Friday, November 21, 2014

Squid Poo

I have eaten so much while in Barcelona. I mean the food is to die for...from different kinds of tapas and pinchos; to some of the freshest sea food I have ever had. But the one thing I was missing was Paella, and I wasn't getting the WOW factor from the places I visited. I researched where I could find the best Paella, stiffeld through various sites; till I came across Trip-4-Real, a site that allows you to be a local, do  what the locals do, eat what the locals eat. As the aspiring chef I dream of one day becoming, I thought what better way to immerse myself in the culture then to learn how to make paella from scratch, as well as eat amongst  a local family that can teach me the traditional way of making this delish dish.So I signed up for the market tour & paella class.

Good food, great wine.
The day started at the Mercat de Ninot were we gathered all the ingredients for the days feast. I loved this covered market, because unlike the Boqueria, known for hoards of tourist, Ninot was small and homey. With products just as good as the Boqueria, just less hustle and bustle. Basically where the locals shop. From there we took a short walk where Christina and Guillermo welcomed me and about 7 others into their home. The cutest little flat with a nice sized terrace that was gorgeous. They grew their own herbs and veggies and had ample space where we can all sit comfortably.  We wasted no time before we got the bottles of wine cracking and the food cooking. We first started with a nice spread of hams, sausage, different cheeses, marinated olives, garlic and tradition tomato bread. Tomato bread a traditional Catalan snack  is  served almost everywhere. A baguette is split open, then a specific tomato (forgot the name) is cut in half and rubbed all over so that the bread soaks up the juices, then olive oil gets drizzled over and finally a touch of salt; and BAM tomato bread.(It's amazing)

Through out  we drank wine and engaged in delightful conversation about Christina and Guillermo where they were from and how they met. They were such a cute couple and worked so well together. They truly inspired me. They both had previous professions and said "hey, were not fully happy with our careers. Lets dedicate our time to cooking together and teaching others how to cook our favorite dishes" (loosely based that is, don't quote I mean if they don't sound just perfect, I don't know what does.
Cristina, Me, Guillermo.
As you can see we killed that Paella.
The class it's self was very hands on. We made a three course meal that included: gazpacho, brandada de bacalao, seafood paella, chicken paella and a mojito sorbet. Christina and Guillermo pride them selves on using only all natural and fresh products. Everything was made from scratch from the tomato sauce to the fish stock. Nothing came out of a can, nothing was processed. I was very impressed. Especially since I had never made tomato sauce or fish stock from scratch before. we started with the the starters which were to die for. I am not a big fan of bacalao ( I know, I know....I am Puerto Rican it should be in my blood.) but I am not (Don't judge). But the brandado (a fish paste) was yum city. Spread over bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parsley.

But lets talk about the star of the show the PAELLA!! We used fresh tomato sauce, saffron, prawns, muscles, clams and cuttle fish to transform this rice dish to heaven on a plate. We used the fish stock made earlier in the day to give the rice the perfect flavor. Everyone had part in making the paella, from cutting the pepper to sauteing the rice. My job, the most important of course, was the cutting the cuttle fish; a squid like sea creature. I had never worked with this and Guillermo was very patient walking me through cutting off the cartilage and making sure it was cleaned properly. Then I got to this sacky like part from the inside of the cuttle and I assumed I would throw that part away. "NO!" Guillermo said. That's the most important part and what will give our rice that seafoody flavor we need. I was to carefully open the sac and squeeze out all the excrement so that it can go in the Rice. that's right folks, SQUID POOP all up in the rice. And I loved every minute of it.  Needless to say the rice came out perfect. Everything came out perfect.
Squid Poo.

This had to have been one of the best days here in Barcelona. I was in my element, surrounded around great people with great conversation. I learned that when you have a dream, do anything and everything to make it possible. The group I was with was inspirational; from a fellow blogger (seasoned), two different couples who shared the love of food, to a woman who after 30 years at her job quit to become an authentic chocolatier. And of course Chris and Guillermo who also had an amazing story. It's moments like this that I live for. I went to the class originally wanting to just learn how to make paella and drink good wine. I left coming out inspired to take on the world.

*I have also supplied the recipes for all of these dishes, please them under devour.
** Please visit their site @ they offer great opportunities to see the Barcelona in a new light and experience what the locals experience.