Why are These People Smiling?

August 15th, 2011

They are smiling in anticipation of one of the best meals they will ever eat.  David and I were invited for dinner at my dear friend and blogging buddy Penny’s home near Asheville.  Her blog, The Comforts of Home embodies all that the name implies.  She and her husband have been creatively turning the home they bought a few years ago into the place we would all like to call home.  You need to visit her blog to appreciate all that they have done.

Penny greeted us at the door with “Hola”.  I knew immediately that we were in for a Spanish inspired meal.  It was a visual delight after entering their beautiful home.  Penny and Mr. Comforts of Home have been working on their backyard to create a French inspired potager and pergola with a fountain and warming firepit area.  The table was so inviting that I had no doubt that we were in for a treat.

The meal began with Manchego cheese, Marcona almonds, Spanish olives and flat bread.  With it we had a cooling gazpacho made from tomatoes from Penny’s garden.

We garnished it with croutons, hard boiled eggs and fresh tomatoes.

Mr. Comforts of Home cooked the paella on the grill in a huge paella pan.  The ingredients were added to the pan in stages.

First the chorizo was sauteed in oil.

Then a sofrito (including onions, garlic, tomatoes and red bell peppers) was sauteed in the pan.

Rice, chicken broth and saffron were then added and it was left to cook.

The seafood was nestled into the rice and cooked briefly.

When the seafood was cooked the sliced chorizo was added back to the pan along with peas and lemon wedges.  As the rice cooked it formed a crust on the bottom called a soccarat.  It was time to dig in.

My plate was a masterpiece of vivid color.  The Spanish wine was a perfect accompaniment to the food.  We were then treated to a Spanish inspired dessert of crema catalana.

Crema Catalana is similar to Creme Brulee’ but is softer in texture and has a lovely flavor of cinnamon, vanilla, and essence of orange and lemon.  The carmalized sugar on top was curtesy of Mr. Comforts of Home’s blow torch.  The chef’s torch that Penny had was not working properly so Mr. C did the manly thing and used a tool with power.  Never be afraid to use your power tools while cooking.

Please go over to Penny’s blog to read her take on our lovely meal and get the recipes for gazpacho and crema catalana.  Here is her recipe for Paella.


 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 Spanish Chorizo Sausages
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1/2 Spanish Onion, Diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, Diced
2 Ripe Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

2 Cups short to medium grained rice (I used Risotto)
1 Teaspoon Spanish Paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
Salt and Pepper To Taste

2 Teaspoons Saffron Threads

6 Cups Warm Chicken Stock

2 Lobster Tails, Split
1 Pound Shrimp
1 Dozen Mussels
1 large filet, white flaky fish like Haddock Cut Into 2 inche pieces

1/2 Frozen Sweet Peas, Thawed
Lemon Wedges

Heat oil in paella pan over medium high grill. Add chorizo and cook until done. Then remove from pan, cut into slices and set aside.
Saute garlic, onios, tomatoes and peppers until carmelized. Stir in seasonings.

Steep saffron in 1/4 cup hot water for 5 minutes. Add rice to pan, stirring to coat. Stir in saffron/water.

Add stock and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the panaround so the rice cooks and absorbs evenly – do not stir constantly!

Add sausage back into pan. Add lobster, wait 2 minutes, add shrimp, wait two minutes, add white fish, wait two minutes then add the mussels. Simmer without stirring until rice is al dente and the mussels have opened.

Scatter peas across top and continue to cook until liquid is absorbed and a crust (socarrat) had formed on the bottom.

Let rest 5 mintues off heat. Add lemon wedges and serve.
If you would like to make a paella and don’t have a paella pan, La Tienda is a good source for all kinds of Spanish cookware.
Printable recipe

10 responses to “Why are These People Smiling?”

  1. Big Dude says:

    Your meal and visit sound incredible and I appreciate the step-by-step photo instructions and recipe as I’ve been wanting to try it. Great shots.

  2. Kat says:

    I read about this meal over at Comforts of Home, and knew I would also hear about it from you! What an awesome dinner, and a beautiful home. Sounds like you all enjoyed visiting.

  3. We had the best time! We always enjoy spending time with you and David!

    We were also so happy that it didn’t rain, so David didn’t have to hold the umbrella over Kent and the paella!!

  4. Beautiful all the way around. I just love blogger get togethers! Table looks fabulous with the Kansas Sunflowers 😉

    A good Paella pan is on my wish list, so saving this recipe!

  5. Pondside says:

    I can tell, just by looking at the smiles that you were anticipating a wonderful evening – and you were right. It all looks delicious, and I’ll bet the conversation and company were the best too.

  6. Looks like you had a great time at Penny’s. What a lovely meal. Penny is a fabulous cook, as I can attest to with the quiches she made last year.

  7. Lucky you! That looks fabulous.

  8. Everything looks delicious and it looks like you had a wonderful time, Penny and her husband look like great hosts!

  9. Greetings from the Amish settlement of Lebanon,Pa. thought id say hello. Richard from Amish Stories.

  10. Rita says:

    Sorry I am late; it has been a hectic summer. Thank you for a lovely post and a Special Thank you for that paella recipe; one of my husband’s favourite things. It’s his birthday this weekend and you just handed me that Specil meal.

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