A feast for our fathers
(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)
Dad’s big day is coming and it’s got me thinking about climbing. My kids climb on their dad a lot.
When they’ve given up on walking or need to see over a crowd, it’s on his shoulders they climb. They climb on his back to start a wrestling match or play horse. For big bear hugs, they climb into his lap and into his arms. If they hear an odd creak in the night, they climb into the knowledge that he’s protecting our entire house. They climb because he is the biggest, strongest, bravest person they know.
Watching my kids look up to him is one of my happiest treasures. He’s their own personal hero. This looking up enables the other type of climbing that dads encourage: achieving success in our own lives. Skills our dads share become stepping stones to living full lives. Moreover, dads often set high expectations for their kids – giving their offspring a positively motivating bar to reach.
From my dad, I learned to dive into a pool, ride a bike and drive a car. He taught me how to find a stud in a wall and how to free a jammed garbage disposal with a broom. My dad taught me how to both question and respect authority. Because of him, I know to be suspicious of anything that seems too good to be true but also how to negotiate the very best deal.
For these, and countless other things he taught me, my dad is part of my everyday life and my proudest achievements.
How do we thank dads for all they do and all they teach us? I think being people they can look up to is the big answer. But I have some immediate ideas for appreciating the dads in our lives on Sunday, and they involve food and wine.
Arriving smack dab in the middle of June’s perfect grilling weather, Father’s Day is a fantastic time to throw dad an outdoor dinner at home.
A big hit in our house is paella on the grill. My Los Altos grill-master friend and dad of three, Michael, first showed me the way to make paella on the grill last year. His version is a true showstopper, with all manner of meats and fish included in the one-pot Spanish feast. My version is slightly simpler, using just andouille sausage, bay scallops and clams. What both versions have in common are layered spices and binge-worthy socarrat – the crispy, crunchy rice that is a signature of the dish.
Paella is a recipe you can personalize as you get comfortable making it. You’ll need a large paella pan. Mine is a basic version, and is the same pan I use for making paella on my stove. When you begin to master the basic paella technique, you can experiment by changing the proteins or going all vegetarian
A basic paella spice mix comprises paprika, garlic powder, saffron, salt, black pepper and a pinch of clove. My full recipe is available to use. The luxurious combination of sausage and seafood makes the meal ideal to pair with a chilled rosé or California Pinot Noir.
If the grill is exclusively your dad’s domain, head indoors to make low-and-slow ribs in the oven. A 2-pound rack of baby back ribs will need roughly 2 and 1/2 hours to cook at 300 F.
Like paella, ribs are all about the spice. A pinch of cayenne, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and garlic powder, and a heaping spoonful of cumin and brown sugar, all mixed with olive oil, is a great way to go. Rub the flavorful combination all over the meat and let marinate for an hour or so before cooking.
To complete the celebration, pour dad a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or Champagne, depending on his drinking preferences, as both the red and the bubbles are wonderful with the savory, rich ribs.
For the dad who does all the cooking, give him a night off by ordering pizza. Elevate the level of the boxed meal by gifting him a bottle of Primitivo. The Italian equivalent to Zinfandel, Primitivo has just the right amount of acidity to handle tomato-based pizza sauces. As a wine with good spice qualities, Primitivo will hold up against a meat-lover’s pizza if your dad is the carnivore type.