Enjoying the Food and Culture of the Island of Enchantment
In last week’s blog we were in the The Land of Enchantment; this week we’re visiting the “Island of Enchantment”, as Puerto Rico is popularly known. Immediately, I imagine hanging out with my girlfriends on the beach, in our large cabana, with delicious, refreshing drinks in hand. Enchanting, heavenly, paradise!
Discovered by Christopher Columbus who named the island “San Juan Bautista” and the capital city Ciudad de Puerto Rico (Rich Port City), traders and maritime visitors came to refer to the entire island as Puerto Rico, and the capital city became San Juan. After the arrival of Columbus in 1493, the island remained a Spanish possession for the next four centuries. No surprise then to find the heavily Spanish-influenced cuisine on the island.
What’s more Spanish and island-themed than paella?
Ingredients for 6 | Multiply by degree of hunger, divide by number of girlfriends!
- 4 ounces fresh chorizo, casings removed
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
- 1 cup arborio rice
- Pinch of saffron threads dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 1/2 pound cockles, scrubbed and rinsed
- 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) cooked chicken, preferably dark meat
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 scallion, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a 10-inch paella pan or ovenproof skillet, cook the chorizo over moderate heat, breaking it up with a spoon, until some of the fat is rendered and the chorizo is browned, 4 minutes.
Add the onion and garlic and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened and just beginning to brown, 8 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, rice, saffron with its liquid and the 1 1/2 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, without stirring, until the rice is al dente and the liquid is absorbed, 15 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil until it simmers. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add them to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, until pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to the rice. Discard the oil.
Wipe out the skillet. Pour in the wine and lemon juice.
Add the mussels and cockles, cover and cook, shaking the skillet, until the mussels open, about 3 minutes. Pour the mussels and cockles and their cooking liquid over the rice.
Stir the cooked chicken into the rice.
Cover and cook in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the paella is just heated through. Garnish with the parsley and scallion, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and serve.
Suggested pairing: A crisp, grapefruity Spanish Verdejo is perfect with paella.
Staying at a place where you aren’t able to cook? Here are a couple of great restaurant options when you’re enjoying your time away with your besties.
- Social | Did someone say “social?” My Girlfriendships® is all about social— and so is this beautiful restaurant on Condado Beach. It's the area’s newest eatery, and it’s where guests go to meet and connect over fresh, authentic food and drink. Their space and menu are inspired by people’s desire to connect—to be social.
The menu features locally inspired, globally influenced dishes that put a modern twist on classic Puerto Rican cuisine. Bistro-style breakfasts, refreshing oceanside dinners, unique entrees, late-night small plates; you’ll always find the right dish to compliment your mood. The master mixologists at Social are always looking for inventive ways to treat guests by creating handcrafted cocktails infused with the tropical fruits of the island.
Gather on the covered terrace and enjoy ocean views—it’s time to get Social. Their brunch menu includes Almond French Toast with Bourbon Maple Syrup, Caramelized Honey Almond, and Mixed Berries. A brunch dish I would not be able to resist!
Café El Punto | The best food + the best environment = this warm place within the walls of Old San Juan. In 1992, after experimenting with a small soda and juice kiosk for a year, the owners decided to open a cafe that served Creole-style food prepared only with fresh products and in the way that grandmothers did in traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. (Think rice cooked in a cauldron, beans stewed with sofrito, tostones, mofongos, and stuffed avocados.) Using this same principle, they developed their juice service and created blends that reaffirm that their products are natural and very tropical.
The menu of especialidades rellenas (stuffed specialties—who knew that the English translation of rellenas is “stuffed”?) is so tempting. My guess is that is what you and your girls will feel after a meal at Café El Punto!