First of all, Happy New Year!
One of my/our goals for the upcoming year (or mainly the winter months) is to do more cooking in the fireplace. Bill started us off yesterday by making paella (or near-paella, since maybe it doesn’t count if we don’t use saffron? or peas?) totally in the fireplace.
It was pretty cool.
First, as I showed you in yesterday’s post, I removed the frame from around the front of the fireplace.
As expected, this gave us a lot more room to work with, both for cooking and for removing the ashes. I always banged my elbow on the edge of the frame when I was trying to shovel out the ashes. And those fireplace tools? They came with the house, and the shovel sometimes does this fun little trick where it spins on the handle. Until this year, we didn’t care all that much, but now…I think we need new tools.
Yesterday we were going to have friends over for New Year’s Eve. A little tradition that started several years ago – I’ve lost track – in which we have fabulous food and wine and beer, play Wii games, and then toast the new year with Cava or another inexpensive bubbly.
Last year we made Peking duck (sorry, no post – I wasn’t at home for most of the prepping), and maybe the year before that we’d made paella. This year we were trying to make something using whatever we had on hand. And it turned out paella was, again, the perfect choice. We had rice, some shrimp, canned tomatoes, and we were making sausage anyway. All we had to pick up at the store were the chicken thighs.
So…first, the sausage.
Bill used John’s recipe, but modified it slightly because we were using less meat.
Everything went smoothly, except when I tried to twist the links in one section where the casing was packed too tightly. It burst. So we ate that link at lunch time. You know, getting rid of any evidence that we aren’t perfect at this sausage-making thing.
One of the nice things about making sausage (one of the many nice things) is that we all like it. Neither one of our kids are picky eaters, but they each have a few dislikes, which occasionally makes it difficult to plan a meal so everyone is happy.
But they love sausage.
Okay, now the next thing to do toward making paella later in the evening was to have nice, hot coals available. We kept a good fire going all day, and we noticed almost right away that having the frame off the fireplace provides us with much more heat than with it on. Yay! Warmth!
Bill’s only concern was keeping the pan heated and level. He solved that by putting a couple of bricks on the floor of the fireplace and keeping the hot coals directly under the paella pan.
So, when it came time to make dinner, he first browned the chicken thighs…
Then he put in the rice and canned tomato puree and seasonings, put the chicken on top, and later added shrimp and chopped sausage. He covered the whole thing with foil and let everything cook.
(Disclosure: I wasn’t home for most of this part, so I don’t have the exact order of things. Bill took the above picture and the one at the very beginning of the post, too.)
Oh, and while all the cooking was going on, our friends arrived, and Julia lucked out with some trombone coaching…
She loves music, but sometimes I think she loves loud noise more!
Once the rice was cooked through, Bill took the foil off the pan and let it finish that way, so the extra liquid could cook off and the nice, desirable crispy layer of rice could develop on the bottom of the pan.
Then, dinner was served.
The only issue he/we had was that the nice crispy layer became a not-so-nice blackened layer.
Bill figures he can resolve this next time by raising the height of the pan (more bricks).
But still, apart from the very thin scorched layer of rice, the hearth-cooked paella was fabulous.
Oh, and so was the salad our friends brought – baby spinach, gorgonzola, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and sliced pears.
Alex loved it! He had two or three helpings of the salad!
And he made this little food sculpture/sandwich thing, too:
He says he wants to be a zookeeper, but I see a food stylist sideline in his future as well.
And that was our feast last night. No dessert – we were too full for anything else!
Oh, and this year, for the first time, Alex and Julia stayed up past midnight. At five minutes before twelve, we shut off the Wii (Alex won pretty much every competition) and found a channel broadcasting from Times Square. Once the ball dropped and we all toasted the new year, the kids (Alex especially) were pretty much grossed out by all the people kissing on tv!, so Alex headed straight to bed and Julia soon followed.
We bade our friends farewell, and Bill and I were asleep soon as well.
Okay, not a wild and crazy New Year’s Eve, but it’s nice to wake up with a clear head!
And I just told Bill that for me, the new year is going to start on Tuesday. Today and Monday are too clogged with other things, so I’ve decided that any goals/resolutions/plans/hopes/dreams get launched on January 3rd.
So, did you celebrate last night? What are your goals/resolutions/plans/hopes/dreams for 2012?