Monday, November 16, 2015

Paella for all of us

Sam and I are part of a wine club/dinner club that meets monthly called Grape Escape. We alternate hosting and the host picks the theme. Generally, the focus is more on the food, but we do enjoy choosing wines from different regions to match all the different courses. I don't know if it's improved my knowledge of wine any, but I have discovered I don't hate all ports as previously thought (although by the dessert course, it's fair to say my palette is compromised, so who can say for sure).

At any rate, this month was Sam and I's month to host and we picked Spain for our dinner/wine theme. This led to some excellent tapas and churros being brought. It also led me to take on the challenge of making paella for the first time. After doing some research online on different types of paella, I decided to go with the seafood version, since hunting down rabbit and snails, seemed like a tall order even at Central Market. I also didn't have a paella pan, so I ended up making it in two batches (which worked out well since we had a seafood allergic person partaking).

I went shopping Saturday morning at Central Market and about a million dollars later had all the ingredient. This included $10 (!) for an ounce of saffron threads, but I figured: go big or go home. I'm not planning to make paella that often, so I wasn't going to waste time on imitation saffron, if such a thing exists. As a side note, we also managed to spend $7 on fancy tonic water for the signature cocktail (Grape Escape makes some allowances for non-wine drinkers). At first I was aghast that they could sell tonic water for $7 right above the reasonably priced $.57 tonic water. Especially because tonic water is disgusting. Turns out though, $7 tonic water does actually taste better, and even more so when you put gin in it.

Above are the ingredients for paella for 10. Protein-wise there's: mussels, chicken thighs (cut into one inch pieces), chorizo, and shrimp. For those wanting to follow along at home, here's the recipe I used and surprisingly deviated from very little.

 The finished product! I never quite got the rice crunchy on the bottom as it was supposed to be. I think part of that was because I was worried about overcooking it. I also realized paella is a terrible thing to serve at a dinner party because most of the work has to be done right at the end. I ended up making it right when people were supposed to arrive and then letting it rest in the warm oven during the  first course. I might have lost a little of the texture there, but the taste was on point. For that, I can only attribute the saffron threads splurge.

And finally, here's a picture of all the Grape Escapers (minus Sam, unless you count his reflection in the window) enjoying their paella. It was important to take this one for posterity because I may not be making paella again. It actually was a lot easier than I thought, so my aversion to putting it into the dinner rotation is more a financial one. Still, it was a fun experiment to try. I'm already looking forward to next month's dinner club theme: holiday favorites.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A busy end to a busy month

I realize I only had one post that month, but it's only November 2 and I'm already posting so who knows how things will fare this month? I'm not sure what to post about because I think I saw pretty much all of my known readers in the last week. It seems silly to recap in too much detail what many of you lived in real time. Nevertheless, I do have a handful of pictures for posterity. (Not too many, of course. I know some who rant about the over photographing of things).

We had a whirlwind and very rainy trip to Arlington this weekend. The primary reason (aside for visiting folks, of course) was to see my very talented aunt perform in Arsenic and Old Lace at the Artisan Center Theater. It was a wonderful performance and a fun time was had by all. I'd give a longer review except that I know most of my readers who have not seen it, have their tickets already purchased.

The crew with Abby Brewster. Well, minus Sam. We actually did get one of the other members of the cast to take a group shot, but I managed to blink in every one of them. 
Totally out of order and from earlier in the Austin visit, but there's Sam!
The next couple of pictures are more Halloween themed. This was our first year having a house for Halloween, so we were excited to get trick or treaters. We had five good sized groups and were able to run through much of our purchased candy. (We've since consumed the rest.) It was interesting to see that costume trends in kids are nearly as changeable as with adults. Princesses were still very popular. There was also a very cute little James Bond.

We carved those pumpkins in a matter of minutes, but they turned out quite nice. 
This photo is from a few days before Halloween, but it seemed to fit with the theme. We went to see Nosferatu at the Alamo Drafthouse as accompanied by a live band. Carolyn and Aileen posed in the lobby on their installation homage to the The Shining.
You can't see it in the picture but they also put the carpet on the ground in front of the backdrop. 
Our costumes were somewhat of a last minute (or last few days anyway) concept. We were four out of the five feelings from Inside Out. We actually put some effort into our hair and makeup, but the colors really don't show up in this lighting. Alas it was the only picture we took and was done on an iphone with a timer. We'd figured when we got to the party that we could ask someone to take a better photo of us, but it turns out the party was outside, so our costumes showed up even worse. Also, after talking to people there, I discovered not everyone has seen Inside Out. Something they should definitely fix, as it's pretty wonderful.

Anger, fear, disgust, sadness. We were only missing our Joy.
The rest of the week was a lot of fun. Full of eating copious amounts of BBQ, kolaches, and Tex Mex (though especially BBQ). Come back and see us any time!