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Take a Paella Cooking Class in Barcelona, Spain

I could easily whip you up a creamy butternut squash risotto, prosciutto stuffed ravioli, crispy eggplant parmigiana or a luscious housemade tiramisu. I’d even throw in a made-from-scratch Limoncello. Do you notice the trend here? Cooking Italian is my specialty, which is great since my restaurant is…Italian. Change countries and I am lost.

At Cook & Taste in Barcelona, they teach you how to master Spanish meals that have traveled the world, including Paella. This would be my first ever experience with this signature dish.

A dozen of us entered the quaint and modern cooking school for a half day of learning, and sweet Maria was eager to teach. We barely had time to mingle before she escorted us to Boqueria Market to shop for our ingredients. This well-known market is a foodie haven; a mixture of delicious colors, smells and sensations. Our instructor expertly maneuvered through the booths and patiently answered every question.
Paella Cooking Class in Barcelona Our Paella Instructor

After returning with our fresh seafood and other fixings, Maria poured the complimentary wine and we started our attempt at creating a five course meal.

Calçots Con Salsa Romesco
Roasted Sweet Winter Onions with Romesco

Chupito De Sopa De Pimiento Rojo Al Aroma De Azafran Tostado Con Bacalao
Shot of Red Bell Pepper Soup Flavoured with Toasted Saffron and Cod

Pan Con Tomate
Tomato Bread

Paella De Marisco
Seafood Paella

Crema Catalana
Catalan Cream

Each of us would be participating in some part of the preparation process; peeling, chopping or sauteing. So far, I had been comfortably concentrated on the “wine drinking” portion of the menu. Truth be told, I was nervous that because my husband and I are chefs and restaurateurs that the expectation would be high. What if I cut off my thumb? Or burn a key component to this meal?

The lesson began with the preparation of the Calçots, which is a milder variety of green onion, reminiscent of a leek.

I was intrigued by the Romesco sauce that would be a companion to the Calçots, because the sauce included hazelnuts, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and day old bread, all Italian ingredients that I am familiar with. This could be one course with a high rate of success potential for me, meaning it would be difficult for me to screw up, but it was assigned to another cook.
Calcots Romesco Sauce at Paella Cooking Class
Calcot with Romesco

More drinking.

Next came the Pan con Tomate, Catalan tomato bread, or in my Italian world: classic bruschetta. I make this everyday at my restaurant, but instead of rubbing the bread with tomatoes, we just dice them and throw them on top of the toast. I got this. Nope. Another cook volunteered before me.

It’s okay, I really was quite happy watching and drinking my Spanish wine. Can I get away with just ogling from the sidelines the entire time?
Making Spanish Tomato Bread

I figured that making the next course, cod confit, could be easily done with a glass of wine in one hand and didn’t require any sharp objects. I could actually look semi-cool doing this.

The cooking part had already been accounted for, but I was able to plate the fish on the cute black spoons. I only dropped one piece of cod on the floor. I don’t think anyone saw.
Cooking Class in Barcelona Fish at Cook & Taste

Thus far, I had escaped much of the hard labor, but then Peter and I were assigned to paella duty, me cleaning artichokes and him sauteing. Now this is just like being at work, minus the pan throwing.

Paella is a Spanish rice dish that can include a variety of fish or meats. Saffron is an essential spice for the dish and is what turns the rice its golden color.

I had pretty high hopes for this paella, because I make risotto everyday. Isn’t that the same thing? No. No, it is not.

Paella lacks parmesan, heavy cream and the chicken broth is being substituted for fish stock.

Just keep peeling your artichoke and pretend to not be worried.
Annette White Prepping Paella  Paella Class in Barcelona
Shellfish at Cook & Taste

The others had finished their chores and all eyes were on us as they patently waited for the paella to be complete. They better not be drinking my wine.
Paella Cooking Class in Barcelona Cook & Taste Recipes

And when the paella was finished, it looked like a piece of artwork. We indulged.

My first bite made me worried that I had botched up the execution. Did I put too much fish stock? But, then the truth hit me. I don’t like paella.

Don’t get me wrong, this paella was made with the freshest ingredients, in a traditional process and the most fun environment. But, I am still partial to a creamy, cheese infested risotto.
Finished Paella

The finale of this show was the Crema Catalana, otherwise known as Creme Brulee or Burnt Cream. They are crusted with a crunchy, torched sugar.

And we got to torch them. Stand back and watch your hair.
Catalan Cream

In the end I was left with a new food culture experience, no burns, all my fingers intact and a wine buzz. A perfect afternoon in Barcelona for €65.

Have you taken a cooking class in another country? Do you like paella?

25 Comments

  1. I have never tried paella, I don't know if I'd like it. But, I do love creme brule with a firey burning burnt sugar passion, so that alone would have been enough for me!

  2. I LOVE creme brulee, I always try to add extra torched sugar on the top!

  3. I tried paella in Spain too.  It was gross….I just kept asking "Mas Sangria y Pan Por Favor."  I filled myself on free bread.  Sad

  4. It was a fabulous experience learning how to make such a traditional Spanish dish and experiencing the culture, but I think I stick to eating pintxos in Spain ;)

  5. I was hesitant when it comes to paella. I'm not even an enormous fan of risotto (I know, what's wrong with me?). But the paella I had in Barcelona was delicious. It was super creamy so I think we might have had something not entirely traditional, but I was totally on board. Unfortunately, I cannot find the name of the restaurant for the life of me. Sigh.

  6. I wonder if there is a division between risotto and paella lovers? Maybe taste buds only like one or the other ;)

  7. I had a vegetable paella in a California restaurant not long ago. It was delicious, but I'm not sure how authentic it was. I know I would have liked the Crema Catalana — and the wine.

  8. The Spanish wine and Crema Catalana are traditions I am willing to adopt ;)

  9. The paella in the pic looks rich and yummy.  A Venezuelan friend of mine made a delicious paella.  I like seafood alot.  I had paella in Malaga which I thought was excellent, but it didn't compare to the homemade version.  Even though I may agree that Paella is a bit  overrated, my guess is that if you try it a few more times, it will start to grow on your taste buds. :-)   

  10. I am absolutely not giving up yet, I need to try a few more to see if it is an acquired taste ;)

  11. I took a cooking class in  Brussels and had a gerat time. The food we made was surprisingly delicious, but I guess the chefs made sure that was the case. Otherwise, it would have been pretty bad for business, eh?
    Luckily, we didn't make paella. I don't like it either.

  12. I am going to try to take a cooking class in every Country I visit, it’s a great way to get in touch with the food culture. I bet the class was really unique in Brussels!

  13. I seriously could eat paella EVERY day!

  14. I could eat ice cream every day ;)

  15. I like paella but there is an art to that dish that is beyond me.  What a great way to spend an afternoon :)

  16. Such a great way to spend the afternoon in Barcelona, I did have so much fun!!

  17. e I totally agree with you. Paella, no matter with which products it was made (very fresh, expensive and tasty), is something that I don't like.
    I want creamy cheesy risotto ! :)

  18. I am not giving up on paella just yet, but I do love me some risotto :)

  19. Nooooooooooo — I can't believe you didn't like the paella!!! I love love love paella. I studied abroad in Spain and lived with a host family where the senora (as we called her) made the most delicious paella ever. I would stuff myself with it until I could barely move. I loved it. If I had to choose between paella and risotto I definitely am team paella! I can see though how if you're a die hard risotto fan, why paella wouldn't be your favorite. In case you're looking for a risotto recipe I made one a while ago and posted it on my food blog http://avocadopesto.com/2011/07/12/risotto-with-dried-porcini-mushrooms-and-gorgonzola/ (sorry if it's wrong to add a link in the comment – I thought it was appropriate here). 

  20. OOOH! That porcini risotto looks delish! Team Risotto!!!

  21. What I don't like about Paella is the risotto. So slimy! But I love the toppings.. the shrimps, the veges and the other sea foods..

  22. I like the seafood part too!

  23. Ixnay on the paella for me, too. Although when I downsized, I did keep the massive, beautiful hammered copper paella pan from Mexico; it's holding cooking magazines and travel catalogues now!

  24. What a creative way to use a paella pan!

  25. I went to a fancy wedding in Florida last year and that’s the first time I saw a risotto station. :-) At the moment I am team risotto, but I can’t remember having tried paella before. The one thing I don’t really like is creme brule and it looks like I am alone as a team for this one, according to these comments anyway. :-) There are just so many better desserts I can think to indulge in. ;-) I will come to your restaurant one day and order risotto.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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