As South American countries entered the Twentieth Century as free and independent nations open to immigration, an active middle class emerged. This was especially true in Argentina.
Products from fans to refrigerators that had long been unavailable, except to the wealthy, were suddenly on the market at obtainable prices. Among the many sales person encouraging the purchase of these new appliances was a remarkable and very observant woman – Dona Petrona.
Initially hired to demonstrate the features of a new stove for sale, she quickly realized that it wasn’t the stove that needed explaining. It was cooking.
Poor families, now rising to the middle class, knew only how to prepare the simplest of dishes. Unlike the wealthy, who could afford a cook, the new middle class needed help to enjoy their new lifestyle.
Dona Petrona is today known as the “Julia Child of South America” and with good reason. Recognizing the need before her, Dona Petrona soon led the way to better culinary skills for an entire continent with newspaper columns, magazine articles, radio and television shows and a series of very popular cookbooks.
Her cookbooks are still very much in use and are in their 101st edition with recipes featuring both European dishes as well as traditional Argentine dishes such as Paella Negra, made squid ink.
Chef Mike Brockman – Wood Stone Corporation
(sized for one 24-inch Paella Pan)
- 12 bone-in chicken thighs (cut in half or thirds)
- 2 LB Spanish chorizo (oval sliced)
- 1 LB small squid (cut into rings, leave tentacles intact)
- 2 large white onions (diced)
- 4-6 cloves garlic (minced)
- 4 roasted red bell peppers (2 diced, 2 cut into strips)
- 6 Cups short-grained rice (such asiterraneana Bomba or Valencia)
- 13 Cups fish and/or crustacean stock
- ¼ Cups squid ink
- 2-3 LB Taylor Shellfish Farms Mediterraneanan Mussels
- 3 LB Taylor Shellfish Farms Manila Clams
- ½ Cups olive oil
- Salt and Black Pepper (to taste)
- 3 Lemons (cut into wedges)
- In a large saucepan, heat stock to a simmer.
- Add the squid ink and whisk to fully dissolve it in the stock. Taste stock for flavor and season it as necessary.
- Heat Paella pan oven an intense but even bed of hardwood coals.
- Add half of the olive oil, and cook the chicken thighs.
- Season to taste.
- When they have great color, and are fully cooked, set them aside for later.
- Add the onions, diced red bell peppers and garlic to the pan – stir frequently, and cook until translucent (a little color doesn’t hurt at this point).
- Add additional olive oil if necessary and season to taste.
- Add squid and Spanish chorizo - stir well and allow to cook for a couple of minutes before adding the rice.
- Allow the rice to cook for 3-4 minutes (stirring frequently). A little browning or even charring certainly won’t hurt the flavor of the finished dish!
- Add the stock.
- At this point, the fire should be down to a waning but even bed of coals with enough intensity to keep the stock at a strong simmer. It is OK to stir the whole mixture at this point, especially to evenly distribute the ingredients, and to release any bits that are stuck to the pan.
- From this point on, do not stir!
- After a couple minutes of simmering, nestle the reserved chicken pieces into the ever-expanding bed of rice.
- After about 5 more minutes (when the rice is visible through about ¼ inch of stock) arrange the mussels, clams and red bell pepper strips atop the dish.
- Continue to cook the Paella slowly over the bed of coals until the shellfish are open and cooked. If your timing is good, the characteristic formation of a delicious, smoky crust will have taken place where the rice meets the pan. This crust is called “socarrat”, and its rich flavor and crispy-chewy texture are essential to great Paella.
- It’s not a bad idea to cover the whole pan with a lid or foil, and let it rest for a few minutes.
- Garnish with lemon wedges and serve, working from the outside of the pan to the center.