The foundation of all Western rice-based entrees, paella is Spain’s crown dish. Regional varieties offer some with all seafood, some with surf and sky, some even with rabbit. But the three things that unite all paellas are saffron, fresh ingredients (from sources as local as possible, preferably), and an open flame. Cooking on a stove top instead of in the oven results in the desired texture of rice with just slightest bit of firmness.
48 oz. of organic chicken broth
3 cups of arborio rice
3 cups of water
3 bone-in chicken thighs (pull the skin off yourself; you want them skinless, but save the money)
1 lb. of large, cleaned, peeled, raw prawns
18 farm-raised black mussels
12 farm-raised little neck clams
1 1/2 cups of white wine
12 oz. of frozen peas
12 oz. of kielbasa
5 organic carrots
5 stalks of organic celery
1 large onion
1 large red bell pepper
6 whole garlic cloves
4 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs. of saffron threads in 1 cup of warm water, having soaked for at least 3 minutes
2 tsp. of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. of cracked black pepper
Roughly chop the carrots and celery. Peel and halve the onion. Cut one of the onion halves in half again, and put this with the carrots, celery, and garlic cloves in a large stock pot with 2 tbs. of olive oil over medium heat. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to caramelize.
Deglaze the stock pot with the wine. Add the chicken stock, saffron, saffron water, and 3 cups of water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and let simmer for no more than 30 minutes; too much time can cause the vegetables to make the stock bitter. Strain the vegetables when done and discard the solids, leaving just the liquid.
In a large paella pan, heat the remaining 2 tbs. of olive oil on medium heat. Put the bone-in, skinless chicken thighs on the surface and begin to lightly brown the meat, about 5 minutes on each side. In the meantime, remove the seeds of the bell pepper, then evenly dice the pepper and the remaining onion.
Move the chicken to the side of the pan, and add the bell pepper and onion. Cook for about 7-8 minutes until the onion is translucent and the pepper softened, but you don’t want to brown these yet – if you see them starting to brown, reduce the heat.
Cut the kielbasa in 1″ chunks, and add to the paella pan. Let cook for an additional 4 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan so that it is easier to stir in the rice. It is essential that the rice grains all have the chance to be evenly coated by the pan oils, and ingredients need to be evenly mixed. Nestle and somewhat submerge the chicken back into the rice, evenly spaced, after the rice has been sufficiently coated.
Pour in 2 1/2 to 3 cups of the stock. Bring back to a simmer, still on medium heat, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the rice is about three-quarters of the way cooked. Keep adding stock through those 15 minutes, with 1/2 to 1 cup at a time to maintain the rice continuously submerged.
When the rice hits the three-quarter mark, add the frozen peas. Also add the seafood, slightly nestling it similar to how you placed the chicken. Whatever stock remains, add that as well. Cover the pan with foil (it may require a few pieces to span the width). Let sit for 10 minutes more, then remove from heat and let sit for an additional 5 minutes, still with the foil cover.
Peel away the foil and serve immediately.
You can count on variety when you go to Off the Grid. Small mobile food businesses from all over the Bay come together with the help of this organization, which coordinates space, permits, garbage service, and live music. On a section of 10th St next to the Oakland Museum of California, every Friday from 5 to 9 pm admission to the gallery is half price, local beer and wine are featured, and music has an actual stage and lighting. With the acoustics of the buildings, the music floated all the way up from the bottom to the top of the block, entertaining all the diners out for the evening.
Kasa Indian, Sanguchón, Señor Sisig, WhipOut!, The Architect’s Kitchen, and KoJa Kitchen were half of a dozen vendors with broad and popular menus. We confess, we got here with a little less than two hours before closing, so we didn’t get to try everything but we did what we could.
Zach hasn’t had Indian food except for once, so he’s not an expert by any means on typical flavors of the subcontinent, but August felt the spices used by Kasa Indian were as authentic as they get. In fact, we were so swept up with the flavor, August forgot to snap a picture of the truck, so thank you, Kasa Indian, because we’ve borrowed one of your images for our collage above. And clearly, thank you for an impressive entree. The masala sauce was spicy and rich over the tender, juicy chicken. For how simple spinach and potato may seem, the palak aloo was deep in flavor. The crew is definitely well trained in their preparation of Indian cuisine, because even the pickled onion and fresh, refreshing cilantro sauce were tasty condiments.
Sanguchón offers up sandwiches with Peruvian flair. A sanguchería is a Peruvian sandwich shop, traditionally serving the types of sandwiches you might want at late hours of the night after lots of drinking. We can imagine that this pan con chicharrón would win favor with native peruanos. In fact, it is pretty special indeed because we noticed a plaque indicating that Sanguchón is a Peruvian ambassador in recognition for its representation and dedication of this sandwich with sliced pork loin, fried yams, marinated onions in lime juice, and crema de rocoto. Another type of sandwich we picked up here was the buttery, light cookies with dulce de leche. These were a nice treat for each of us when we got home. If you’re looking for an all-in-one meal with meat, vegetables, and bread, this is the thing to try.
The Filipino burrito from Señor Sisig was familiar in the basic burrito sense, but there were a few elements that made it new and zesty. The adobo garlic rice, pinto beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, and cilantro cream sauce combined for a slightly spicy yet slightly sweet flavor mix, with savor throughout as it was packed with garlic. This is a mild fusion of a Mexican-American burrito with Southeast Asian ingredients, so it is perfect for those with a craving but wanting to jazz up the taste experience. The truck spends a lot of its time in San Francisco during lunch, so keep an eye out.
August wished the split pea fritter slider from WhipOut! was bigger. Sure, she could go back in line to get more, but the line was long since the food is that good, and she still needed room for items from other trucks. Being a vegetarian option in respect to Oakland Veg Week, of which Sunday is the last day (we had no idea it was going on until tonight), this was super delicious and further proof that vegetarian food isn’t always bland. The patty was made from split peas and risotto rice, with a crispy exterior and creamy yet filling center. The mild Serrano relish was sweet and tangy, and the garlic aioli added an extra richness. Mustard greens were a surprising lettuce alternative, and the delicate brioche bun was perfect for keeping it all together.
ArKi (The Architect’s Kitchen) is all about fried chicken. We almost got individual pieces of chicken, but we wanted to see what they would serve it with; we tried it in a sandwich called The Works. All the sandwiches come on Acme Torpedo rolls, and The Works boasted coleslaw, hash browns, and sweet n’ spicy aioli. This is likely a college-student favorite.
Zach was lured to the KoJa Kitchen truck when the kamikaze fries flashed on the flat-screen display, then August saw the mochimisu. He enjoyed the crosscut fries with Korean barbecue beef, sauteed onions, kimchi, green onions, Japanese mayonnaise and the house’s special red sauce. The mochimisu, though, blew both of us away. It was definitely a traditional tiramisu as far as the main ingredients go, but the one variance was the addition of chocolate mochi. The mochi soaks up the coffee-flavored alcohol, blending in taste-wise with traditional tiramisu, yet the gummy texture is a layer of newness and innovation that made this dessert really stand out. Heads up, tiramisu lovers! Track down this truck and try it for yourselves.
We’ve gone to two Off the Grids and among 20 trucks total now, we only saw one repeat. We are very much looking forward to future jaunts in order to try more of the Bay’s diverse foods from some very creative minds. High five to the band, you were really spirited and maintained your energy through the evening! And thank you, Off the Grid crew, for keeping a big supply of chairs so that anyone who wanted to sit, could. Being able to sit when eating makes a big difference in the enjoyment of the food. See you guys again soon!