Thursday, August 18, 2005

Summer Dinners

My brother, his wife Leila, and their two boys came up from the Bay Area for a visit last week. Leila, having read of our previous paella adventure, requested a repeat. They were arriving on Debbie's birthday (Happy Birthday, Debbie!), so we decided to have a Paella Birthday Party. We ended up having 10 people in total, so I made a big paella outside over a fire, as is traditional. Since I don't have a firepit, I did it on the grill. The idea is to build a fire (I used mesquite wood charcoal), cook anything that needs cooking before going into the paella such as chicken, and then put the paella pan on the fire as the coals are dying down. I did just that, grilling marinated chicken drummettes along with some squash and scallions that we served for appetizers. The 20" paella pan sold at Spanish Table fits a Weber kettle pretty well, though the handles stick out over the edges, so it doesn't actually touch the grill itself (which is probably fine).
Making paella outside is really pleasant on a warm summer evening as the sun gets low in the sky. Everyone had tons of paella, and we had enough left over to eat it the next day and give some to the neighbors. I made aioli to serve along with it. I tried a recipe from the César cookbook (the source of my paella recipe) at first, but it was disastrous--egg-yolk and garlic soup, really. I don't know what I did wrong, but I think food processors and I just can't make emulsions together. So I went back to the good ol' Lulu recipe: 2 egg yolks, a head of garlic, and 2 cups of olive oil, and some salt. Mash the salt and garlic in a mortar until smooth, add the egg yolks and mix until pale, then slowly, slowly, slowly drizzle in the oil while stirring constantly until it turns into a thick, homogoneous emulsion. If it's too thick add a small amount (1/2tsp at first) of water and mix until smooth again. Our friend Demi made a wonderful salad using salad greens from the CSA. Birthday cake came from Simply Desserts near work: chocolate cognac cake, which was a hit.

My brother had been jonesing for a good steak, and had a couple of steaks on the drive north that didn't quite scratch the itch, so I headed to the T&C. They had bone-in Ribeye steak for $7/lb, so I picked up a bunch of steaks, marinated them in mashed garlic, olive oil and salt a bit, and grilled them. Leila made fattoush (Lebanese salad with bread) and baba ghanoush. D. declared himself satisified, and he had leftover steak for breakfast.

On the restaurant front, we all went out for an excellent dinner at Ray's Café (upstairs at Ray's Boathouse) in Ballard, just down the road from the locks. They are really kid-friendly (we had five kids ranging from 4 to 12), the food is great, and the view is fabulous. You don't always get that combination--restaurants with that nice a view sometimes forget to serve good food. I had sablefish marinated in sake lees.

It was great to see everyone!