If you ever see chef Carmen Cabia at “the fork” in the road, make sure you stop to savor her Catalan cuisine, especially her paella. El Tenedor (Spanish for “the fork”) is the name of Cabia’s 1961 food trailer, which routinely takes authentic Spanish food to the streets on First Friday weekends in the Crossroads Arts District. Her followers find her on Facebook.
By MARY G. PEPITONE
Special to The Star
Paella is considered the national dish of Spain, but there are as many varieties of the rice, vegetable and seafood/meat specialty as there are Spanish states. Spanish food has Mediterranean influences such as garlic, parsley, olive oil and vegetables but not spicy chilies, which are found on most Mexican menus.
Portions of Cabia’s paella can range from $7 for a chorizo combination to $14 and up for the seafood variety, which Cabia considers her specialty.
Born and raised in the Catalonia region, Cabia received formal food training at a culinary arts school in Barcelona.
“I love food and try to share my passion for it with others,” says Cabia, who has lived in Kansas City, Kan., for a decade. “My food is a language that speaks for itself, which goes beyond the Spanish, Catalan and little English I speak.”
Catalan Seafood Paella (Paella Catalana de Pescado)
Makes 6 to 8 servings
For the sauce (Picada):
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the Paella:
4 cups or 1 (32-ounce) container seafood stock
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound calamari, cleaned with bodies cut into rings
1/2 pound monkfish or white fish
2 green peppers, seeded and finely diced
2 red peppers, seeded and finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
5 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 cups or 1 (16-ounce) package Arborio rice
1 teaspoon salt
12 large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
24 mussels, cleaned and beards removed
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
To make the Picada: Create a small bowl of aluminum foil and place in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat on stovetop. When heated, drop saffron threads into aluminum foil and toast lightly for a few seconds. Remove aluminum foil bowl with saffron from sauté pan and allow to cool.
Place garlic and parsley leaves into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add toasted saffron threads and with processor running, drizzle in olive oil to make a smooth sauce. Set aside.
To make the Paella: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour stock into a saucepot over low heat to warm.
On the stovetop over medium heat, warm olive oil in a 14-inch paella pan (paellera) or cast-iron skillet. Add calamari and monkfish (or white fish) and sauté until all water is absorbed. Add peppers, garlic and tomatoes to pan and sauté about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and start to caramelize. Stir in rice, coating all grains. Pour in warm stock and stir, until ingredients are well mixed. Season with salt. Cook on stovetop over medium-low heat until 1/2-inch of liquid remains, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in the reserved Picada and decorate top with mussels and shrimp. Place paellera or cast-iron skillet into oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until all stock has been absorbed, shrimp is pink and mussels have opened. Discard any mussels that do not open and bring pan directly from oven to table. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley leaves and serve immediately.
Per serving, based on 6: 788 calories (37 percent from fat), 31 grams total fat (6 grams saturated), 272 milligrams cholesterol, 78 grams carbohydrates, 41 grams protein, 824 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.