By Ashley Boone, University of Washington
I love to cook, but I haven’t been cooking much in Barcelona. Between dinner with my host family and taste testing new restaurants, most of my meals have been made for me. I had been missing spending time in the kitchen, so I was especially excited about the programs cooking class at Cook and Taste, a kitchen-classroom offering cooking classes in the Gothic.
The activity was especially well-timed for the week after Thanksgiving. Every year I spend the day cooking with my mom, my grandpa, and the rest of the family to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. I always look forward to being in the kitchen, working with my family, and catching up over great food. I wasn’t home for Thanksgiving this year, so I was really excited to try something new in the kitchen!
On the menu for the night was several traditional Catalan dishes: Roasted Vegetables in Romesco sauce, Tortilla de Potates, Pan con Tomate, Paella, and Crema Catalana for Dessert. To start, we broke down the tasks to prepare the ingredients. We chopped vegetables, cracked eggs, peeled peppers, and cut potatoes.
While the vegetables roasted and the Crema Catalana settled in the fridge, we got started on the Paella.
Paella is a traditional Spanish dish that typically includes rice, seafood, and saffron. It’s cooked in a special wide, thin pan that creates a layer of crispy rice at the bottom of the pan. Our chef pulled out a pan two and a half feet wide and we started by cooking the chicken in olive oil. At this stage, the Paella needs to be stirred constantly until the chicken is cooked. When the meat is cooked golden we add onions, peppers, garlic, and tomatoes, adding salt with each ingredient. The last ingredient for the Paella is the rice. The rice soaks up the sauce in the dish and cooks in saffron infused chicken broth for seventeen minutes exactly.
While the rice cooks, the Paella cannot be stirred, so we eat our starters at the long kitchen counter with a view of the Paella cooking happily. We eat cucumbers, sweet onions, and squash covered in a vibrant Romesco sauce, Tortilla de Potates, and the best Pan con Tomate I’ve eaten in Barcelona. In seventeen minutes exactly, the Paella finishes cooking and is served on individual plates that we pass around the table until everyone is served.
When we’ve all finished our dinners, the chef takes the chilled Crema Catalana out of the fridge. He pours sugar on top of the dishes and we each use the kitchen blowtorch to melt the sugar into a sweet layer of glass over the dish. We break through the crystallized layer with the tap of the spoon and end the meal on a sweet note.
We left the class with recipes in our hands and stomachs full of food. I am looking forward to bringing the recipes home and cooking the traditional dishes with my family at the end of my trip. Maybe we will make it a new tradition!