Summertime Paella

paella al weber

This version of paella has been known to outrage Spanish purists. Not because of the ingredients but because of how it is cooked. However, we are simply updating the traditional paella which is cooked on an outdoor fire. That fire, according to paella purists, should consist only of vine cuttings. Except in the area of Valencia, where the fire is made from the prunings of orange trees. They have a lot of orange trees in Valencia.


 For the moment, we will leave the purists with their vineyard and orchard trimmings and turn to our trusty backyard charcoal grill. After all, most of us do not have access to vineyards or orange groves.



 Here’s how it works:



3 tablespoons olive oil


1 medium onion, minced


3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced


1/2 pound tomatoes, finely chopped


1/2 teaspoon saffron threads moistened in 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


1 1/2 pounds meaty chicken pieces, cut into chunks; use dark meat for more flavor.


1/4 pound Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4 inch slices


2 teaspoons salt or more to taste


1/2 pound cleaned squid tubes sliced into rings


4 cups flavorful chicken stock or fish stock


2  cups short grain paella or risotto style rice


16 cleaned mussels, in shells


16 cleaned clams, in shells


1 pound prawns, in shells


1 cup fresh peas or 1 pound asparagus tips


2 lemons, cut into wedges


Note: Paella pans come in all sizes. I have seen paella pans so large the cook had to use boat oars to stir. This recipe serves eight from a 15-inch pan.



Light the coals in a Weber-type grill. When the coals are white hot, heap them in the center. Place the paella pan on the grill above the coals and pour in the oil. When hot, add the onion and garlic and cook until limp. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until dry. Stir in the saffron.  Push the vegetables to the side of the pan. Add the prawns, sprinkle with salt and remove after a minute.  Set aside.



Add the chicken and chorizo and sprinkle with salt.



Cook, turning the pieces over until the chicken begins to color, about 7 minutes.  Add the squid and rice and stir all together with the sofrito ( the saffron-tomato mixture) .



Pour in  the stock which has been lightly salted.  Salting at each turn will bring out all the flavors but you don’t want to over-salt.



 At this time you may need to stoke the fire with a few sticks of wood to bring the stock to a boil. (This is when those vine cuttings would come in handy.). Cook at a boil for about 10  minutes. Put the lid on the Weber and cook for another 10 minutes.



Remove the lid and arrange the prawns over the top of the paella; place the mussels and clams, hinge sides down, around the edge. If you wish, add the peas or asparagus now.  Cook another five minutes, close the cover of the grill and cook for five minutes more.



To serve, remove the paella to the table and cover with a clean cloth for about five minutes, then decorate with lemon wedges. Garnish each serving of the paella with a lemon wedge, which should be squeezed over the paella before serving.

—Ann Walker








Carving the taste of Spain


We have recently found several reliable sources for Spanish ham (jamón) and have added it to our menus. A jamón Serrano can be one of the highlights of the party, but it must be done right. In Spanish bars and restaurants, the jamón carver is often the star turn.



The ham must be sliced very thin into short pieces.  Jamon sliced on a machine is just not done.. . It takes a master hand, with just the right knife (yes, we have one of those, too) to do the job right.   



The  paper-thin strips of dark red ham, slightly curled,  are like petals open on the plate.  A small plate of jamón represents a welcoming hospitality and generosity.  The flavor is slightly salty with an intriguing  nutty-buttery flavor.


In the photo here, Jude Walker shows off his carving skills at a recent party in San Francisco.





The Wine Kitchen Is User-Friendly


Have you ever been in a wine bar and felt like you didn’t know the secret handshake?  You’d like to try a few glasses of wine but somehow it was all a little much, that no one had given you the password that would make you a ‘regular’? Yeah, me too.  Wine is a special thing, no doubt, but you should not have to genuflect when you approach the tasting bar.

 The Wine Kitchen on Divisadero in San Francisco’s NoPa neighborhood is casual/comfortable.  When I first stepped through the door I felt like I was in a good friend’s living room.  It isn’t so much the physical appearance, although that is part of it, but welcoming vibe from the staff. The attitude at The Wine Kitchen is, “Hey, welcome. Wine is supposed to be fun. Pull up a stool. What would you like to try.”

 And there is plenty to try.  There are around 50 wines available, about half by the glass.  Prices are reasonable with several glasses around $10 and bottle prices mostly in the $40s.  There are wines from most of the world’s wine regions. The last time I stopped in I sampled a glass of Ravines Cabernet Franc from the Finger Lakes region of New York and a Le Pigeoulet Grenache blend from the Vaucluse in France.  And I took home a bottle of Buil & Giné from Spain’s Montsant that was a special treat.  Anything on the list is sold at retail for 10 per cent off.

 There is also a good selection of small plates. My current favorite is the Fried Gnocchi in a Ragout of Mushrooms, Parmesan and Thyme.

 So put on your smiley face and get on into The Wine Kitchen and have a friendly glass or two of exceptional wine.  No password required.


The Wine Kitchen is at 507 Divisadero, (415) 525 3485;



—Larry Walker