We joined the Daring Cooks as a way to challenge ourselves and get out of our routine. However, when we signed up a little too late to participate in the molecular food challenge, which involved skate and bananas with dehydrated caper powder and other items, I think we both felt we'd dodged a bullet. So much for daring. Then this month's challenge was posted and my initial reaction was 'paella, well that's not scary at all!'. Some people (aka me) are just never satisfied... Well, actually, it all turned out to be quite fun. Just because we're not scared of paella, doesn't mean that we actually ever make it.
And I should add that Olga, the host of this challenge insists it's not paella. It's Rice with Cuttlefish, Artichokes and Mushrooms. Or in our case Rice with Chicken, Artichokes and Mushrooms since one of us won't eat fish, cuttle- or other-wise.
Reading the reactions from other Daring Cooks also made me so grateful to live in California where artichokes are plentiful and affordable and we could have got cuttlefish if we'd wanted to. I love having the fresh produce and the opportunities. We even picked up Spanish rice from Valencia and a lovely Basque wine to go with it all from the shops a short walk from home.
The recipe also included an allioli made by hand in a mortar and pestle. We started with the allioli (traditional recipe): this stuff is amazingly pungent and potent, a little goes a long way! The color seems to be very dependent on the water content: after continually adding olive oil it was a yellow-green color, but when we added back a little water and/or lemon juice it became significantly lighter in color.
Next up was the sofregit: we started with the onions, garlic and green pepper and then added the tomato. This was be the basis for one of our meals later in the week as well as the challenge recipe...
We sautéed the mushrooms together with the artichokes, then transferred them to our cooking/serving dish. Next we added the rice and saffron; the suggested cooking time was perfect to yield rice that was fully cooked but not mushy and sticky.
We grilled the chicken separately from the paella and served it skewered on a branch of oregano from the garden. Just a little of the allioli was enough to impart a strong flavor to the rice! Here is our finished dish: