Fire Pit Paella: The July Tradition Continues

Posted by johngl

Better late than never.

This was our fourth annual “Fourth of July Fire-Pit Paella” get together. It’s also known as Paella Fest in certain circles.

Fire Pit Paella

On the left is a more traditional inland paella with mushrooms, peas, chorizo, and chicken (on the sheet pan). On the right is a coastal paella, decorated with a pound of shrimp. Oysters and clams were added later.

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Big Green Egg: Paella!

Posted by johngl

I’ve had my extra-large Big Green Egg for about a year and it kind of surprises me that I hadn’t considered using it for paella. With its tight seals and absolute temperature control, I thought it would make things go quite smoothly, and, for once, I turned out to be right!

Big Green Egg: Paella!

That’s an 18″ diameter paella pan in there; my Egg was just the right size to clear the handles.

Let’s step back for a few minutes so I can show you how I got to this point. There are a few things that must be done to make an acceptable paella.

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Vension-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Quail & Paella

Posted by johngl

Several weeks of hundred-degree weather ago, a good friend brought over some quail and, after a brief bit of deliberation, we decided to have some paella as well.

Quail, as you probably know, are pretty little bite-sized birds and sometimes I wonder why we bother eating them at all.  I think its in human nature to wonder…hmmm, what does that taste like, which makes it all okay.  How else would we come up with things like bacon infused ice cream?

basic bird, seared

Anyway, we’ll just start with the basic bird, already seared.  All that killing, plucking, and gutting is just such nasty work; it’s enough to turn a vegetarian into a vegan.

Note how much it resembles a chicken.

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Third Annual 4th of July Paella (& Pizza!) Fest

Posted by johngl

I was having so much fun cooking last weekend, I neglected writing about it.  I guess I must enjoy cooking more than writing. Perhaps I enjoy eating more than cooking. I’ll have to think on that one some more…

Anyway, it’s always about 100°F (or hotter) here in Austin around the Fourth holiday and my friend BigDMcC and I somehow decided it was a good idea to stand around a fire pit and cook paella. This was our third official Fourth of July Paella Fest. If that weren’t enough, pizza found it’s way on the menu for lunch: one must keep up their strength when setting out to cook paella.

Prosciutto, Arugula, and Cheese Pizza

Cute little tomatoes, eh? Those are actually supposed to be that orange color — these aren’t unripe Texas 200’s — and I think I will just call them acid bombs. Adding these to my prosciutto, arugula, and cheese pizza recipe was BigDMcC’s idea.  He likes to change things up when I’m not paying attention.  Such is the nature of our friendship.

We’d been sampling this pizza about 20 minutes earlier:

Previous Pizza

I’m still working on finding that perfect pizza-stone temperature: I’ve tried 425°, 450°, 525°, 625°, and that foray into the 725° range that I spoke of in an earlier post. I’m now throwing in measuring air temp.  The pizza above was cooked on 425°F tiles with air temps in the 700° range. It took between 4 and 5 minutes to cook.

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Paella Lovers United 2010

Posted by johngl

I’m judgmental — sometimes more mental than judge — especially when it comes to food.

Being so, it came as no real surprise that just yesterday I found myself seated at the judges table for Paella Lovers United 2010, a contest held every fall (since 2002). I had such a great time last year, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to do it a second time.

Panorama of Paella

All that smoke you see in the shot above emanates from the open fire pits upon which the contestants prepare their entries. This isn’t done to make it harder, it is simply the proper way to prepare paella. It’s open fire or nothin’ baby; if you can’t stand the heat, stay in your kitchen.

This year, our crew of six, along with head judge Emmett Fox, had the pleasure of sampling the 16 paellas entered in the competition.  If that weren’t enough, we sampled several paellas not in competition, one of which was touted to contain over $900 in assorted fungi (black truffles and wild foraged mushrooms).

Shaving on the black truffle!

The black truffle was literally flying off the taglia tartufi (that’s truffle shaver to mortals).

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Second Annual July 4th Paella Fest

Posted by johngl (select photos courtesy of Brian)

For the past three years, friend and fellow food fanatic, BigDMcC and I have gotten together, enduring some pretty extreme summer temperatures (the two previous years were over 100°), in order to stand around my backyard fire pit and make paella. For the past two years, these splendiferous tests of our fortitude have coincided with a holiday more widely associated with hoards of drunken adults blowing shit up.

As a reasonably healthy and maladjusted male, I, too, have an affinity for explosive displays, however, the wanton takeover of neighborhood intersections and outright disregard and disrespect for fellow inhabitants, just sets me off a bit. How dare I want to use to the use the street in front of my house for the purpose for which it was intended! What nerve!

But I digress.

Fire and Paella

We’re here to speak of splendid selections of superb comestibles! This is a traditional style (Valencian) paella made up of confit of duck, confit of rabbit, Navarro and Cannellini beans (Spanish and Italian, respectively), Spanish chorizo, saffron infused chicken/duck/rabbit stock, sofregit, snails, and bomba rice.

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Small Scale Stove-Top Paella

Posted by johngl

My most glorious spousal unit discovered some 8″ diameter paella pans for less than $10 each. Never one to caught short of pans, we purchased four of them. Finding myself with some time to cook this afternoon, along with some duck and pork in the fridge, I thought I would put a couple of those cute little pans to use.

Pork and Duck Paella

If you have read any of the previous paella posts (each of those is a separate link), you know the traditional method of cooking is over an open fire in a really large pan. I did these entirely on the stove top with some really great results.

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Paella! Paella! And more Paella!

Posted by johngl

It was the beginning of a beautiful Fall afternoon here in Austin: bright, clear, blue sky and temps in the low to mid 70s. This wasn’t like any other day however. On this day, I was to use my Alcoholian powers only for good. If you are seeking a snark festival, select one of my other posts.


On this day, I was asked to join a handful of other food lovers and restaurant professionals as a judge for Paella Lovers United’s annual festival. It was a true cornucopia: food and fun were in abundance.

A cornucopia of color!

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4th of July Paella Fest

Posted by johngl

I’ve done a couple of other posts on paella (Paella and Paella Cookoff?) so the fact that grown men venture into 100°+ Texas temperatures and cook mass quantities of food in huge pans over an open fire should come as no real surprise.  So let’s leave the mere amateurs to cooking the mundane (hot dogs and burgers) on their shiny new stainless steel grills and come join me for more of this open fire cooking.

Searing chicken thighs
Chicken thighs searing skin-side-down over an open fire

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