Sunday, July 4, 2010

Haramfest Fourth of July! It's a Melting Pot of Goodness

It has been a long time since I wrote up a Haramfest. And what better day to have one than on our Birthday!

So what was your day like? Today, no politics. Too depressing. Saturday evening, I went on a girl date with my eldest daughter and our neighbor. Sushi is best when shared. Eating sushi alone is a pitiable sight. You only have your sushi to eat and no one else's to sample. Where's the fun in that?

Then it was off to the fireworks with kids in tow and blankets and beach chairs and ear phones for the baby. (It was his first fireworks show). And what a show! Not bad for our middle sized village. I always feel like a little kid when the fireworks start. It's just a feeling that never gets old. Now I get to watch the reaction of our neighbor's little boy. Watching little kids react to fireworks for the first time also never gets old.

Today, we spent more time with the neighbors, Lindsay and Eric. We are fortunate to have very good neighbors on either side of us.  We share a big yard, and evening conversations. It is pleasant to share each other's company after a day of hard work.

Tonight I made a Chicken, Ham and Chorizo Paella. It isn't necessarily a traditional paella, but I am not a purist, so just about anything that can go into a one-skillet rice dish can be a paella, as long as you have saffron on  hand. Lindsay made a lovely fruit salad with berries pineapples and cantaloupe.

Paella isn't all that hard, and if you have a large, good stainless steel, flat-bottomed pan, that will do in lieu of a real paella pan.  I used a 14 inch cast iron skillet, and it does marvelously for paella.

Paella is all about doing things in layers, so prep your ingredients and add them in the proper order.

1 lb chorizo - loose not linked or dried.
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bit size pieces
1 lb slice of smoked ham, cubed
1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into julienne strips and sautéed
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips and sautéed
1 diced Spanish onion
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 lb asparagus stalks - fresh
1 lemon, sliced lengthwise, into 8 pieces
2 Tablespoons fresh parsely chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup of green peas - not canned
olive oil
1 quart chicken stock
2 pinches of saffron (saffron is often sold in tiny yellow envelopes that contain exactly one pinch.
2 cups of white wine
2 heaping cups of arborio rice or another short grain variety. There is such a thing as paella rice, and it comes from Valencia Spain. I don't nitpick when it comes to rice. I use jasmine, simply because it tastes so good.
4 medium ripe tomatoes, diced

Preheat the stock in a sauce pan to a gentle simmering boil, Turn the heat to medium low to keep it hot.

Preheat your pan, and on a medium high temperature add a little olive oil and let it heat. Cook your chorizo first, breaking it into clumps. Stir it quickly and let it cook through.  Remove it to a plate, leaving the drippings behind. Add your chicken and brown it, too, and remove it from the pan to the plate with the chorizo.

Repeat this process with the ham. Add a little more oil to the skillet and sauté the onions and peppers. When they have softened, add the garlic. Then the tomatoes.

Add the rice and coat it thoroughly with the pan drippings. Once the rice is coated, add the wine and let the rice absorb. Stir quickly, because you are working with a higher than normal temperature.

Add the meat back to the pan and begin ladling the broth into the rice, 2 ladles at a time. When the rice has begun to absorb the liquid, add more. Once you have added all the liquid to the rice and meat, begin arranging your cooked pepper strips and asparagus on the top of your rice. Add lemons in a circular fashion, too.

Cover the pan and lower the heat to low and let it finish cooking for 20 minutes. Do not lift the lid
Heat your frozen peas in a bowl in the microwave, and when ready to remove the paella to the table, add them on the top. (Cooking them with the rice will produce overcooked peas)

Serves at least 8...unless you have seconds then 7. Unless you have thirds then 6.

For dessert there was Lindsay's strawberries, a store bought pound cake and banana split ice cream, with my chocolate ganache.

Chocolate ganache is the easiest thing to make. All you need is a bag of good semi sweet chocolate chips and a half pint of heavy whipping cream.

Heat the cream in a small heavy saucepan until it begins to bubble. Remove it from the heat and add the chocolate chips and stir them til completely melted and mixe. Keep stirring til it is cool enough to pour.

Pour this over anything you would use a hot fudge sauce for, or let it cool and frost a cake with it. You can also pour it over a cake for a satiny smooth look. You do not need to buy frosting out of a can in order to frost a cake. You can also flavor ganache with orange zest  and grand marnier for a dark chocolate/orange flavor. I do this for brownies.

All in all, we enjoyed the day and moreover, we enjoyed each other in a country that allows neighbors to speak freely without fear, move about freely without fear, and dream big. Without fear.
Think about that when you consider that in totalitarian countries, the people aren't afraid of the police and the government so much as they are afraid of their neighbors and the members of their own families.
We are truly blessed. Be thankful and cherish what we have.

Chraaaaaaahm! How lucky is it to have a deity whose name rhymes with MOM? Damn lucky, that's what.

1 comment:

Don't just sit there, say something!