The gorgeous, smoky flavors of Spain took the highlight at Style of Santa Barbara’s paella cooking class final week with Loquita Govt Chef Sergei Simonov. Below the skilled steerage of Chef Simonov — whom I felt like I received to know earlier this 12 months once I binged his star-in-the-making season on Netflix’s Strain Cooker — the intimidatingly fancy-looking (and mouthwateringly tasty) “Chorizo y Pollo Paella” dish was truly fairly manageable and enjoyable to make.
In fact, the help from the staff of sous cooks on the Apples to Zucchini Cooking College, the place the category was held, didn’t harm, nor the did the abilities of my kitchen companion Alexandra (Alex) Bongaerts, a beautiful lady who warmly welcomed me into her group and by the way owns the flower wonderland Florabundance in Carpinteria.
We began the paella social gathering with sangria and a pleasant assortment of breads and cheeses as Chef Simonov gave us some background on the dish, which was proper off Loquita’s menu.
“I used to be simply in Spain, just a little over three weeks in the past; I used to be in Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. Valencia is the birthplace of paella on the far east coast of Spain,” he mentioned. Essentially the most conventional paella is the paella Valenciana, which is made with rabbit, hen, and snails, he defined, “however that may flip some folks away, which is why we’re cooking the pollo and chorizo up for you immediately. … The standard model of the dish is, I don’t need to say it was a peasant dish, but it surely was sort of like a farmer’s dish, cooked over an open wooden hearth. The flame was meant to be shared; it was a really humble sort of cooking expertise. You collect round with everyone and share a rice dish you prepare dinner collectively.”
He continued, “Right here we take the gorgeous Spanish origins of the dish, and clearly it’s what Santa Barbara is; we’ve now sort of made it enjoyable and thrilling. We use all of the native farmers and substances to essentially spotlight all these stunning paellas and clearly all of the tapas that we’ve got at Loquita as properly.”
With that intro, we fired up our induction cooktops, and shortly the spicy smells of Spanish chorizo permeated the room, adopted by sofrito (a mixture of aromatics), mushrooms, garlic, different spices, grated tomatoes, and ultimately the bomba rice. “The rice is crucial a part of the dish that all of us love,” mentioned Chef Simonov. He defined that the bomba rice is a a lot bigger grain than what we often see, “a lot bigger than a basmati; its most comparable rice is sort of like sushi rice. It’s received quite a lot of good starches and a really quick grain.”
Quickly we added hen inventory and a little bit of Spanish paprika as we let the paella boil after which simmer over low/medium warmth with out stirring it. The important thing to toasting the rice is persistence, Chef Simonov defined, testing every dish with a particular set of tweezers to verify all of the rice falls to the underside of the paella pan. Whereas the restaurant grills its hen earlier than including it to the paella, for our dishes we cheated a bit and heated it within the oven as we watched the crispy edges of the rice, known as “socarrat,” start to type. The socarrat is among the most vital keys for fabulous taste, in response to the recipe handout.
Now cooked with a pleasant sear, we sliced the bone-in hen thighs and artfully organized them across the paella, together with blistered shishido peppers, grilled lemon, lemon aioli, and contemporary chopped parsley! Admiring our stunning dishes as we walked them out to the backyard of the cooking faculty, we loved a communal paella feast, paired with Sunstone wines, below the setting solar.
I don’t know that my residence cooking abilities are fairly as much as making paella on my own, however the class was quite a lot of enjoyable and an ideal showcase for a number of the flavors of Santa Barbara and the superb lesson house of Apples to Zucchini Cooking College. I can’t wait to see what they prepare dinner up for us at subsequent 12 months’s occasion.