Castilla la Mancha! Yeah! That’s the holiday everyone’s been talking about!!
Ok, probably not. As far as I can tell, Castilla La Mancha is a local independence celebration in Spain and who knows how they celebrate. I can barely find mention of the holiday, let alone celebration instructions and suggestions.
However, the holiday happens today, we have a killer paella recipe and I have all day to bake flan; so, in my world Castilla la Mancha is a celebration of Spanish-ish food. And who are you to say it isn’t?
It’s a good thing I had all day because flan is a time intensive undertaking. I used Pioneer Woman’s blog recipe here, eliminating all pumpkin and spices because who puts pumpkin in flan. Seriously?
I mostly followed the recipe for the caramel except for the part where she said not to take phone calls or answer the door or breathe after I start melting the sugar and instead I surfed the internet, updated my facebook status and occasionally peeked in on the caramel. Turns out the Pioneer lady might be a little codependent because the caramel did fine without me hovering. Most things do:
Then I made the custard without aid of a blender because in a kitchen outfitted with such specialty items as silpat mats and 12 different kinds of flour, my sister doesn’t own a blender. How is this possible? Does she not drink margaritas? Who even knows how people operate up here in the Northwest. For crying out loud, we whipped cream by hand the other day. By hand! The Pioneer lady would be proud.
The custard went fine without a blender; though the instructions to whisk eggs without incorporating air are akin to the Zen riddle about one hand clapping. How close do I have to be to Nirvana before that’s possible? After straining the custard about 200 times into every bowl in the house, it looked smooth and creamy (and air free!) so I looked at the instructions about baking and read these instructions:
1. Pour custard into the ramekins.
2. Put the baking dish in the oven.
3. Put the ramekins in the baking dish.
4. Pour hot water around ramekins.
5. Cover the ramekins with foil.
Basically, the Pioneer Lady wants me set up ramekins of custard and fill a baking pan with boiling water in the heat blast of an open oven door while my face bursts into flame. And not even a mention of burn cream or 911. She’s a sadist, that one.
Deciding against setting my face on fire, I rearranged a few of those instructions and then spent some time with Jillian Michaels while everything cooked, after which I checked on everything and extended the cooking time. And then extended the cooking time again. It took about twice as long as the Pioneer Lady recommended, but who’s counting when it turns out beautifully?
After flan (and Jillian Michaels), Paella was a snap. Paella, like most good campesino food, is a collaborative effort of random ingredients and many people. I had a boyfriend once who asked me what food I liked to cook most and I said paella. I attribute that truth to the demise of our relationship because he preferred French and specialty and elegant but I like peasant food.
I love one-pot meals. I love recipes with a couple basic ingredients and a lot of leeway for whatever you have in the fridge or your garden. Paella is a classic this way. Do you have rice, tomatoes, onions, saffron and chicken stock? You’ve got paella.
Add meat. Or don’t. We added chorizo, crab and chicken. Add any vegetables you’ve got on hand. We put in asparagus, green beans and zucchini but you should eat whatever you like. This is the DIY choose-your-own-ending meal. Really. Just make sure you have a good wine to drink with it:
Go. Make Paella and flan and anything that makes you lick the plate.
That’s the spirit of Castilla La Mancha.