"Don't forget the paella."
It was a sentiment expressed several times during the weeks that the Food Section's writers and editors discussed which dishes to include in the year's Top 10 recipe list.
Sure enough, when the votes were counted, Hosteria Derby's Mexican Paella was the clear winner. No other recipe came close.
The rest of the list wasn't as easy to tally. With an abundance of excellent recipes printed in 1996, choosing just 10 to reprint was difficult. But choose we did.
Our sole criterion: taste. Each year we get a couple of letters asking why we don't print more low-fat recipes in our annual Top 10. As it happens, we almost always end up with a few low-fat dishes--this year a grapefruit ice and a terrine of summer berries made the cut.
But this is our time to pick recipes that meet no agenda. These are simply the recipes that gave us the most pleasure in 1996.
1: MONSTER PAELLA
In late November, we printed a Culinary SOS request from Diane, who asked whether we could find the Mexican paella recipe from Hosteria Derby, a restaurant in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. "It was so delicious, I want to tell the world about it," Diane wrote.
Columnist Rose Dosti found the recipe and told a good portion of the world about the dish. "The multi-ingredient recipe is for staunch cooks who love puttering in the kitchen," Dosti wrote, "and searching for ingredients (a Mexican grocery store is your best bet to find all the chiles required). This paella deserves a party crowd and a round of applause."
The staff agreed.
HOSTERIA DERBY'S MEXICAN PAELLA
24 medium shrimp
3 to 4 quarts fish or chicken stock
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
12 pork ribs
12 Catalonian sausages (Spanish sausage) or any pork sausage, thickly sliced
12 small chicken drumsticks or thighs or 12 chicken half breasts, cut up
1 rabbit, cut up, optional
1/4 cup tequila, rum or brandy
5 tablespoons chopped onion
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, deveined and chopped
6 red bell peppers, cut in thin strips
8 small hot chiles (gueros or serranos), deveined, optional
12 small artichokes, trimmed of tough outer leaves, stems peeled
Juice of 2 lemons or vinegar
3 dried ancho chiles, roasted, deveined and soaked in hot water
1 (2-inch) stick cinnamon, toasted
Salt or 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
36 small squid, cleaned
12 large shrimp or prawns with heads intact
4 1/2 cups converted rice
1/2 pound pea pods, shelled (1/2 cup frozen peas)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Peel medium shrimp, reserving meat in covered container in refrigerator. Cook shells in simmering stock until they turn color, about 10 minutes. Strain stock, discarding shells. Return stock to pan and keep hot.
Heat 1/2 cup olive oil and vegetable oil in paella pan. Add 4 cloves garlic and rosemary and cook over medium-high heat until garlic browns, about 5 minutes. Remove garlic and rosemary.
Add ribs and sausages and brown over medium-high heat, about 10 minutes. Remove to platter.
Add chicken and rabbit to pan and brown, about 10 minutes. Remove to platter.
Deglaze pan by adding 3 tablespoons tequila, placing pan over high heat until sauce bubbles and reduces, and scraping up solids stuck to bottom of pan. Carefully light remaining tablespoon tequila in ladle and immediately add to tequila in pan. Flame until all alcohol burns off.
Add onion, poblanos, 1/2 of bell peppers and small hot chiles to pan. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
In separate saucepan, cook artichokes in simmering water and lemon juice until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and cut in half. Add to paella pan and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove to platter.
Grind ancho chiles with remaining 2 garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons olive oil, cinnamon and salt to taste. Add to paella pan along with tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes. Add squid, peeled medium and head-on large shrimp and clams to pan, cover tightly, and cook just until shrimp are done and clams open, about 5 minutes. Remove seafood to platter.
Add rice to pan and cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 14 cups strained hot stock to pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
Return chicken, ribs and sausage to pan, cover and cook 15 more minutes, adding more stock if necessary. Return artichokes, medium shrimp, squid and clams to pan (reserving large shrimp for garnish) and cook 5 more minutes.
Add peas and 1/2 to 1 cup more hot stock to paella, cover and remove from heat. Set aside 5 minutes until ready to serve. Garnish with remaining strips of bell pepper, large shrimp and sprinkling of parsley.
Makes 12 to 14 servings.
Each of 14 servings contains about:
824 calories; 1,407 mg sodium; 202 mg cholesterol; 42 grams fat; 64 grams carbohydrates; 44 grams protein; 1.27 grams fiber.
* Bowl and platter from Cottura: Melrose Avenue and Century City Shopping Center, Los Angeles, and Fashion Island, Newport Beach.
2: WILD BUCKLE