Paella pairs well with Catalan wines
June 28, 2007
Catalonia, a small province in north-eastern Spain, is a complex and contradictory region with mountains rising to almost 10,000 feet while its eastern edge laps the Mediterranean. The cuisine reflects the varied characteristics of the land. Mar i muntanya (sea and mountain) is the Catalan phrase given to the remarkable combinations of fish and meat which illustrates their talent for blending the diverse.
Catalan, Basque and Galician languages have official status along side Spanish. The first Spanish cookbooks come from Catalonia and were written in Catalan. The manuscript “Libre De Sent Sovi” appeared in 1324, one of the first culinary manuals in Europe with a collection of Catalan recipes. The first Catalan cookbook appeared in 1520 which also contained many recipes from Italy, Provence and Dalmatia, anticipating the Mediterranean cuisine so popular today.
The ancient and cosmopolitan city of Barcelona is the heart and soul of Catalonia, as well as the gastronomic center of northern Spain. In Barcelona’s most beautiful market place, known as La Boqueria, you can find everything the culinary heart could desire.
Catalonia is also a wine enthusiast’s paradise, with a viticultural tradition as old as the civilization of the Mediterranean itself. There are currently 11 protected D.O. (declaration of origin) regions in Catalonia, with two of real import for wine drinkers looking to find wines to pair with the varied local cuisine.
D.O. Penedes is the most famous wine-producing area in Catalonia, characterized by innovation and a constant search for quality, particularly by one of the most famous names in Spanish winemaking – Torres.
The white grape varieties grown are mainly macabeo, xarello, parellada, and chardonnay, which produce light white wines with a delicate, fruity aroma. In addition, these white grapes go into various blends of CAVA, the increasingly popular sparkling wine made in the traditional method of bottle fermentation which the Spanish call metodo traditional. Production is dominated by Codorniu and Freixenet, both widely available locally and one of our “best buys.”
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The reds of Penedes are velvety, matured in oak barrels and made mainly from cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, Merlot and garnacha. The other D.O. of note is Priorat, a mountainous region producing some of the most impressive garnacha, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah in the world.
One of the classic dishes of Catalonia, as well as the province to the south (Valencia), is Paella. This Spanish delight is made in a large flat pan mainly from rice and whatever can be added, thus an endless assortment of Paella recipes.
For this week’s recipe, we have chosen Paella Marinera (paella with fish and seafood).
3/4 cup olive oil,
4 jumbo shrimp,
9 oz. Small squid or squid rings,
2 tomatoes, skinned and diced,
2 cups medium-grained rice,
4 cups fish stock or clam juice,
a pinch of saffron powder,
1/2 cup meat stock,
1/2 cup red wine,
9 oz. cooked mussels.
Heat the oil in a paella pan or large skillet. You can’t go wrong buying a paella pan (preferably iron) because this large pan allows the liquid in which the rice is cooked to boil away, producing a lot of socarrat, the rice that sticks to the bottom and edges of the pan and is brown and crunchy.
Brown shrimp and langoustines in oil and set aside. Brown the squid in the oil and mix in the tomatoes. Add the rice, fish stock and season with salt. Stir the saffron powder into the meat stock and wine and add to the pan. Boil for 10 minutes then simmer on low heat for another 10-15 minutes. Add the cooked mussels, langoustines and shrimp and reheat in the rice.
For a classic pairing serve paella with a Penedes red wine by Torres.
— Steve and Pamela Adams write a regular column for the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Steve teaches history, political science and culinary arts at Lake Tahoe Community College, and Pamela is an assistant in a wine and food pairing class at the college. They can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.