Paella Wednesday with Kitchen on Fire

Okay, this has been a really busy month. As an indication of how busy, I have not written about the cooking class I took on the 20th of August. Again, the teacher was Chef Kevin Hogan (his blog here) and again we all met at 2940 7th Street in Emeryville. But this time I was there to learn about paella. I had read about paella before, but found it too intimidating to try on my own, so I never did. Hence the class. And it was a GREAT class. It was a cooking class that was like how I always thought a cooking class should be.

We all arrived and settled in and the chef gave a short talk about paella and the current theory of how it came to be and then we separated into groups to make the stuff. Since many of the people had come in groups of three to six, those of us who weren’t in a group paired up with another person and got down to cooking. That’s right, a cooking class where I got to cook an entire dish. The dish? Paella Mixta: paella with chicken wings, some seriously bitching broth, chorizo, green beans, tomato frito (in our case a tomtao that had been run through a cheese grater), manila clams, shrimps and piquillo peppers.  And then off we went, a-cooking.

Cooking away.

Cooking away.

As we worked, the chef made himself completely available to answer questions and talk shop and explain how the whole paella thing works.

Making the rounds

Making the rounds

As all this was going on, I was cutting and chopping and all whatnot (luckily, I found a class partner who didn’t want to work much and, well, I love doing this kind of thing). At first, the social atmosphere was a little bit strained, as one would expect, but the gallon or so of sangria the chef had prepared ahead of time really helped grease the wheels.

As it turns out, paella is not at all overwhelming, you just need to know what to look for and what to listen for and aroma to smell for. And after a bit, you get a pan full of paella simmering away.

IT SMELLS SO GOOD!

IT SMELLS SO GOOD!

 When the simmering is done, you turn the heat way up high for a few minutes: that puts the yummy crust on the bottom that some many people love. And then you turn the heat off and cover the pan, in our case with aluminum foil.

That's our pan in the foreground.

That’s our pan in the foreground.

And after about 10 minutes (and you’ve had about. . . oh. . .six to eight glasses of sangria at this point), it’s time to eat and, man, is this stuff great! I am officially a lover of paella and think it will make the perfect camping dinner.

So my cooking partner and I ate the entire pan worth of ricey greatness (that we made), after which the chef laid out dessert.  Well, actually, his interns did. Almonds and figs with honey and (as I recall) a crème fraîche sort of thing.

Here it is!

Here it is!

It always surprises me just how great a simple dessert like this tastes: light, sweet, full of flavor that does not overpower. A great capper to a great evening. Thank you again Chef.

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