Monday, October 24, 2016

From Paella Gris to Paella Negra aka Paella Nero

They say practice makes perfect -- well in the case of paella, I would  never claim perfection,
let's just say ... practice has led to consistency.   Since my good friend the Kastila 
dictated his family recipe to me, I have enjoyed making  this surprisingly easy dish.
I normally make a variation of paella valenciana, without the rabbit meat and snails,  and
have also made a seafood paella (during Good Friday).  It was time  to try something new --
how about an arroz  negra, commonly called paella negra?

Arroz negra, made with squid or cuttlefish is a Catalan and Valencian dish.  The Kastila
had never made it but surmised that it would cook the same as a regular paella, without the meats, and with the squid ink poured into the rice at some point in time during the cooking process.
My first attempt turned out grey -- my mistake was to mix in the squid ink with the broth which 
led to a weaker colour.  It was very tasty though -- but the appearance was more of a paella gris
(grey) than a true paella negra.

My mother in law celebrated her 96th birthday a week ago and I was in Lucena for the occasion. 
I wanted to cook something special for dinner that she could enjoy so I had another go at
paella negra.  This time, learning from my mistake, I mixed in the squid ink with the rice and 
sofrito, before I even poured in the broth.  When I saw it simmering in the paellera, I knew I 
had a winner.

Viva el calamares!  Success on my second try.  The rice was black as it should be and made a nice backdrop for the bright orange prawns.  We did not have calamansi but Jay picked some dayap 
(native limes) from their tree outside and it made a nice counterpoint to the paella.  Next time, 
I will make aioli to go with it.

It was a delicious one dish meal -- tender squid rings, fresh prawns from the Lucena market and the unmistakeable umami richness of squid ink.  Only Jay was brave enough to give a wide toothy grin at the dinner table.  


My black labrador retriever Nero passed away due to age and illness just a day after.  He was 
nearly thirteen years old.  Nero was joyful, sometimes rowdy and until he started to feel his age 
about a year ago, acted and thought as if he was an eternally large puppy.  But he was always loving and loyal.  He was also the last of our three big labradors.   I  couldn't have asked for a better best friend. 
In his memory and honour, I will call this dish paella Nero.  We'll enjoy it together Nero, when I see you at the Rainbow Bridge.  

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