on the menu: paella mixta

So, after reading about 100 paella recipes, I determined that one need only get the ratio of rice to broth correct, and use a good quality broth, and an appropriate grain of rice, and beyond this anything goes. A creature of endless flexibility, is paella.

I opted for a mix of poultry and seafood, a paella mixta, and baked it to finish, a somewhat friendlier way to get an evenly cooked end result when cooking inside, particularly on an electric range.  [I am determined to have, in some future existence, a gas range (and a bathtub).]


Here we have chicken, artichokes, snails, mussels, green beans, a highly influential sprig of rosemary (one recipe suggested adding either snails or rosemary, which I found intriguing, that they would be substitutes of some kind) and a base of garlic/onions/tomatoes/bell peppers/pimentòn. This is arborio rice, a pretty common substitute for the traditional Spanish bomba rice, which is not hard to find online now but kind of expensive. I overcooked it slightly. Was pleased overall, and inspired to experiment with other rices. Bomba. Valencia. Calasparra. Good names.

Hm. So. I don’t really like snails. Or, I really don’t like snails. I reserve the hope of being converted one day by some superb specimen but until then: no, no, escargot. I had some frozen ones (when you get whimsical at Whole Foods these things happen) and gamely stuck them in (they are pretty), and don’t mind whatever flavor they impart, but the texture is deeply unappealing to me. I spat it out, actually, the one I tried. I couldn’t bear to chew it.

I realize I do quite like mussels, though, which I didn’t know. I didn’t even expect to like them. I had an early aversion to shellfish that gradually softened into a long standing skepticism, and only in the last few years am I open to reconsidering certain things, coming around bit by bit, with many qualifications.


Paella is so festive, inherently festive, even in the absence of any other markers of festivity (guests, say…an event, say). What is decided is, paella is meant to be shared (much of the lore and tradition surrounding paella, and there is a lot, is tied up in its social nature), and next time I should include some kind of sausage, and more pimentòn.


reading: Turgenev, Zola, Mead, paella, recipes


Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev — Turgenev has a sensitivity and a clarity that makes reading him feel healthy for your mind.

The Ladies’ Paradise, Emile Zola — The novel on which the recent Masterpiece number The Paradise is loosely, rather cartoonishly based, the novel being a good deal darker and harsher. Often lovely and often sad, unafraid of sympathy or sentimentality in a bold, masterful way that makes you, the modern reader (usually so scornful of sentimentality in our jaded superiority), ready to embrace it, too. Somehow I’ve read it before Zola’s more famous Germinal, which I’ve wanted to read for a lot longer. How decisions of what to read are made are a matter of endless interest to me.

One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, Rebecca Mead — This book reads like an engaging, well-researched magazine article that just happens to be kind of long. Mead (a staff writer for The New Yorker) gives a thoughtful breakdown of the wedding industry from the dress factories in China to  independent bridal shops, small town churches, and Vegas chapels, underscoring how blatantly commercial and inherently manipulative the industry is, and how rife with paradoxes. That weddings are becoming bigger and more expensive in concert with the divorce rate (interesting for a bunch reasons). The dream that wedding industry advertising is selling promises more and more (expanding to fit the growing consumer appetites and the cultural call for individuality), subtly conflating wedding with marriage (the better the wedding, the better the marriage, is the implication), and the consumable peripherals are multiplying as fast as vendors can dream them up, each bolstered by as much pseudo/faux-tradition as will stick to them. The Bride is one of the most desirable consumers, eagerly wooed by all industry sectors – a cash cow to be milked to the max.

This is good writing, with a mix of interesting and funny details chosen and the reflection to make it appealing for a wide audience. Picked it up at the library on a whim along with another of Mead’s titles about Middlemarch, a favorite of mine.

La Paella, Jeff Koehler

Paella!, Penelope Casa — Such a versatile, appealing dish. I love to learn culinary concepts like this; a set of basic principles which, once established, may be approached with an endless variety of ingredients. I’m determined to be a competent maker of paella, whatever the style. I got a pan.*

*A very simple, inexpensive pan with a thin bottom, the style preferred by seasoned paella chefs for its quick response to changes in temperature.

My Paris Kitchen, David Lebovitz — I like browsing this species of cookbook, part recipe compilation, part food memoir/food philosophy, part cultural translation. This has a nice blend of traditional French dishes and the ‘quirky personal dishes loosely based on a classic’ that are the natural by-product of a good, creative cook living their life. I don’t necessarily read such books in order to make the recipes, but to be inspired by various innovative or promising-sounding combinations.

Homemade Winter, Yvette Van Boven — A straight cookbook with a great rustic, homey aesthetic, featuring a lot of my favorite ingredients (cinnamon, clove, ginger…). Much more likely to try a recipe verbatim from this kind of cookbook (and likely to skim or skip whatever prose there may be, only casting an eye over the recipe ingredients). I’m a little late mentioning this, I was browsing it all winter. I think about elaborate cooking a lot more than I actually engage in it these days (I work so many hours, reader!), and I bake still less. I’ve been thinking about making a loaf of bread for 14 months at least. It’s time to confront my excuses.