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May 31, 2008 10:44 PM

JUNE Cookbook of the Month: FOODS and WINES OF SPAIN, Penelope Casas - All Recipes

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  1. The Paella a la Valenciana, on page 177 in the Rice Dishes chapter of F&WoS has, for quite a few years now, been one of my go-to party dishes. A friend of mine who has a house in Spain says it’s better than most he’s ever had there.

    In the recipe, as written, Casas indicates where it can be made in advance up until that point. But over the years of making this dish, I’ve rewritten the instructions somewhat to make advanced preparation even easier and less messy. Here are a few tips from my experience with it:

    I sauté the shellfish (usually including squid, which is not called for in the recipe) after sautéing the chicken, chorizo, pork, and ham (all removed to a bowl) but before (not after) adding the aromatics. It makes it much, much easier to scoop out the shellfish to set it aside. And I sauté the shrimp and squid first and then the lobster since I have more control over how much each is cooked if done separately rather than together. After the shellfish is cooked and removed from the pan, I proceed with the recipe as written, sautéing the aromatics and then stirring in the rice. At that point, I’ve held the ingredients for as long as three and four hours, giving me plenty of time to clean up the kitchen and leaving very little left to do once my guests arrive.

    I’ve found that one small chicken (not two), is plenty. Most people are concentrating on the shellfish anyway and even with just one chicken there’s often some left over. I sometimes substitute domestic prosciutto cut in a quarter-pound chunk and then diced for the cured ham. And although I make my paella in a 15-inch enameled paellera, I’ve often had unopened clams and mussels, so I now give them a head start for about a minute or a minute-and-a-half in the microwave before burying them in the rice and baking the paella.

    I’m attaching a photo, but not sure how well it will reproduce since it was taken by a friend at a dinner party and sent to me as a thumbnail pdf file.

    15 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      Looks delicious! Thank you for sharing your tips with us. I can't wait for my copy of F&WoS to arrive!


      1. re: JoanN

        Joan, have you any experience making paella with brown Spanish (pearl) rice? If, do you have any tips to offer or is it the same as with white rice?


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Here's a couple of links to recipes for brown rice paella. Interestingly, they all cook it in the oven for a while as well as on top of the stove. I think that's definitely not traditional, but may be the way to go with brown rice, which takes longer to cook, typically. Definitely worth experimenting, I'd say.

          1. re: greedygirl

            Interesting--I wonder why they all used long grain brown rice instead of brown pearl/Spanish rice? Is the brown Spanish rice hard to find?


          2. re: The Dairy Queen

            No, I've never tried making it with brown rice, pearl or otherwise, and couldn't even begin to guess why the recipes gg linked to call for long-grain rather than pearl.

            But comparing the Casas recipe with the one from Cooks Illustrated, I see that the CI recipe calls for the rice and liquid to be placed in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes before adding the chicken and chorizo; then cooking for 15 minutes before adding the shrimp; and then cooking for yet 15 minutes more. Casas, on the other hand, calls for adding the boiling broth to the rice, cooking on the stovetop for 10 minutes, and adding the chicken and shellfish and baking, uncovered, for 20 minutes. In essence, the brown rice in the CI recipe is cooking, covered, for a half hour longer than the short-grain rice in the Casas recipe, which cooks uncovered.

            Also, the CI recipe, calling for 2 cups of rice, calls for 3-1/3 cups of liquid. The Casas recipe, which calls for 3 cups of rice, calls for 6-1/2 cups of liquid. That seems a bit odd to me since I would have thought the brown rice would require more liquid. But perhaps not. Since you'll be cooking the rice, at least initially, without the meat and shellfish, it would probably be easy enough to test the rice before adding those other ingredients to see if more liquid would be required.

            Just my thoughts on how I'd approach it if I were going to give it a try.

            1. re: JoanN

              Thank you so much JoanN (and greedygirl)! I found brown pearl rice at the co-op, so I'm going to experiment. You two have given me some very helpful and specific options to try, so, I thank you for that. And, of course, I will report back.


              1. re: JoanN

                Does Casas put her paella in the oven? I've made paella a few times, using different recipes, and it's always cooked exclusively on the stove top. I've never heard of it being cooked in the oven. I might have to try the Casas method to compare. I can't imagine it can be better than the Moro ones, which are delicious, but who knows!

                1. re: greedygirl

                  Yes, she does. All the paellas in F&WoS are cooked on the stovetop for about 10 minutes and then, uncovered, in a 325F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.They are then covered lightly with foil and allowed to rest for 10 minutes. I don't know whether or not she uses this same procedure in her Paella book.

                  This is the only paella recipe I've ever made so I'm in no position to compare it to anything other than what I've had in restaurants, and hers wins that contest hands down. I hope you do try it. I'd love to know how you think it compares with others you've made.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    I'll see if I can find an online Casas recipe for paella so I can give it a try.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Here you go.
                      Spanish Paella a la Valenciana
                      (rice recipe #3) http://www.spanish-food-and-recipes.c...

                      Bean Pebbled Paella

                      Garlicky clam paella

                      Online links are posted in main June thread at

            2. re: JoanN

              I agree that two small chickens is way too much for this dish! I'm also interested in the fact that she cooks the shellfish first - I've never done this while making paella. I'm concerned that by doing that, and then baking them for twenty minutes, they'd be overcooked.

              1. re: greedygirl

                Not sure what to say except that you only cook the shellfish long enough to pick up some of the flavors from the now-seasoned oil, not long enough to cook it through. Perhaps, compared to your usual recipes, this would seem overcooked to you. It never has to me. And if any of the many guests who have had it thought so, they certainly kept their mouths shut.

                As I believe I said above, I've never made any other paella recipe. I do hope those who have will try this one and let us know how they think it compares.

              2. re: JoanN

                i am also a fan of the Casas' receipe--my paella pan was given to me by a friend who wanted me to do that recipe. I like to make it outside on a bar-b-que grill---those round Weber kettle things are just the right size to fit a paella pan. I do the whole thing on the grill and it works fine. Then when you add the shellfish, you just put the lid on.

                Casas cookbook was one of my first cookbooks and one of the few to survive the devastating flood when I moved from the East Coast to the West coast way back in '89. its got such great stuff.

                1. re: JoanN

                  I gave the paella a la valenciana a go tonight. I don't have a paella pan, nor is my my largest skillet oven safe, so I transferred the paella to a broiling pan before placing in the oven. Seemed to work fine, and my wife (who normally doesn't like paella) enjoyed it.

                  I omitted pork chop, lobster, clams and ham. Somehow, the 20 minute bake + 10 minute tent resulted in overcooked mussels for me. The quality of the chorizo makes a big difference; I used Whole Foods chorizo, which was only so-so. Next time, I'll make an effort to find better sausage. Also, I used Italian arborio rice; does anyone know how different arborio is from valencia rice?

                  Photos (courtesy of my lovely wife) attached.

                2. Gambas Al Ajillo - Garlic Shrimp (Tapas, p. 6).

                  This book has a few variations of this classic Spanish dish, so the first one I made was the version from "Rincon de Espana" in NYC. I really liked the addition of sherry in this, and am going to try different recipes to see which is my favorite since it's an easy tapas. For this one, butter and oil are heated in a casserole dish, and then shrimp and sliced garlic is added. The recipe calls for small/medium shrimp, but I only had large. Then add lemon juice, dry sherry, paprika, a cut up chili pepper (I used one chili de arbol; next time would use two), salt and pepper, and chopped parsley (didn't have any so garnished with sliced scallion). I served this with Ensalada Mora from "Cocina", and some garlic bread.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Rubee

                    A friend of ours made a wonderful shrimp dish she learned while living in Spain. It's similar to the recipe above, but with fewer ingredients. It is also verrrrrrry olive oil intensive.

                    You heat about a cup of olive oil in a large skillet and add whole garlic cloves (lots and lots) and several large bay leaves broken into several pieces. The whole thing sizzles until the garlic cooks through and starts to brown, then salt and lots of cracked pepper, along with raw, cleaned shrimp, are added and cooked until the shrimp are done. The whole mess is poured into a serving bowl (sometimes we just put the skillet on the table) and eaten with lots of baguettes heated in the oven. Then we all go to a Weight Watchers meeting.

                    1. re: oakjoan

                      Holy goodness that sounds fabulous...

                      1. re: oakjoan

                        That sounds like the version I'm more familiar with. Thanks, now I'm hungry again! I'm not sure if I liked the combination of butter (and I love butter) and oil as much in this version, though E loved it.

                        I wanted to add more chilis but didn't want to change the authenticity of the dish. I'm partial to a Mexican version called Camarones al Mojo de Ajo or Camarones a la Guajillo - shrimp in sizzling olive oil and garlic, but with strips of guajillo peppers and orange rind.

                        1. re: Rubee

                          It also sounds similar to the Delicioso version that I've made many times - will check tomorrow.

                      2. re: Rubee

                        So on the Gambas al ajillo topic, I have a question that perhaps the Boston boarders might relate to, but the COTM boarders might be able to help with. I would LOVE to recreate the Gambas al ajillo from the restaurant Toro and I am at a loss as to where to start. The description on the menu is just "griddled garlic shrimp." I know there is saffron in the sauce, because I can see it, and last time I was there when I probed the server, all they gave me was "lots of butter." I could eat that sauce with a spoon. Are there any recipes in FaWofS that might approximate?

                        1. re: littleneck

                          Oh, unfortunately, I never ordered that dish at Toro (now I wish I had!). Hopefully some of the other Boston 'hounds will be more helpful!

                          1. re: Rubee

                            I just noticed that La Cocina de Mama has a recipe for Gambas al Ajillo. I'll post a discussion of it on that thread.

                        2. re: Rubee

                          Gambas Al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp), "Rincon de Espana" Version, Pg. 6

                          This version of garlicky shrimp is perfect for large shrimp and we love everything about it. In fact when I read the recipe I decided to cook a mushroom combo in more or less the same method. I didn't substitute anything, but because we had one pound of large shrimp I increased a few of the other ingredients. Like Rubee I used arbols - 3 of them, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 1/2 T sherry, 1 t paprika, 1/2 t sea salt, 1 t black pepper, 2 T minced parsley. Everything else remained the same. I peeled the shrimp although the recipe does not call for it. A wok was our cooking vessel of choice.

                          The shrimp was their perfectly pinky briny selves. Crusty bread mopped up the spicy sauce. The mushroom recipe on page 82 was my guideline for a combination of cremini and portobellos. I also served a melange of stir-fried rice and vegetables.

                        3. "Fried eggs with garlic and paprika, "F&WofS, "Eggs and egg dishes", page 155

                          Alas, for two reasons, the first being I cannot stand eggs with any hint of crispy or brown edges, the second being I wanted to keep the oil content low, I simply fried my eggs in a nonstick pan that I'd sprayed with a bit of food release. Then, I proceeded with the recipe as written, except for reducing the olive oil for frying the pimientos and garlic from 2 TBSP to 2 tsp. Turned out to be a lovely, simple dish. The only complaint I have about this recipe is that she has you fry the eggs first and let them sit about 4-6 minutes while frying the pimientos and garlic, so, the eggs were of course, cold, by the time they were served. If I were to do this again, I'd fry the eggs in a pan on a separate burner, while the garlic is having its 2 minute cooling.

                          I've noticed throughout her recipes that she doesn't have you do things in a logical order, but, rather, in order by ingredient. For instance, the Beef Hash Casserole recipe I tried from Cocina de Mama she has you fry the beef, then boil water for potatoes, cook the potatoes, then pre-heat the oven. So, just a caution, I advice reading through the whole recipe and adapting the order of things for a better flow.

                          I know the photos aren't that appetizing, sorry, I'm not good at plating (I have a hard enough time just making sure the food tastes good!) but they are attached nevertheless. What you're looking at is strips fried pimientos on the side, and garlic/paprika sauce drizzled over the eggs.


                          1. Atun Escabechado - Marinated Tuna (Tapas, p. 24)

                            I used this tasty tuna salad to stuff Piquillo peppers for a tapas party yesterday (rest of the menu linked below). I didn't have any Spanish tuna, but used a can of high-quality tuna that I got at a local farmer's market. This is flaked, and mixed with vinegar (I used white wine vinegar), minced onion, capers, parsley and s&p. I also drizzled in a little extra virgin olive oil. Simple, but really bright and flavorful. My friend even asked for the recipe.

                            Tapas report:


                            1. Ensalada Catalana, "F&WofS" page 112.

                              About this salad, Casas writes: "In Southern Spain, where the temperatures in summer often top 100 degrees, a cooling salad such as this one is ideal." This statement is accurate! As we are in the middle of a nasty heat wave, I had no desire to start cooking the roasted chicken dishes I wanted to try. This salad was perfect.

                              This salad is a Spanish version of Salade Nicoise, but layered. Boiled sliced potatoes, sliced onions and green peppers, olives and chunk tuna are slathered with salad dressing, salt and pepper, then topped with tomatoes and boiled eggs. I used up a jar of pimento stuffed green olives I had left in the fridge, and in the future I would probably use stronger tasting olives. We also used canned tuna packed in water to try to reduce calories, although I used so much dressing for the salad that I probably negated any benefits of the water packed tuna. The dressing is unusual and tasty. She gives a recipe for El Alino salad dressing (page 104), a dressing with cheese and herbs. We used grated Manchego as our cheese. The dressing also has a touch of horseradish, which gives it a gentle piquancy.

                              After layering the ingredients and sprinkling with dressing, we refridgerated the salad for 2 hours. This nice thing about the delay is it gives time for the dressing to permeate the salad. The herbs and cheese in the dressing have time to amalgamate. As well, the raw onions become much less harsh when marinated in dressing. The salad is light but filling. Very tasty, and worth making again.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: moh

                                Wow, moh! The photo looks glorious. We're also having a hot spell and this looks perfect for dinner. If one boils the potatoes and eggs in the a.m., it'd be cooler in the kitchen, too.

                                1. re: oakjoan

                                  Thanks Oakjoan! Hmm, I wish I had thought about doing the boiling earlier, it would have been much more pleasant....