that are 1 1/2 inches wide. Then take that thick slice you just made and cut it down the middle until about an inch from the bottom. Butter both sides and brown in a hot pan. Open the split and fill with your lobster concoction.

Lobster rolls from a Midwesterner

Recipe for: Lobster rolls, two of them to be exact.

Shopping List:

1  1/2 – 2 lb lobster

Juice from half of a lemon

1/4 Cup mayonaise

3 green onions minced

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1 Tbl sea salt

1 fresh, unsliced loaf of white Italian bread


In a large stockpot with a steamer basket in the bottom, add water until it is 2 inches deep. Bring to a boil over high heat and add the sea salt. Steam lobster for 8 minutes for a 1 1/2 lb, 9 minutes for a 2 lb. Remove from pot and let cool. Crack and remove meat from the claws, knuckles and tail. Put meat in a bowl and discard the body (unless you want it for stock). Gently toss the meat with half of the green onion, lemon juice, mayo and paprika. Load up your buttered and browned split buns with your lobster “salad” and garnish with the rest of the green onion. Serve with absolutely nothing else.

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