Dazzled by the cover photograph on the ultra-elegant cookbook Poisson Coquillages et Crustacés — a scallop on the half-shell with a perfectly formed scallop shell pastry top — I snapped the book after a few seconds of flipping through the pages. So that's the source of this recipe, a French riff on classic paella.
Every page of this book has the most exquisite photos of the glories of French fish haute cuisine. Natch, the titles of the dishes are in French and the accompanying pics helped me grasp the names of all the dishes. But it wasn't later, until I decided to try my hand at Lotte Rôtie en Paella that I realized I was out to sea, so to speak. The entire book was written in French. Only French.
Lotte Rôtie (roasted monkfish) was easy enough. But further inspection revealed ingredients and instructions well beyond my ken. Now I try to play a good game with my French, but in reality my mastery (ha ha) of the language of love, diplomacy and fine cuisine is pretty lame. Actually fully crippled is a better description. Ask any Frenchman or woman. Once in Paris my fractured French had people mistake me for Italian. I'm proud of being American, don't get me wrong, but passing for a European neighbor seemed high praise to me.
But hope was not lost. My earlier treatise on 10 Rules for Spectacular Paella was a guiding light. But while freetranslations.com venu à mon secours à plusieurs reprises (has come to my rescue many times), the specificity of cooking terms and some of ingredients were too much even for this trusted site.
Luckily, there were enough words I understood to get started (lotte, moules, oignon, riz, poivron rouge, safran, d'huille d'olive, bouillon, sel, poivre) but I must confess that one ingredient in particular had me stumped.
Enter Paris's esteemed culinary instructor Paule Caillet from Promenades Gourmands . Her cooking classes and tours of the best markets and off-the-beaten track gourmet shops and specialized markets as a must, so I shot off an SOS email. Guess what? Encornets vidés et tailles en rondells are squid that are cleaned and sliced into rings. You just might thank me (or rather, Paule) for that tidbit someday.
But with the time difference I didn't get the squid update email in time for dinner so my recipe does without. Add your own for authenticity should you desire, or go it simple as I did.
My Pickled Seabeans were a perfect garnish. Now's a good time to mention I first had salicornia (seabeans) in a very elegant restaurant in Paris. You can check out the Pickled Seabean recipe here.
The recipe for Paella of Monkfish and Mussels is right here.
I love paella. Do you?