After losing 1-0 to Switzerland in their opening match, Spain's La Furia Roja have beat out World Cup favorites and top-scorers Germany to face Holland in the country's first-ever World Cup final. Considering their faltering start to the 2010 edition and a long history of failing and faltering in the sports highest international contest, it was a huge victory for La Furia Roja and their supporters (who can count me among their masses). And this is good for World Cup-related food posts! With Italy, France, Mexico and even Argentina (steak, malbec) and now Germany (sausage, beer) out of the cup, the culinary powerhouses and second-tier favorites have been sent back home to cry salty, salty tears into plates of whatever comfort food their serve there. But not Spain, the country of tapas, jamon Serrano, chorizo, Ferran Adrià and so, so much more. Against the cuisine of the Dutch, Spain certainly is favored as the better-eating country. So a recipe then, to cook up next Sunday, before the final game, is in order: a take on what's often considered a national dish, paella (as a country of loosely and often contentiously united autonomous states, there arguably are no national dishes in Spain). Specifically, the meat-and-seafood dish of saffron-perfumed, tinted rice is a regional specialty of Valencia. As re-imagined and simplified by the New York Times' Mark Bittman, its a simple baked rice dish, flavored with smoky pimentón, saffron and a double-dose of tomatoes–Spain being second only to Italy in Europe when it comes to love for the love apple–rendered in the form of fresh wedges paving the top and tomato paste stirred in with white wine and water for cooking the rice.
As is often the case with tweaked version of classic, iconic European dishes (panzanella being another example), this is a paella that would invite a Valenciana abuelita to lob more biting criticisms at you than Perdo would've found raining down on him had his missed opportunity to put Spain ahead 2-0 proved to be an even more vital error that lead to a loss. But paella is a dish with varied appearances and flavors, the Catalans cooking it with enough squid ink to render the white rice as black as tar. So why not a tomato paella? It cuts down on your shopping bill by doing away with the variety of mollusks, crustaceans and fish commonly found in Valencia-style paella, and it takes full advantage of the beautiful heirloom tomatoes currently gracing our local farmers markets.
(Via NYT, by way of the Wednesday Chef)
Serves 4 to 6
3 cups water
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Large pinch saffron threads
1-2 teaspoons Spanish pimentón
2 cups Spanish or other short-grain rice
Minced parsley and basil for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Warm water in a saucepan. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat.
2. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, saffron if you are using it, and paprika and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another minute or two. Add wine and let simmer until it is mostly absorbed, then add the hot water and stir until just combined.
3. Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Put pan in oven and roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, return pan to oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes.
4. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with parsley and basil. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.