The Cooking Chronicles: Spanish Paella

Or perhaps more accurate – non-paella paella. I caught an episode of Michael Smith’s Chef At Home recently where he prepared a paella recipe that even I would eat, free of many ingredients that are unappealing to me, but what I thought were central to paella as a dish. The proteins consisted of chicken, sausage and shrimp, with nary a shell in sight. Saffron, another additive frequently used, was also missing from the recipe, but I was willing to overlook that in favour of experimentation.

The best part about the dish was its one-pot nature – once we had browned the sausages and chicken, everything, from the proteins, rice, tomatoes, and chicken stock, were thrown into the saute pan to cook together. Half an hour later, we had a fragrant, hearty meal.

Spanish Paella with Chicken, Shrimp and Sausage

Tomato was the dominant flavour of the dish, and I would have preferred additional notes present. Also, the shrimp had become so waterlogged over the last half hour that the texture was closer to that of lobster. Next time, I would be sure to add them closer to the end.

Overall, I was happy with the paella, and would make it again with some adjustments. The large pot lasted us several meals (both lunches and dinners), which meant less cooking over the week – always a plus!

The Cooking Chronicles: Olive Oil Popcorn

To accompany a viewing of Slumdog Millionaire (good movie; I liked the flashback motif), Mack and I decided to make stove-top popcorn.

My coworkers had been telling me about some of the ills of microwave popcorn, and after seeing Michael Smith whip up a pan full fairly easily, it didn’t seem difficult at all. We used his recipe as a guide, lightly coating the bottom of a skillet with olive oil, and tossing the kernels on top. It turned out we should have chosen a deeper skillet, as the popped kernels quickly took up all available space underneath the lid.


We tossed the popcorn with some olive oil, salt, and chilli powder. Whether it was my heavy hand, or an extra-hot version of powder, we didn’t know, but our end product was a lot spicier than we had intended. Still, it’s something we will make again, with different seasonings.

The Cooking Chronicles: Coconut Crusted Salmon

Salmon seems to be my default weekend meal – somewhat fancier than a stir-fry I would typically make on a weekday, but still an easy and no-fuss meal.

We decided to walk to get the needed groceries for Michael Smith’s Coconut Crusted Salmon last weekend, which meant a short trek to Safeway. We usually get our fish from Save-On Foods, but were willing to give Safeway a try. Turned out they didn’t have a great selection – their filets in the cooler were quite a bit larger than what we were used to when compared with Save-On, and were only skinned on one side. We knew we wouldn’t be back for our salmon needs, but on that occasion, swallowed our grocer choice and bought a large filet to share.

The recipe was easy to prepare- we ended up just patting three sides of the salmon with coconut instead of using a Ziploc bag as directed. While the salmon was in the oven, I prepared some vegetables and rice to serve alongside the fish.

The fish came out with a nice crust, and was perfectly cooked on the inside – flaky and tender. The nuttiness and crunch of the coconut made the main seem a bit like a dessert course, but Mack and I both thought it was missing an accompanying sauce. I think Trish Magwood’s mango salsa or a pineapple chutney would make a nice side.


Coconut Crusted Salmon

Comparing recipes, I liked the Roasted Salmon recipe I made a month ago better, but I’m sure our experimentation with salmon varieties will continue!

The Cooking Chronicles: Strawberry Shortcake

Having seen strawberries advertised in flyers over the last few weeks, I was drawn to Michael Smith’s recipe for Strawberry Shortcake in a recent edition of the Globe & Mail.

I tried my hand at it on Monday night, and was sorely disappointed with what was by far the blandest dessert I’ve ever made. The nutmeg-flavored biscuits and sweetened strawberries were passable on their own, but paired together with the vanilla-scented whip cream, ended up tasting all wrong.

Though I could detect the difference in the cream versus butter-based dough (which resulted in a lighter, cake-like consistency) the biscuit itself doesn’t lend itself well, in my opinion, to dessert, and fares better as a brunch item. The whipped cream would have benefited from a sweeter additive like honey, but it probably wouldn’t elevate this dish to second-attempt-worthy status.

I may end up retreating back to my fail safe panna cotta to pair with other fresh berries this season.

Strawberry Shortcake