Sorry for the delay. Had a very busy spring. And although our summer has continued to be busy, I have been craving publishing a post. Luckily, I have some great material.
It has become a bit of a tradition between Kelly and I to go camping over our anniversary. Or near it. This year our anniversary landed on a Tuesday. But like the prior two years, we packed up and went camping. He hit up our favorite camping place out here, Shenandoah National Park.
The best part of camping for Kelly and I is cooking. And we really hit one out of the park this past weekend.
We have made paella at home several times but never attempted it why camping. Why? I am not sure. All I know is that I now regret every other meal we have made while camping prior to trying to make paella.
With any campfire cooking you first have to start a fire. Since our Saturday day hike was shorter than normal we decided to start a fire the old fashion way. Like real old school. You can see Kelly here with a flint and steal (which was an anniversary gift!).
With a little help and some TLC we eventually had a perfect fire for cooking our paella. A note for anyone who is cooking over a campfire. A good camping fire takes time. This one below is 3 hours in. You need large, hardwood pieces of wood and you need to go through several burnings to get a nice layer of coals. The fire below isn’t quite ready, but about 30 minutes after this photo it was.
While the fire did its magic Kelly and I got to work in our camp kitchen. This meal required no use of the camp stove. Which is always a plus. Not that we dislike using the camp stove, it has made some camping trips much more bearable, but not using the camp stove just feels more authentic.
A note on paella rice. It can be hard to fine. You want Bomba rice. The once place that never fails to come through for us is Williams-Sonoma. Although a bit on the pricey side, it is very much worth it.
This paella did not have a lot of veggies. Just leeks, lots of leeks. One item we couldn’t find before we left was Spanish chorizo. We substituted Mexican chorizo. If you have ever had Spanish v. Mexican chorizo you know there is quite a difference. Mexican chorizo as you can see below doesn’t really hold its shape and has a very strong flavor that is distantly Mexican. You can use just about any kind of sausage in paella and although this mexican chorizo was not perfect, it still worked well.
Since we were camping and cooler space is often a premium (mostly we need ice space for cocktails!) we opted for a more simple paella. Our only seafood ingredients were cod and shrimp. We froze both solid before going camping to ensure they would keep the one day in the cooler before being cooked. Both came out perfectly thawed and cool.
We use shrimp with shells on. We like this for two reason. The shells seem to give a cook a little more flexibility in cook time and what I think is more important, the shell adds flavor to the stock paella in general.
A note on the stock. We did not make seafood stock while camping but instead opted to make our own stock with water and seafood base. The seafood base was purchased from Penzy’s spices here in Rockville, MD and you add about one teaspoon for every cup of water. Bonus points that Penzy’s is from Milwaukee. I would say that one of our largest joys after moving to Maryland was discovering that Penzy’s had a shop out here. It is like a taste of Milwaukee in Maryland.
Once you have everything in place for the paella, the hard part begins. Not touching the paella. You don’t touch it. Don’t stir it, don’t poke it, don’t talk rude to it, and don’t even think about scraping it. All you do is rotate it every few minutes (gently!)
The reason being a good paella has what is called socarrat. In essence a crust on the bottom. Ours didn’t get a great crust, but it was good anyway.
Of course if you don’t have sangria, beer is a great compliment with paella.
I love this photo because it looks like we finished it! We didn’t. Between two of us, we would have been sick had we ate that much paella. A glorious sickness, but sickness nonetheless. We took half of this home and had it for dinner Saturday night. When camping, always bring tupperware!
This is good and I won’t be surprised if we make paella almost every time we go camping.