Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Joe Cooks! Spanish Wine and Paella

Over the objections of my wife I got a Paella pan and a Spanish cookbook for Christmas. Trying it out for the first time, I went for a (nearly) classically styled Valencian Paella. To pair with this creation I pushed for a white but my wife was kind enough to let me use her kitchen, so I relented and poured some Riojas for dinner.

The 2000 Sierra Cantabria Coleccion Privada was a spectacular Rioja, and one of the best wines I tasted over the holidays. Ruby red with a tinge of brick in the glass, it regaled us with a gorgeous, perfumey nose - violet, rose and lavender, cooked berries, leather and musk, cloves, allspice, tobacco, smokey figs - an olfactory delight. The palate? Harmonious - dry velvety tannins and crisp acidity combine with crisp cherry fruit and a nice, soft texture and a long finish to deliver near perfection. In its prime, but this could be cellared for a few more years. A terrific value - yes, even at this price.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 18.5/20
Price: C$45 (SAQ)

On another night the 2001 Finca Allende "Vina Olvido" (Rioja) could have been a star, but that's show biz. Cherry red in the glass, it presented an attractive but uncomplex nose of smoke, milk chocolate, and prunes. But don't let that discourage you, as it tasted great. Juicy, spicy and elegant with nice, crisp acidity and modest fruit. Aging very well (I have had a few bottles over the years), but now is the time to enjoy this bottle.
cork. 12.5% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$36 (Opimian)

And the paella? Well, let's just say that Joe needs to cook more and drink less - I used a store-bought chicken stock that was WAY too salty. The crowd reached for their water more than they reached for the wine...(a first in my house)


Edward said...


I want to see picutres of the paella!

How big is your pan?

One of the things I often associate with paella is John Olsen, who is Australia's most regarded living artist. He has done a whole series of paella paintings (which he is also keen on cooking, I think he has a huge pan that can cook for 50!).

Here is a link if you are interested


David said...

Well, great wine can make one forgiven a less-than-perfect cooking outcome--though it's nice when they all come together.

I haven't cooked a lot of Spanish food, but made some good tapas a couple months ago. Some spicy meatballs were probably the favorite there.

Will have to try a higher end rioja like ones you've reviewed, I tend to go for the bargains when I'm in the spanish section.

Joe said...

Hi Ed. I have avoided food pictures in order not to dilute the key message...;) 16 inches - big enough to feed our family of five plus three in-laws, with lots of leftovers. I can't picture how big a paella for 50 would be. Thanks for the link.

Hi David. I have been meaning to try some tapas, I have the cookbook now! Don't feel you have to drop the $$$ - Spain has great values at all price levels, but I love the way you can get "best in the world" wine for under $50. I usually drink the $20-something Riojas, but it was my first paella - reason to celebrate!

RougeAndBlanc said...

Life is so short that every achievement, no matter how small, is worth celebrating. At least your Paella is edible. Next time, if you use the low-sodium chicken stock, it should be fine.

Brooklynguy said...

i must say that i'm a bit disappointed that you and edward are such typical males, with all of this "how big is your pan?" and "mine is so much bigger than your" kind of stuff. let's leave that for the locker room, okay fellas?

Joe said...

Hi Andrew - I actually used the low-sodium stock last time, but the recipe called for rubbing the chicken in coarse salt - I may have been too enthusiastic! On the plus side, the rice was the perfect texture, so I am on to something...I made the recipe again tonight with virtually no coarse salt - perfect

Yes Neil, Edward served one up for me but I did not take the, is it the thickness of the pan or the diameter that matters?

Barry said...

Joe.. from your description I am presuming both are made in the 'modern' style....
Recent experience with 'old style' reservas(which I love when perfect)..have revealed drying out fruit after too long in the barrel.
I find generally that crianzas are more am pleased you have a good twosome.

Edward said...

Joe and Neil,

On seconds thoughts, maybe I don't want to see any pictures :)

PS Isn't it how long it takes (to cook the paella) that's important. . .

Barry said... takes longer in Canada at the moment..frozen winter...
what do you recommend..being a doctor...

Poor Joe

Joe said...

Hi Barry. These were both Crianzas - I rarely buy Gran Reservas. I hate to use "Modern" in a black and white manner - I would say the Sierra Cantabria was slightly more modern-styled, while the Vina Olvido seemed quite traditional.

Hi Edward. Do we men really know what is important?

I think I'll cut it off there before this family-friendly blog is tainted!

Sonadora said...

Laughing at you silly men :)

As to paella, I've always wanted to try some, but most places make their's with mussels, a food I am horrifically allergic to!

Joe said...

My apologies Sonadora - I blame it all on Neil! A classic Valencian paella - apparently the only TRUE paella - is chicken, rabbit, with snails optional. The seafood paellas we see in the restos are apparently not REAL paella (according to my book "The New Spanish Table"). I made the Valencian (sans rabbit), but the first paella I ever tasted was as you describe...