I could easily whip you up a creamy butternut squash risotto, prosciutto stuffed ravioli, crispy eggplant parmigiana or a luscious housemade tiramisu. I’d even throw in a made-from-scratch Limoncello. Do you notice the trend here? Cooking Italian is my specialty, which is great since my restaurant is…Italian. Change countries and I am lost.
At Cook & Taste in Barcelona, they teach you how to master Spanish meals that have traveled the world, including Paella. This would be my first ever experience with this signature dish.
A dozen of us entered the quaint and modern cooking school for a half day of learning, and sweet Maria was eager to teach. We barely had time to mingle before she escorted us to Boqueria Market to shop for our ingredients. This well-known market is a foodie haven; a mixture of delicious colors, smells and sensations. Our instructor expertly maneuvered through the booths and patiently answered every question.
After returning with our fresh seafood and other fixings, Maria poured the complimentary wine and we started our attempt at creating a five course meal.
Calçots Con Salsa Romesco
Roasted Sweet Winter Onions with Romesco
Chupito De Sopa De Pimiento Rojo Al Aroma De Azafran Tostado Con Bacalao
Shot of Red Bell Pepper Soup Flavoured with Toasted Saffron and Cod
Pan Con Tomate
Paella De Marisco
Each of us would be participating in some part of the preparation process; peeling, chopping or sauteing. So far, I had been comfortably concentrated on the “wine drinking” portion of the menu. Truth be told, I was nervous that because my husband and I are chefs and restaurateurs that the expectation would be high. What if I cut off my thumb? Or burn a key component to this meal?
The lesson began with the preparation of the Calçots, which is a milder variety of green onion, reminiscent of a leek.
I was intrigued by the Romesco sauce that would be a companion to the Calçots, because the sauce included hazelnuts, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and day old bread, all Italian ingredients that I am familiar with. This could be one course with a high rate of success potential for me, meaning it would be difficult for me to screw up, but it was assigned to another cook.
Next came the Pan con Tomate, Catalan tomato bread, or in my Italian world: classic bruschetta. I make this everyday at my restaurant, but instead of rubbing the bread with tomatoes, we just dice them and throw them on top of the toast. I got this. Nope. Another cook volunteered before me.
It’s okay, I really was quite happy watching and drinking my Spanish wine. Can I get away with just ogling from the sidelines the entire time?
I figured that making the next course, cod confit, could be easily done with a glass of wine in one hand and didn’t require any sharp objects. I could actually look semi-cool doing this.
The cooking part had already been accounted for, but I was able to plate the fish on the cute black spoons. I only dropped one piece of cod on the floor. I don’t think anyone saw.
Thus far, I had escaped much of the hard labor, but then Peter and I were assigned to paella duty, me cleaning artichokes and him sauteing. Now this is just like being at work, minus the pan throwing.
Paella is a Spanish rice dish that can include a variety of fish or meats. Saffron is an essential spice for the dish and is what turns the rice its golden color.
I had pretty high hopes for this paella, because I make risotto everyday. Isn’t that the same thing? No. No, it is not.
Paella lacks parmesan, heavy cream and the chicken broth is being substituted for fish stock.
Just keep peeling your artichoke and pretend to not be worried.
The others had finished their chores and all eyes were on us as they patently waited for the paella to be complete. They better not be drinking my wine.
And when the paella was finished, it looked like a piece of artwork. We indulged.
My first bite made me worried that I had botched up the execution. Did I put too much fish stock? But, then the truth hit me. I don’t like paella.
Don’t get me wrong, this paella was made with the freshest ingredients, in a traditional process and the most fun environment. But, I am still partial to a creamy, cheese infested risotto.
The finale of this show was the Crema Catalana, otherwise known as Creme Brulee or Burnt Cream. They are crusted with a crunchy, torched sugar.
And we got to torch them. Stand back and watch your hair.
In the end I was left with a new food culture experience, no burns, all my fingers intact and a wine buzz. A perfect afternoon in Barcelona for €65.
Have you taken a cooking class in another country? Do you like paella?
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