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A celebration dish

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Dr. Efren Vazquez

Dr. Efren Vazquez, a retired OB-gynecologist-turned-restaurateur, is well-known in the local culinary scene as simply Doc Boy. His restaurant, Café Juanita, is highly acclaimed by chefs and food critics. His food—a conglomeration of Filipino and Asian dishes he grew up with and learned from his travels—goes perfectly with the cozy, eccentric interiors of his restaurant. He named it after his mom, who was a very good cook, and most of his specialties in the restaurant were recipes she handed down to him. He tweaked them to cater to his own taste, and presented them in attractive, contemporary ways.

The basic flavors of the delicious dishes he grew up with have remained the same, however: rich, flavorful, no scrimping on the ingredients, served in generous portions. One of these happens to be Paella Valenciana. Teeming with shrimps, clams, chicken, pork, and chorizo, Paella Valenciana used to be a celebration dish in the Vazquez household, when Doc Boy was a child. Now, it continues to be a celebration dish for him and his guests at Café Juanita, who love to order Paella Valenciana for special occasions—or even no occasion at all.

‘PAELLA’ VALENCIANA
(Seafood, Chicken, and Pork Rice)

Paella Valenciana
  • 2½ cups short-grain or Arborio rice
  • 12 pcs mussels
  • Cornmeal
  • 5 cups chicken or fish broth
  • 1 pc bay leaf
  • 1 pc small onion
  • ½ lb. small shrimps, peeled, heads and shell set aside
  • ¼ tsp saffron threads or yellow food coloring
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 6 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1 small chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ lb. pork liempo, cut into serving pieces
  • 6 pcs medium-sized prawns
  • 2 pcs chorizo de Bilbao, cut thinly
  • ½ cup roasted and chopped red bell pepper
  • ½ cup roasted and chopped green bell pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 pcs medium-sized tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 tbsp. minced parsley
  • ½ cup green peas
  • 1 can pimiento
  • 1 pc lemon, cut into wedges
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and sliced
  1. Wash rice by shaking or rubbing it with damp muslin cloth.
  2. Remove sand from within the live mussels by putting them in salted cold water overnight.
  3. Combine chicken broth with bay leaf and onion. Boil shrimp heads and shell in it for 30 minutes. Strain and put 4½ cups of liquid back in the pot. Stir in saffron and white wine.
  4. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
  5. Season chicken and pork with salt, and fry in paella pan over high heat until golden brown; remove and set aside.
  6. Add prawns to pan and cook until pink. Remove and set aside.
  7. Sauté shrimps and chorizo slices in oil for one minute and remove. Set aside.
  8. Stir in bell peppers. Add garlic, paprika, tomatoes, and parsley, and cook for two minutes. Stir rice into paella pan and sauté until grains are fully coated with oil and transparent. Add broth mixture and green peas, and boil for five to 10 minutes or until mixture is no longer “soupy.” Adjust taste with seasonings.
  9. Stir in chorizo and shrimps. Arrange chicken, mussels, and prawns over the rice.
  10. Garnish with pimiento.
  11. Bake paella, uncovered, in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until rice is slightly undercooked.
  12. Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil, and let stand for five to 10 minutes before serving.
  13. Garnish with lemon and hard-boiled egg slices.

Photographs by Rafael R. Zulueta

This article originally appeared on Asian Dragon Magazine’s May–June 2015 issue, available for download on Magzter.

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