Twas the Week before Christmas - A Spanish Pairing

Paella Mixta

Twas the week before Christmas, and what should we do?
the malls were too crowded, so let's make some stew! 
No that'd be too normal, we need something rare
Let's do a 5-course dinner with some Spanish flare

The menu was set, and the guest were invited
They were given a recipe that got them excited.
So I put on my chef's coat, and pulled out some wine
after cooking a while, we were ready to dine.

Okay, that is about as far as I can get, with the Christmas theme, but you get the idea. We decided to get a group together for a Spanish wine pairing dinner The idea was to start with the wines, and pair a meal around those Spanish wines. The wines were to progress from a Cava to a white, to red, to dessert. From those wines, we chose the menu items that we felt would work best, and each guest was given a traditional Spanish recipe to make, then bring it on the chosen night, along with their receipts, so the price of the meal would be shared among the different couples.

Here is a copy of the final Spanish Wine Pairing menu (we called our "restaurant" Saetilla - Spanish for Arrowhead, as we live in Lake Arrowhead):
Spanish Wine Pairing Dinner Menu
Trio of Tapas
The dinner was for eight people, but as usual, we had enough food to feed twice as many people. The courses we had, all worked great with the wine. Our Cava choice, for the first course, paired well with all three items, but I think the consensus was that the goat cheese, with onions raisins and garlic worked the best.

For our second course, we had a traditional Gazapacho (cold tomato,cucumber and garlic soup). Originally, I had planned on going with only with an Albarino, but the more I thought about it, I felt a Vin Rosado (rose) from Rioja, might be a better match. I am glad I second guessed myself, and added the Rose. It was an excellent pairing, and one of the surprise wines of the night (and least expensive). Also, the addition of a little Fino Sherry to the Gazapacho was a nice added touch.

The main course of the evening was a Paella Mixta. This was my responsibility for the evening. I decided to pair this with a traditional Rioja. While the Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva was already seven years old, I knew it was going to need some air before drinking. I opened up this bottle and decanted it, about three hours before serving. This was the favorite wine of the night. Smooth, silky, not too tannic, and worked well with all the flavors of our Paella. Even the seafood element (which I typically don't pair with reds) worked nicely. The authentic Spanish Bittersweet Paprika added a nice smokiness to the dish. I have added my recipe to the comments section below.

Cheese Course
Following the European tradition of transitioning from main course to dessert course, we had a cheese plate. Originally, I had only planned on three cheeses, but, since I love cheese, I went overboard, and presented five cheeses along with Quince paste, and almond nougat. To this, I paired a 2009 Ribera del Duero. This was a powerful wine, and I decanted it in my largest decanter, getting as much air in as possible. I opened this five hours before, and I probably could have opened it up a full day before. I thought all the cheeses paired well with this fine Tempranillo, but I would stay away from the Cabrales next time, as I felt it was too strong (even when eaten with the quince paste, which mellowed it a bit). If I were to choose a blue cheese again, I might go with Valdeon, which is not as over powering.

Apple Empanada
Our final dish was an apple empanada. I paired this with a wonderful Sidra (Spanish apple cider). At only 5% alcohol, it was refreshing, and palate cleansing, with just the right amount of apple flavor to work with the empanada. We also had some Calvados left over (okay, I know it's not Spanish, but we had it, and it's made from apples, so why not?).

I've already had requests for my paella recipe. Since it is a "mixta" was my creation, and I will do my best to recreate it, and add it to the comments section of this blog. All the other recipes can be found in different Spanish cookbooks.

The total cost of our dinner was $78/couple. As I mentioned, we had plenty of leftovers, so this easily could have been a $50/couple dinner, if I had bought more wine, and invited 16 people (We just don't have enough seating for that many...or place settings). So, next time you see a wine pairing dinner, where the cost is $150/couple...just remember you can probably do the same, at a more reasonable cost. And in this economy, who isn't for that? Plus you might have some fun learning how to make traditional regional foods, and cooking techniques.

1 comment:

  1. Here is my Paella Mixta Recipe...

    1 Rabbit (braised in white wine), cooled and meat removed from the bones
    6 Spanish Cooking Chorizo* links (these are different than Mexican chorizo), cut in about ¼ inch rounds. Blanched to remove some fats
    1 lb of Asparagus – cut into one inch lengths, blanched
    1 16oz can artichoke hearts, cut in half
    1 large red onion, chopped
    4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
    2 large tomatoes – grated, only the skins removed.
    Olive oil
    8 clams
    8 mussels
    20 shrimp (tail on, raw)
    2 cups dry white wine with 2 tsp of saffron soaking in it
    2 teaspoons Spanish bittersweet paprika*
    2 cups Bomba rice*
    4 Piquillo peppers*, sliced into strips
    Italian parsley
    4 cups chicken stock
    2 cups clam juice
    Reserved blanching liquid
    Salt and pepper
    1 to 2 lemons, sliced into wedges.

    * these specialty items can be ordered through La Espanola Meats:

    Prior to putting your paella together, add saffron to white wine, and let sit at room temperature. Next, braise the rabbit. Salt and pepper the rabbit pieces, and brown them in some olive oil in your paella pan. Once browned, add a little white wine, cover, and put into a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Let cool, then remove the meat from the bones. Reserve the rabbit dripping mixture, and allow to cool, then remove the fat.

    Blanch your asparagus in boiling water, remove to an ice water bath. In the same boiling water, add your chorizo pieces, and cook just long enough to remove some of the fat. After removing your chorizo, reserve the liquid and allow to cool. Skim off any fat.

    Prepare all your ingredients in separate bowls, so you are ready to add them as needed.

    First, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of your paella pan, then add the onion and garlic. Sauté until translucent. Next add the tomatoes, and cook over medium heat, until the liquid has cooked off. Add the rabbit and chorizo, mix well until the meats are reheated. Next add the paprika and the reserved rabbit drippings, and one cup of the blanching water. Bring to a boil, then add the Bomba rice (traditionally added in, in the shape of a cross). Mix the rice in with the other ingredients until well blended, then add the chicken stock, clam juice, wine/saffron mix, artichoke hearts and piquillo peppers. Bring to a boil, then add the mussels, clams, shrimp and asparagus. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring back to a boil, then add to a 450 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed, and rice is al dente.

    Remove from oven and cover with a newspaper and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, before garnishing with parsley and lemon wedges.

    Recipe is for a 16 to 18 inch paella pan, and could easily serve 8 to 12 people.