In celebration of the birth of a member of our community, the garden at 14 Curtis migrated across the ocean to the peninsula that holds a special place in many of our lives.
The star attraction of this evening was to be the traditional Spanish rice and meat extravaganza, paella, cooked outside over the fire pit. We ordered a special pan from latienda.com, checked lots of cookbooks out from the library, and employed the expertise of two professional project managers.
Guests arrived in the pre-dusk hours with various house recipes of sangria and cases of vinho verde, and availed themselves of the spread of tapas – chorizo, manchego, homemade tortilla espagnol, almonds, and olives – while the birthday boy and I took the dogs down to the beach to collect kindling for our fire.
As the sun set, the flames died and the coals burned, the paella pan got to do what is born for. In went the olive oil and onions, then the vermouth whose alcoholic flames elicited much drama, crushed tomatoes, paprika, saffron, stock, chicken, rice and finally shrimp. This reddish gold concoction would simmer over the smoldering fire throughout the evening taking on a smokey depth and occasionally offering wind of its exotic aromas.
I read it was supposed to cook until we were afraid it was burning; we waited until some among us were afraid it was going to burn, and so had a paella that was perhaps slightly wetter than would be ideal. Regardless, the highly prized, carmelized soccarat on the bottom of the pan was still in abundance.
Many even claimed it rivaled paella consumed on the Iberian.
It might just become a summer tradition.