All The Ladies In The House Say Paella

On Saturday we had a wonderful birthday party for a dear friend. There was much good food, and some pretty epic wines. Caught up as I was in first the making and then the enjoying of the food, I didn’t take a single picture. This has been pretty common lately; I’ve been ignoring the requirements that this blog imposes upon some of my meals and just, you know, making, eating, and enjoying them with family and friends. It makes for a more relaxed and well-lived life, but of course it’s anathema to the vicarious internet experiencing of the same events by others. And I’m OK with that.

I had it in my head to make paella, because I have a big pan, and it’s festive and beautiful, and an excellent way to feed a mob in fine style. We had clams, mussels, and shrimp–all from the Northeast–and the usual red pepper/saffron/chorizo/chicken stock thing going on with the rice. I did add a bag of the homegrown mirepoix, and the chorizo was in-house, and I go heavy on the pimentón, but it was traditional. I shook in some frozen peas at the end for color. In addition, I grilled a lamb shoulder rubbed with the usual coffee-based panoply of spices: instead of charcoal, I made an actual wood fire but put the meat off to the side so it sort of smoke roasted until about 125˚ at the bone. It was excellent. There was also beet salad, braised turnip greens brought all the way from the Berkshires, cucumber salad with yogurt, and wild arugula salad. And the wines, which I’ll go into another time, and a couple of cakes from a pretty good local joint.

But since I was cooking, and then eating, and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in quite some time, I didn’t shoot any pictures. As far as the Internet is concerned, of course, that means the dinner didn’t happen. But mercifully for you, dear readers, I have some documentation of what the remnants became, and in a lot of ways it’s more interesting anyway since I believe fervently in the nobility of properly deployed leftovers.

I took the rice and formed it into thick little cakes, browning them well in shrimp butter on both sides. While they cooked, I sautéed ground turkey with Spanish flavors (pimentón, sherry vinegar, shallot, tomato) and added a fat handful of chiffonaded basil at the end. There were a few shrimp left, so I wiped them clean and sat them on top of each plate, and I tucked some of the beet salad around the corner since we all know that beet salad gets better with age and besides: who among us does not enjoy some nice fuchsia food?

Really nice all around; it was a remix of the previous night’s menu, but with the sloppy turkey Joe mixture and crispy cake texture to differentiate it sufficiently that there was no flavor fatigue. And the leftover cakes made a fabulous lunch. Next up, those smoky, spicy, charred lamb bones are going to make a wicked stock.

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  1. August 3

    I long ago gave up the notion that I would be able to photograph any of the (sometimes fabulous) meals I put together when friends come to visit. And you’re right: I’m OK with it. As much fun as I have with the blog, I never want it to feel like a chore; and as much as I enjoy the photography, it’s not as fun as knocking back excellent food & wine with friends. After all – what is?

  2. August 3

    See there you go again, enjoying yourself, all at the sacrifice of a few hundred more hits to the bloggo. Shame!

    Turkey Joe, how cute. In a good way. We’ve got plenty still on the hoof still and it’s good to have future inspiration.

  3. Sometimes your own mental picture is more important than putting it on here. If you miss one while entertaining or are just too busy to take them, so be it. Sometimes I can’t take any either as I have poor natural lighting in my kitchen or am just too busy talking to the guests who are nice enough to accept the invite to our house, so I opt out and try for next time.

  4. I love the extended use – I have a family that refuses repeats so I’ve gotten pretty clever with the disguise myself. Now, every time I make one meal, I’m really planning at least three.

    Have to chuckle at flavor fatigue… not a problem for me; if the food’s good, I can eat it every day until it’s gone.

    I’ve also been wondering about the effect of photographing everything for future blog posts on my ability to be present. I think it sometimes creates distance between myself and the experience, which bothers me a bit.

    Boy I wish I had some of that Paella right now!

  5. Peter
    August 3

    Kaela: Not much. There’s a point at which doing this well can interfere with doing the actual cooking and eating part well.

    El: It’s goooood. With lots of fresh garlic and basil.

    Mark: Yes, one’s own memories are important, though having recently looked through a box of old pictures I do regret not taking more of them at certain times.

    Jackie: It’s not really a problem for me, either, but since I exist to serve the fickle whims of my family there it is. I think there’s a balance to be struck, but part of me still feels like an asshole when I pop the flash in the faces of my friends around the table. So I usually don’t.

  6. Paella!! I love how you re-purposed the paella… and, that you took pictures 😉

  7. August 8

    It always amazes me that you’ve been doing this for as long as you have been. What is it? Six years? I am coming on two years and am now wondering if I want to continue. As I’ve slowed down recently, I find that the automatic response of photographing my food is almost an addiction. It’s getting easier though. Glad you had a great time at what sounds like a really nice dinner!

  8. Peter
    August 8

    Diana: It’s easier when there isn’t a house full of people.

    Julia: Part of it is just the summer doldrums. I have some good ones on tap, I think.

  9. August 9

    August is sort of like February, isn’t it? Sort of static and heavy. I’m starting to yearn for colder weather…

  10. August 17

    I find jealousy welling-up inside of me. You had dinner with friends and managed to do something blog-worthy with the leftovers. I don’t remember the last time we had dinner with friends. Oh yes I do, it was before the baby arrived.

  11. Peter
    August 18

    Julia: Yes, sort of. Only with way more vegetables.

    Jonny: Don’t worry, old chap- you’ll be having sex again in less than three years.

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