Fayetteville Observer Online - October 13, 2006
Make preparation for paella easier
Paella makes a show-stopping centerpiece for a special-occasion meal. Since it is fairly labor-intensive and must be completed at the last minute, the best strategy for serving it to company is to select accompaniments that require a minimum of effort, such as opening a can.
As it happens, Spain is famous for its canned products. Consider serving stuffed olives (pimentos, almonds, cheese, tuna and anchovy paste are all common fillers), ventresca (tuna belly) preserved in olive oil, or piquillos, the distinctive pointy red peppers from the region of Navarra.
Spain produces a number of great cheeses, among them Manchego, a forceful sheep's milk cheese from La Mancha (like Don Quixote); Idiazabal, a smoked goat cheese from the Basque region; Tetilla, a mild cow's milk cheese from Galicia; and Cabrales, one of the world's great blues, from Asturias.
What goes better with cheese than ham? A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lifted its ban on serrano, Spain's version of Italian prosciutto. The very best serrano, made from the hind legs of acorn-fed Iberico pigs, won't be available here until 2007, but in the meantime, you can buy chorizo sausage and lomo (cured pork loin) made from Iberico pigs. Most specialty markets stock a good selection of Spanish canned goods, cheeses and ham, or you can look online www.tienda.com.
To drink, try a sampler of Spanish wines. We started with a sparkling Cava, Codorniu Brut, Cuvee aventos (about $10) and a crisp white Albarino, Rias Baixas, Martin Codax (about $14). With the clam paella, serve a rose, Gran Feudo, Julian Chivite (about $10) and with the Valencian paella, a classic Rioja, Marques de Riscal, Reserva (about $15).
You'll want a simple dessert, perhaps a flan, or, even simpler, vanilla or dulce de leche ice cream topped with toasted almonds.