Sunday, July 25, 2010

Paella at Cavallo Point with the Spanish Table

A few months ago while preparing for a Spanish wine tasting at our office, I happened to wander in to The Spanish Table store in the Strawberry Shopping Center in Mill Valley. I met Andy and Tanya Booth, the husband and wife team who own and operate the store, and was impressed with their broad selection of Spanish wines, food and other products. I have been back often since, including for some of their wine tastings on Saturday afternoons which I highly recommend.

Since I already knew Andy and Tanya, when I saw on the Cavallo Point cooking school schedule that they would be teaching a class on Spanish cuisine featuring paella, it was a no-brainer to sign up. Although our son, Alex, with his seafood allergies, was not up for the class, happily his fiance, Cassie, joined me.

When Cassie and I got to the class we were happy to find both Jayne Reichert, the cooking school’s director, and her colleague Jennifer Rudd, with whom we had also taken classes before. They were serving sangria and chilled sherry to welcome the class, together with some snacks including Campo de Montalban and Garrotxa cheeses, warm Cerignola olives and wonderful bread from the Cavallo Point kitchen.

The ingredients for the class were on display for us on the main work area and we checked them out while we enjoyed our beverages and appetizers.

The following were on the menu for the evening:

~ Gazpacho Andaluz, a cold vegetable soup;
~ Gambas al Ajillo, garlic shrimp;
~ Ensaladilla Rusa ("Russian Salad"), a potato and tuna salad;
~ Two different paellas - Paella de Amontillado (named after a variety of sherry, with chicken and chorizo sausage) and Paella de Mariscos (with seafood); and, for dessert
~ Tarta de Santiago, an almond cake named after St. James (Santiago) which is a specialty of a town in the Gallicia area of northwest Spain called Santiago de Compostela, the destination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route.

After an introduction of Andy and Tanya by Jayne and some reminders about knife safety, we split up into groups and got started on the dishes at workstations set up around the room.

Cass and I joined the group that prepared the Gazpacho and the Tarta de Santiago, which turned out to be relatively quick work. I would particularly recommend the Tarta which was similar to the Torta di Noci (Walnut Cake) we made not long ago at our Calabrian cooking class. Here here is the recipe.

Jen also taught us a special egg cracking technique which Cassie easily mastered!
We then joined the rest of the class which was working on the other dishes. While everyone else was working, Andy prepared the Gambas al Ajillo which we enjoyed while we watched the prep work.

Although Andy prepared the dish in a skillet, he pointed out that it would ideally be prepared in a terracotta cazuela dish. I anticipate that will be a future purchase at The Spanish Table.

One of the most interesting things I learned during the class was the Jayne’s preparation of chunks of albacore for the Ensaladilla Rusa using a confit technique of heating the fish submerged in olive oil seasoned with herbs.

The lightly cooked albacore was fantastic by itself, and Jayne indicated it could be refrigerated under oil and used for several days. Here and here are a couple of links covering the use of that confit technique with tuna.

Once all of the paella ingredients had been prepared, we moved to an outdoor deck near the kitchen where they had sent up a couple of gas burners for the two large paella pans. Unfortunately, while it was a sunny day, a strong wind was blowing and threatened to blow out the burners. However, the Cavallo Point staff rose to the occasion and a cart soon arrived with blankets for all, which also served as a convenient windbreak.

We enjoyed the Gazpacho and Ensaladilla Rusa al fresco while we watched Andy and Tanya prepare the two paella dishes.

When we could hear the telltale crackle that indicated that the soccarat, the delicious rice crust at the bottom of the paella pan, was forming and the paella was ready, we moved back inside for the main course. The following are photos showing the ingredients and final product for the two paellas (the Paella de Amontillado first, and the Paella de Mariscos following), as well as the served dishes.

We had two very nice wines - a Palacio de Fefiñanes Albariño and a Artadi Rioja - to accompany the meal.

Then it was time to finish with our Tarta de Santiago which Jen had sprinkled with powdered sugar and plated beautifully with some fresh strawberries.

I understand that that it is traditional to sprinkle the sugar onto the cake over a cross of St. James so as to leave a silhouette. Unfortunately we did hot have a St. James Cross handy, but here is what it would look like.

As with our past classes at Cavallo Point we had a great time, and it was fun to spend more time with Andy, Tanya and Jayne.

We are looking forward to our next visits to both Cavallo Point and the Spanish Table.

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