Saturday, May 28, 2016
Minnie's Cuban Paella by Minnie Miñoso - from "Home Plate Cookbook" (1998)
12 clams in the shell
6 cups water
2 1/2 lbs. fresh shrimp
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 tbsp. butter
1 cup white rice
1 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 onions, finely chopped
2 green bell peppers, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, finely grated
Place clams in 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and red pepper; boil five minutes. Drain, reserving 2 1/2 cups stock.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Add rice and reserved stock; stir well. Add salt, bay leaf and bouillon cube; simmer 25 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pour remaining 2 tablespoons oil into a 6-quart Dutch oven. Add garlic, onion and green pepper; sauté 10 minutes.
Add cooked shrimp, clams and rice mixture along with tomatoes and olives; stir to blend. Pour all ingredients into a Paella pan or oven-safe serving dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake 10-15 minutes.
Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 6-8 servings.
Legendary White Sox outfielder Minnie Miñoso -- the Cuban Jackie Robinson -- was held in such esteem that the better part of the city of Chicago went into mourning when he passed away in 2015.
Miñoso's MLB career began way back in 1949 with Cleveland. He spent most of his prime with the Indians and especially the White Sox, for whom he played for most of the 1950s. He went on to attain unequalled status as the only man to play in the majors in five different decades.
The nine-time All Star had his number 9 retired by Chicago, where he is affectionately known as Mr. White Sox. After his final MLB appearance in 1980, he worked as a coach and ambassador for the Sox organization for the rest of his life.
You can imagine my excitement at discovering one of Minnie's very own recipes in the Home Plate Cookbook. At first glance, "Minnie's Cuban Paella" looks like it might even be a personal, hand-drawn recipe from the old country. Right until you get to the cheddar cheese.
Cheddar cheese on top of a paella? That seemed an unlikely ingredient, so I asked my good friend Iron Chef Español for his opinion. He immediately declared that putting cheddar on a paella is something only a heathen would do.
So out of curiosity I started googling around for "Cuban Paella" and "Cheddar Paella". One of the search results uncovered this old McCall's Great American Recipe card from 1973, with the exact same recipe.
So the truth comes out! Alas, "Minnie's Cuban Paella" was just a copy of an Americanized recipe for homemakers of the 70s.
I guess one can still imagine Minnie enjoying this dish, perhaps as an easy-step paella to make at home, which it is. Don't get me wrong, paella is still a multi-step process, but the end result of this one was decent enough. After 10 minutes in the oven, the cheddar melted in between the grains of rice for a pleasantly gooey result, even if not authentically Cuban or even Spanish.
Ahh, it was fine, no need to be so critical. If I had to do it again, I'd ditch the clams and throw in some spicy chorizo instead.