28 November 2010

A Very Spanish Thanksgiving

For our first Thanksgiving as Mr. and Mrs., we decided to go a little untraditional with Thanksgiving and give it a Spanish theme. We also ended up throwing it at someone else's house since I was housesitting for the weekend. As much as I wanted to celebrate in our own home, especially since we just moved in less than 6 months ago, who could pass up the chance to use a 6-burner gas range and two ovens?? I certainly couldn't. I'm going to let the pictures do the talking since there is so much to share.

Attempt #2 (?) at the caramel. Stupid epicurious.com recipe gave odd directions on how to make caramel, a way that was completely different than how I've made it in the past and look what happened...
...that's a cup's worth of sugar burnt onto the bottom of my pan from attempt #1. I eventually moved on from these directions 2 cups of sugar waste and 1 2nd degree burn later.
Using the Test Kitchen method and one I'm more familiar with, the 3rd time was a charm. Using 1/2 cup water and 1 cup of sugar, bring to a boil and simmer on medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved, careful not to let any of the sugar hit the sides of the pan as it goes in. Reduce the heat to medium-low when it starts to turn golden brown and stir slowly until a lovely shade of amber.
That's more like it.
The pumpkin flan right after coming out of the oven.
I added a few things to the spiced pumpkin seeds to adjust for the season. Shawn was such a fan, he thought they were a tapa, not just topping for the flan.

Toasting the pumpkin seeds in a little bit of grapeseed oil until they puffed.
My best attempt at burning the skin of the red pepper for making the sofrito for the paella. It sucks not having a gas range sometimes. Ok, all the time. Ideally, you should burn the skin until black, then wrap in a paper towel, wrap again in a dish towel and then into a plastic bag to sweat it so the skin comes off easily. Mine came off less than easily. Imagine that.
After peeling the pepper, I minced it and added to the minced onion that had softened in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat, along with minced, peeled tomatoes (about 1/2 cup), and minced garlic. Mincing is important--can you tell? Let that soften up and absorb much of the moisture.

Just about done. You can skip seasoning this much as it will be going into the paella, which will be seasoned later.
A guest is featured here on the blog. Michael made some amazing sherry chicken livers.
Sauteeing the onions and pancetta. Yum.
Chicken livers hot off the stove. He brought some mini toasts to pick it up, but we had to upgrade to the slices of Little T baguette...just couldn't get quite enough on the little toasts.
New Seasons called these Segovia style mushrooms. I just called them delicious. Very simple recipe, but very good. Yesterday we combined the leftovers livers and mushrooms into the Cuisinart, hit the button, and ended up with some incredible pate.
My first tarte tatin. My brother and sister hate pumpkin and always insist on an apple dessert. I decided it was important to keep it in the European family, so I made this French tart. I couldn't find a good pot holder in the foreign kitchen, so it got a little crisper on top than I would have liked, but it was good.
Flipped over--not quite as pretty as the picture, but definitely tasty. I am going to try a different strategy with the apples next time I make this dish. I think I could have smooshed in more.
Not much cooking in this picture, but had to get a shot of some of the great tapas we had before the main event. Spanish tortilla in the background, Little T baguettes, and apples, manchego and olives. The garlic-paprika aioli I made for the tortillas went fast.
The paella and costra innards before they went in.
My mama does it a little differently than most. Her paella starts with cooking the chicken, then sauteeing the rice before adding the chorizo. Either way, it turned out great.
As with risotto and most rice dishes, make sure your stock is hot before adding to the dish. I made a quick fish stock, then added the saffron before adding to the paella pan.
Made almost simultaneously...the costra. A very similar rice dish to the paella, but made with meat and scrambled egg is added mid-way through cooking. I'm used to there being more egg, but the basic concept is there.
The finished paella and costra resting before we dig in. I think I bought a little too much shellfish.
And to top off a fantastic day of eating, 3 desserts for 12 people. From the top, tarte tatin, pumpkin flan with spiced pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin cheesecake.
What are your Thanksgiving traditions? Do you do anything to mix it up every year? We may change the type of food at times, but we stuck with a few traditions--a puzzle (care of my brother this year), great food, wine and conversation. I am very grateful for such a wonderful day with my family and friends. I hope your day was just as spectacular!


  1. It was an amazing dinner - thanks for hosting us! :D