Friday, October 30, 2009
Shit, I don’t know. Maybe that’s why the Spanish call paellas just “rice” sometimes cos it is so impossible to define what it is. One thing Paella does not mean though is “for her” (para ella). Anyone that tells you it does should be mistrusted. Paella refers to the pan it is cooked in, and the variations are INFINITE, no two cooks ever doing it the same way.
They say the first paellas were of snails and rabbit and cooked on olive tree cuttings. I have yet to do this but one day I will and it will make me happy. It will be a good day.
Paellas are supreme if done right. Unfortunately it is difficult to find good ones. I went to a food show here in Ibiza when I first arrived and thought “aha, now I can ask a chef if they use saffron in paellas here” Until that point I had been unable to detect either saffron or quality in any of the ones I had tried. You know what the fucker replied? He said “No. People don’t like saffron.” What a bastard. No, people have now gotten used to food colouring and artifical flavourings thanks to you, you fat lazy bastard. Jesus.
Not all paellas take saffron by any means but none should have this enhancer so many use. It is sort of like the stuff in the sachets in those really high quality chinese noodle packets. Like all good flavour enhancers you actually think it tastes good. It is only after you realise that everything you eat tastes the same that their novelty wears off. The lowest common demoninator shouldn’t ever really be embraced in a kitchen and particularly when in it involves ones national dish.
Anyway, all that is rather by the by. For lunch today I made a discovery. Nothing major but sure was a nice change for using up leftover stew. I had made a jolly nice chicken, chorizo and roast pepper stew a couple of days before. Everyone had eaten their fill a few times and it was now time to use up the last of it. I put it into a paella pan with some extra water and a couple of handfuls of la bomba rice (about 3 times the liquid to rice volume). I cooked it fast until the liquid evaporated and man oh man, did I have me a nice lunch. 12 minutes start to finish + 4 for resting. The socarrat was amazing. Socarrat? Socarrat? What the hell is socarrat? Well, socarrat is the defining factor of a perfect paella. Of which more another time.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
One of the great things about terrines has got to be their seeming impossibility to the non initiated. This is useful cos when lay folk start to think that you are not only a good cook but some sort of magician then it can only really work in your favour. People start to fear you. Then they start to do your will. Think of the advantages.
Another really groovy thing about making terrines is it is awful satisfying. There is something good, something right, about being able to hold in your hands the fruit of your labours. Making soups is great. Grilling steak is great. But this goes further. Perhaps it is the feeling of having made something artesian that it gives you. Bread is the same. So are pork pies.
You can put all sorts of things in terrines just so long as there is enough fat in the general mix to hold it all together. Forget Fear is the Key - Fat is the key.
When I first arrived in Ibiza I went to Clodenis in San Rafael. I didn’t know anything about Ibiza and was completely blown away by this restaurant. The restaurant was the owners home, inside in the winter and in the garden in the summer. Outdoors and under the stars, it was truly magical. The food was superb – roast duck, suckling pig, the trademark lentil salad, everything everything. But above all was a rabbit terrine that I will remember till my dying day.
The terrine was multi-layered and had not been pressed hard so was more crumbly than expected. It was wrapped in smoked bacon and served with its jelly. And what jelly. Oh my god. So clear, so clean, so concentrated. The rabbit gave the impression it had been confited so flaky AND moist was it. I find rabbit difficult to discern if it is mixed with other things but this was clearly rabbit even when spread on toast along with way too much butter and some sharp cornichons.
Tis a goddam shame that Denis, the owner and consummate restaurateur, died. I still have yet to have a meal as good on Ibiza.
1 rabbit, boned – get your butcher to do this or DIY if you enjoy the knife work
250g minced pork belly
250g diced pork shoulder
250g poultry liver (plus the liver, heart, kidneys from rabbit) blitzed to a puree
250g rindless smoked steaky bacon
4 cloves of crushed garlic
zest from ½ orange zest
6 juniper berries
1/8 nutmeg grated fine
2 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
1 glass of wine
1 nice glug of brandy or port or both
Cut the rabbit into strips. This will be layered throughout the terrine. Chop up any bits that wont come under the strip definition. Set aside the strips and add the bits to a big mixing bowl that will hold all the ingredients. Add the porks and blitzed livers.
Whizz the juniper, nutmeg and cloves together and add to the big bowl along with the garlic, zest, thyme, alcohol, salt and pepper. The most important thing here is the salt. You could leave out all the rest and still end up with a reasonably good terrine. Under season it and you might as well take it out the oven and throw it straight in the bin. Fry a bit in a pan and try it. The cooking will dampen down the spice and salt effect so make sure they have good presence in your palate. If under seasoned add more, if over, don’t worry about it.
Now comes the getting together -
Get some baking parchment and fold it in two. Place a couple of bits of bacon between the sheets (thank you Homer) and roll out with a rolling pin. The bacon will flatten out to about half its length and width again. Perhaps more.
Place a bay leaf in the middle of the chosen receptacle i.e. terrine (this could be a bread tin, terracotta dish – anything that will hold the ingredients and is able to be baked) and then start laying out the bacon strips from one side fo the dish to the other. Repeat this until the terrine is lined. Add the mix, layering the rabbit strips throughout and then pull bacon over the top until you have what looks like a bacon parcel. If this is a bit messy then don’t worry as the finished terrine will be turned out upside down anyway showing off the bayleaf.
Wrap it in baking parchment, cover it with tin foil and put it in a pan with hot water. Do not overfill the pan, halfway up will do. Bake it in the oven at 180ºC + fan (210ºC without) for 2 hours. Remove and test with a skewer. If juices run clear then it is ready. Chuck out liquid (or do something with it if you like) and place terrine, still wrapped, in the fridge with something on top to weigh it down. Let it cool overnight.
Next day, remove, unwrap, slice, marvel.