As I love over thinking, happiness has been on my mind. Specifically what it would take to make me happy. This is embarrassing–I have been given so much. But I always feel things could be so much better. That I could be so much better. I have a great job (the one I really wanted in fact) at an amazing college with intelligent and diligent kids and I work with some of the kindest and most supportive people I’ve ever met; but I obsess over the fact it’s not tenure track and I have to keep up with this ridiculous rat race of research and borderline suspiciously high course evaluations and extra this and additional that so that one day I can just breathe again. I have a great family who clearly have a helluva lot of patience, and the cutest dog on the planet. But I obsess over the fact that I come home to an empty rental. That I really can’t get close to someone while I’m zigzagging across the country with jobs.
So when was I really and truly happy and what the hell does it have to do with paella?
It was Spain. On a beach south of Barcelona. May 2010. At a restaurant on the water with great friends–the type of friends you consider family. I was in the middle of grad school and brought no work. I was (or so I thought) in love but I didn’t bring the boy. I didn’t even use a phone for two weeks. Just family, fantastic wine, gorgeous views, and the one meal that epitomizes warmth and togetherness and calm and happiness: paella.
The following philosophy extends way past food, but once you realize you’ve had “absolutely amazing” you don’t want to think about having anything that’s…well, NOT “absolutely amazing”. It just won’t cut it.
For over 4 years I didn’t have paella.
When I finally grew a pair and decided to make it for our Christmas Eve extravaganza, it was not perfect. Some of it was the tools (pro-tip: you do need to shell out the $30 for a paella pan. Also, I’m very happy my parents are finally remodeling their 1970s kitchen. Making this on a 40-year old finicky cooktop was not the best life decision). Some of it was just me. But it still was a great dish. It still made me feel all warm and fuzzy (literally and figuratively). It still gave me a moment of happiness. And THAT is all that matters.
- White wine
- Ground pepper
- Bell pepper
- White onion
- Whole prawn or shrimp
- Steam the mussels. Set aside.
- Steam the clams. Set aside.
- Cook the chorizo–not all the way through. Set aside on paper towels (to sop up extra grease).
- In a large pan (preferably a paella pan), start to saute the garlic, butter and white onion.
- Add sliced bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the rice. Like cooking risotto, you’ll need to add liquid in stages. Keep it at a 75% water/25% white wine mixture.
- When the rice is about half-way cooked, add the peas, chorizo, squid and prawns.
- Add a touch of saffron. When the rice is almost completely cooked, add the clams and mussels.
- When the clams and mussels are warm, and the rice is done, serve.