Friday, July 23, 2010

Camp Paella

One of the benefits of being in a vacation home as opposed to a hotel is the fact that there is a kitchen and you can cook the foods found at the local market. The down side of cooking in the kitchen of a vacation home is that the spice rack is often bare. My task was to make dinner for 6 people in a vacation home, a stone's throw away from a local farm, with only dried cilantro and a bag of rice in the cupboard.

The farm had phenomenal corn on the cob, but we had just had that a few nights previously. I bought a pint of fresh peas, got in the car and drove to the supermarket. My plan was to use what I deemed the only salvageable item in the kitchen: the rice. My plan was a paella because it only relies on wine (readily available), stock (easily purchased at the store) and saffron (here, I was concerned). The supermarket had "American saffron" which is very different than the Persian strands I have in my kitchen. These blossoms are named "American" but grown in China and imported by a company in Quebec. I put my hesitation aside, threw the orange blossoms of saffron in the cart and continued shopping. "Try the local foods," I thought to myself, "even if they are global".

You're on vacation. Don't worry if what you cook turns into a disaster. You get the chance to try something new. Enjoy the company and watch the sun set.

Camp Paella
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
1-454g bag of rice
a glass of white wine
1/2 tsp American saffron
1 L of salt-free chicken stock
1 red pepper, diced
1 pint of peas, shelled
350 g frozen shrimp
350 g frozen bay scallops

Thaw seafood, reserving liquid.
Saute onion in olive oil, add garlic. When translucent, add red pepper. When the pepper is getting soft, add rice & stir until coated.
Add wine. When liquid from wine has evaporated, add stock. Continue stirring now and then.
Sip own glass of wine & chat with other vacationers.
Check on rice every now and then. If it needs more liquid, add the liquid from the thawed seafood. Ensure rice is almost cooked.
Add peas and seafood, allow everything to cook for a few more minutes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Eating Out: Duff's Wings

"Ooh, let's order 100 wings, all medium hot; that's only very hot, not very very hot!" screams out one of the 8 little league boys at a neighbouring table. We're at Duff's in Buffalo, who may not have the claim of being the home of the original Buffalo wings, that claim goes to the Anchor Bar, but was the recent host of president Obama.

Of course you can make wings at home and you certainly don't have to go to Buffalo for the pleasure but there's something special about the wings there. I'd normally drive right past a place like Duff's, a decision based not only on appearances but also based on the fried, vinegar smell of the parking lot. Inside, the dark dining room is made even darker by wood panels. It's loud. There's no bar. The chairs are stackable and covered in vinyl. Nonetheless, we have to wait for a table for lunch.

We order 30 wings, which might be excessive but we were very hungry. We were not aware of the fact that the chicken wings at Duff's are from some sort of weight-lifting chickens with ridiculously large arms. 20 wings clearly would have been sufficient for our amount of hunger, which would have been 10 per person. This is the minimum order, and had we not been starving ourselves before, 10 mutant wings would have been enough to share.

After the wings arrive with their requisite celery and blue cheese sauce (spellt "bleu" in Buffalo), we dug into our wings, the smell of spicy vinegar permeating our nostrils before we could even take a bite. Too hot to eat just yet, I dipped my first wing into the cheese sauce. Not bad. We ordered the medium-light, after being warned that the medium is hot, and the hot is very, very hot. The medium-light sauce eats it's way through my lipstick and I can feel a light warmth outside my lips. Recharged after my afternoon snack, I leave the bar that I would normally have never entered, full of a not-so secret treat.
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