Archive for March, 2012

Meddling with a Muddle

mud·dle

verb (used with object)

1.

to mix up in a confused or bungling manner; jumble.
2.

to cause to become mentally confused
 
When I read “seafood muddle”, I was mentally confused. I had never heard of a “muddle” in the culinary sense. But stick  food as an adjective in front of it, and now it’s intriguing. One could think that it would be something like a paella with different types of seafood and some rice, but the Carolinas have something else in mind. They start with bacon…lots of bacon. How can anything be bad with an opening like that?
 
Then the ingredients take a turn toward healthy: thyme, celery, carrot, onion — ding/ding, a mirepoux..the French holy trinity adopted by southerners. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Bacon-Infused-Carolina-Fish-Muddle-388690. The leeks and parsley and potatoes make it sound like a heavy soup is on the horizon, but no.
 
 Behold the bed of grits that this confusion rests on like a cloud. The bass and the grouper and the shrimp are muddled together with all this earthiness and then, another sharp turn leads right to the arteries: It gets topped off with a few slices of oven-toasted french bread with — are you ready? — some of the collected bacon fat brushed upon them! It sounds so naughty and yet disguised with the light beauty of vegetables and fish. Oh those sneaky southerners. Thank you for confusing the heck out of me!
 
 
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Seafood Party in a Pan

Paella! You all just conjured up a picture in your mind of streamers coming down upon a flat pan filled with yellow rice, shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops, something green like

 peas and scallions or parsley, something red like pimentos or chopped

Paella Familiar

Paella Familiar (Photo credit: ketutita)

 tomatoes. It’s so festive, it makes you relate to the word pinata. And for those that like big parties, you’re envisioning some chorizo and chicken in there too!

I’ve heard that, “You can’t get good paella in Spain or Portugal,” but as it is with any other foreign dishes in America, we’re used to the American version and expect exactly that. The Valencian dish is traditionally made with snails and rabbit and beans and definitely not with boxed yellow rice. It looks more like this:  

It’s not the blast of color you had before your eyes a few seconds ago. This looks like a party without music and dancing, but I bet it’s delicious once you get past your narrow-minded, bastardized definition of ‘paella’.

Throwing my Party

I decided to make paella at home, even though I don’t have a paella pan, and it was just dinner for two. I used a stainless steel pan and made sure I kept scraping the bits off the bottom to get that same crunchiness. I discarded any recipes that called for “yellow rice”. Every box of yellow rice in the supermarket contains MSG..no thanks. I achieved a (paler) yellow color by using the saffron threads and the chorizo, which contains smoked paprika.

The result was my own private party in a pan. I did a little dance before I sat down and let my stomach celebrate.

The following week, I felt like collaborating with my seafood friends in a pot this time, since they all got along so well in the paella. I discovered a “muddle”; this party was almost criminal — to be continued in the next post………