Paella by Mexicans

As part of many things The Americas inherited from the Spanish settlers, I reckon, the most important one was new ingredients and cooking techniques. Not only we got some great Spanish recipes, but this “Mestizaje” resulted in new and thrilling cooking methods, the incorporation of exotic ingredients, flavours and textures. The The Latin American cuisine was born as a rich, exuberant,and voluptuous (I always wanted to use to that word to describe food, far out!) pallet of flavours and emotions.

It was actually rougher than this. A very bloody and violent cultural assimilation.

It was actually rougher than this. A very bloody and violent cultural assimilation.

… Anyway, so, a few days ago, we decided not to go for the traditional Mexican dish, nor a North American craving (remember, we are from the north, close to the border with the US and A, so, aye, we love HEB and Texan massive portions), instead we went for freaking Spanish food.

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Why Spanish? Well, I’ve recently bought a “Paellera”, which is a special pan for paella, as shown bellow:

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I got the rice and the spices, then my youngest sis and I headed to the “San Juan” Market, which, I reckon, needs a post of its own, as it is an impressive place full of the most exotic ingredients, meats, veggies and a wide high quality charcuterie stands.

Colours... edible colours ...

Colours… edible colours …

Among other things we needed for the paella, we also went there to get the seafood, as northeast Mexicans from the Gulf of Mexico we do value fresh, high quality seafood. So, let’s get started, shall we?

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Utensils:

  • A 30 cms paellera
  • Cooking tongs
  • 1 medium size pot (for a 1 to 2 litres of chicken stock)
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • White piece of cloth

Ingredients (usually for a 4 to 6 people paella):

  • 600 grams of rice (preferable the “bomba” or “calasparra” variety)
  • 300 grams of chicken meat (I used chicken thighs, deboned)
  • 200 grams of pork in cubes (I recommend pork chops, deboned and leave some fat, always leave the fat)
  • 300 grams of large shrimps, skin and head on
  • 200 grams of white clams
  • 200 grams of squids (ask your vendor to clean them up before weighting them)
  • 100 grams of fried chopped tomatoes (I used two, and worked great)
  • 50 grams of sliced Spanish chorizo
  • 1 tsp of sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp of saffron
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ chopped onion
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 to 2 litres of chicken stock

Now what?

First, turn on the heat to meadium, on the paellera pour some olive oil (2 to 3 spoons are fine), level the paellera, you want to cook rice evenly, always. Next, throw in the pork and the chicken, you want to brown the outside of these meats before moving to the steaming process needed for the rice. Add the chorizo, the onions and the garlic, then the tomatoes, and the rest of the spices (saffron, paprika, oregano, pinch of salt and pepper).

Bomba-Rice

All set? Awesome, now, the secret of a great paella rests in the stock you use. Please, put as much love to make the stock as you do to prepare this paella. Oh well, screw it, you can buy chicken stock too, so anyway, where was I? Aye, put a good amount of large spoons of the stock in the paellera. As soon as the stock touches the hot pan your kitchen will be filled with amazing aromas, sounds and excitement (not the same sort of excitement we all felt while watching the first trailer of the upcoming Star Wars movie, but pretty close). Cover just half of the paellaera with the stock, let it boil.

Is it boiling now? Add the rice, distribute it nicely along the paellera, use your wooden spoon and distribute the hell of that rice, oh yeah, distribute it good… you are loving it aren’t you? Now pour more stock in it until you entirely cover the rice, lower the flame, and let it cook. Regarding the saffron, some put it while they stir-fry the meat, whilst others add it right after covering the rice with the stock. I used the first technique.

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Ok, so your rice is cooking, your stock is simmering, you’ve poured yourself a good glass of Tempranillo (because cooking and drinking is always mandatory), now, what’s left? Oh right, the seafood! Start arranging the shrimp, squid and clams in the paellera. Gently push the ingredients into the rice, they’ll cook fast, that’s the reason we didn’t cook them with the meat at the beginning. Pour a little bit more of that stock, you don’t want to burn your rice (unless you like socarrat, which is super delicious).

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At the last phase, when you notice the rice is almost ready, the seafood cooked (just check if the shrimps turn into that lovely pink colour) turn off the heat and cover the paella with that white piece of cloth you were wondering why I listed it in this recipe. Let it rest for good 15 minutes, it helps to settle and finishing cooking the rice.

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There you go, now take some nice pics, upload them to Instagram, use a nice filter, and share it with the rest of the world.

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Ps. Did you get the chance to watch the Republican debate yesterday? I didn´t, but it seems that Trump is doing his best to keep on surprising us. He is a jerk, but really popular, the lad might have a chance to compete against Hillary for the US presidency.

Ps2. Veracruz, that Mexican state in the shape of a wrinkled banana, by the Gulf of Mexico is now the one most dangerous places on earth for journalists. Javier Duarte, governor of that state, during an event with journalists warned them that the authorities knew which one of them were hanging out with the bad guys. Last Friday, Ruben Espinosa, photographer, allegedly threaten by Duarte’s administration, was found murdered in Mexico City. “Espinosa was the 13th journalist working in Veracruz to be killed since Governor Javier Duarte from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) came to power in 2011.” published The Guardian, regarding this event. Shame on you, Duarte.

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Punta Mita – Mexico

As it turned out, what I just needed were some days off, close to a Mexican beach, going for long walks, a beer as cold as my ex`s heart (or cold dead as William Shatner`s career), enjoying my home country’s cuisine, and celebrating the marriage of two great friends.

Pic taken while going for a morning walk

Pic taken while going for a morning walk

Punta Mita is an hour flight away from Mexico City (or, if you happen to be a bad holiday planners as me, a 12 hours bus drive). When you get to Puerto Vallarta, just walk a few blocks from the bus station to the bus stop, and take the “Punta Mita” local bus, it’s only a 45 minute trip (don’t you worry, it’s says “Punta Mita” on it, hard to miss).

I stayed at“El Coral” hotel, which is fine, around USD60 a single bedroom, or USD 110 for a double (sounds weird, but go for the double if you are more than 3 people). And the food, my friends, the food is efing amazing, the restaurant isn`t that flashy, the kitchen looks dodgy (but they are so friendly, they even let me cook with them), and most people get there because it’s right where the boats leave to the “Marietas”, but it is fantastic.

Not Islas Marietas, but some other islands close to Marietas

Not Islas Marietas, but some other islands close to Marietas

I’m from the Gulf of Mexico, so the ocean there is quite tame, with soft waves and refreshing breeze; but this is the Pacific, the water breaks against the reefs, the waves storm on the shore pulling the sand back into the ocean which such ferocity it is sort of intimidating even for experienced swimmers like me. The seafood is different, the shrimps, lobsters, fish and oysters are bigger, making any seafood platter you order here look voluptuous, massive and awesome (or, like John Key might even refer to these specimens as “tantalizing”, while stroking any wee Mexican girl’s pony tail). Unlike the seafood from my hometown, aye, seafood is bigger, but the flavours from the Gulf are sweeter and, honestly, more delicious.

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However, the food was outstanding, like the “Pescado Zarandeado”, or “Pulpo a la plancha”, or the fresher oysters I`ve ever tasted. Literally, I was just hanging out at the restaurant and this fisherman gets out of his boat carrying a bag full of oyster he just got out of the ocean. Without hesitation I told my waiter “I want a dozen of whatever he`s carrying in that bag”. 15 minutes later, he arrived with a platter of delicious oyster, fresh, sweet and massive.

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What about the wedding? It was beautiful. My mates looked like coastal royalty, and the venue was fabulous. They said yes to each other while the sun was setting in the background, and we couldn´t resist but to let a wee “awwww”.

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Anyway, just wanted to post some pics of this weekend off, mates, if you are really keen to visit a magical place, take some time off and get your arses to Punta Mita, you won’t regret it.

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How to Cook an Octopus

To the point, this is one of my favourite things to eat and cook, either in a stew, soup, salad, or grilled, octopus is a very versatile product. As a guy born and raised in the coast, I learnt to eat seafood since I was a wee boy, my mum doesn´t want to tell me the first time I ate octopus, (I´ve told her several times that I´m too old to be taken away from her by social services anyway, but she doesn´t get it), that, along with crabs, ceviche, shrimps, and fish are part of our regular diet.

Anyway, every time I cook octopus my mates ask me how do I know it´s ready to eat. Well, let me tell you how I cook this amazing seafood, while I attempt to post a video of myself putting an octopus into boiling water. (FAIL, I couldn´t upload the video, so, there, have a pic of Mexicans celebrating the CINCO DE MAYO).

What do you mean they don´t look Mexican?

What do you mean they don´t look Mexican?

First, go to your fish market, ready? Good. If you don´t have a fish market, well, so sorry, go to your local supermarket and go to the fish section, I´d rather buy it frozen if you don´t live close to the coast or in the middle of Saskatchewan. If you are buying it fresh, the octopus must have a bright and shiny skin, firm texture from the head to the tip of the tentacles. Now, don´t be shy, grab the octopus, take it closer to your nose and smell it, the scent should be something between salt, the ocean and fishy (and your unfulfilled dreams from high school of becoming a pro soccer player). Have you picked your octopus? Sweet, now ask the lad behind the counter to clean it for you (pretty much taking out the insides and the wee beak it has).

Remember to put the necklace apart and get rid of the double chin

                          Remember to put the necklace apart and get rid of the double chin

Now go to the kitchen, that´s right, take that eight legged bastard to your crib and get things started. Use a medium size pot and pour 2 litres of water, 2 bay leaves, salt, pepper, 1 garlic clove, and 1 quarter of an onion. Put it to boil, now wait patiently until you see the water boiling. Now, as seen in the video, little by little, like if you are testing the water for the octopus, put it inside, this will let the tentacles to take the heat and don´t roll up too much, because this will happen if you place it straight into the pot.

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I once learnt that in order to know how long it takes to cook an octopus, you ought to leave it in boiling water with a potato the same size of the head of the octopus, true story. I´ve tried this several times and turns out that when the potato was ready, the Octopus still needed 20 to 30 more minutes. My standard is an octopus of 500 gr (usually the standard size in Mexico), leave it for 1 to 1.5 hours. Honestly, wait one hour, cut one of the tentacles off and try it. You are looking for a soft, easy to chew texture, slimy outside and well defined inside meat.

When ready, as an easy recipe, cut it into cubes, and stir fry with onions, garlic, paprika, chilies and deglaze with some soy sauce. Serve with some cous-cous or white rice and pair with a Pinot Gris or a nice Rosé.

Or just put it on the grill, beside this nice piece of meat :)

Or just put it on the grill, beside this nice piece of meat 🙂

Pulpo Sarandeado

You do remember I come from the Gulf of Mexico, right? A beautiful place in this amazing country full with great people and amazing seafood, that’s Tampico my mates. It was here where I learnt how to cook most of my seafood recipes. The following recipe is quite simple, so don’t be shy, get your supermarket list and get ready for a weekend feast.

Pulpo Sarandeado or Well Grilled Octopus

Ingredients

  • 1 good size octopus (an octopus of a good size will weight 1kg) 
  • Bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Half a red onion
  • Fresh coriander
  • 3 litres of water
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 50 grs of butter
  • 2 spoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

How to cook this freaking invertebrate, mate:

Put the water to boil, add the bay leaves and 1 garlic clove, then, grab the octopus (a clean one, ask the fisherman to clean it for you, no ink though), and put in the boiling water. Leave it there for a good 1.5 hour or until it is “al dente”.

When it is ready, put aside, and dry it with a paper towel. Then, in a large frying pan add the butter, oil, red onion, chopped garlic clove, and stir the ingredients until they look just right. With the stove on high flame, add the octopus, and effing yeah! Stir it around the hot pan; you want that soft meat to get a good brown crisp, at least on the tentacles. The butter and the olive oil go fantastic with this recipe; the butter will give the meat a nice and golden finish by the way. Alright, so you got that sweet meat crispy and soft at the same time? It is time to add the chickpeas, diced tomatoes and the fresh coriander. Stir for a while until the ingredients are well cooked. Now plate  that wee bastard and enjoy!

Some guacamole on the side doesn´t sound at all...

Some guacamole on the side doesn´t sound bad at all…

Pulpo Sarandeado goes great with a good white wine, I recommend a Pinot Gris from the Marlborough region in New Zealand. But hey, that’s me.

Ps1. Want more cool recipes? Well, look at this link and let me know what would you like me to post in terms of food http://instagram.com/notluisperez

Ps2. I know, we are all waiting for the United States´strike on Syria, I have my reasons to believe that they´ve delayed the attack due more to the fact that they haven´t found the country on the map rather than the opposition of Russia. But hey, that´s just me underestimating “Murica´s” public education system.

Aye, right there…