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Paella

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#1 SobaAddict70

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 07:58 PM

What makes an authentic paella?

Does a paella have to be cooked in a special pan? (There is one, but I can't remember the name of it at the moment.)

How varied are paellas compared to risotto?

What kind of image is conjured up for you when you think about or hear about paella?

For me, there is paella valenciana (the traditional kind incorporating chicken, pork, shellfish and vegetables) and a vegetarian paella. I have made recipes which were a blurring of lines between paella and risotto. What are your favorite kinds and recipes?

Discuss...

#2 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 08:17 PM

Could it be called a....a....a paella pan?

#3 Jason Perlow

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 08:18 PM

Could it be called a....a....a paella pan?

It is in fact, called a Paella.
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#4 Dana

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 09:03 PM

I made a paella last week according to a Tyler Florence recipe, although all of them seem to be very similar. It came out ok, but not much depth of flavor, or really any particular flavor, in the rice. It seemed a bit greasy, but the chorizo I used was partly to blame. Is paella supposed to be a hightly flavored dish? Maybe I'm just used to eating the spicy rice dishes here in Cajun country. Anyway, I was somewhat disappointed. Can anyone help???
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#5 torakris

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 09:07 PM

I am actually teaching paella making at my cooking class tomorrow, interesting that you just mentioned it.
I have eaten paella outside of my home twice, once in Spain and once in Spanish restaurant in Tokyo.
I make it at home almost once a month, I have no idea how "traditional" mine is but I like it.
I make it with
chicken thighs (marinated in EVOO,white wine, garlic and lemon)
chorizo
shrimp (marinated in EVOO, garlic, rosemary, crushed red pepper flakes)
what ever shellfish are available (cooked in EVOO and white wine)
red peppers (sweet)
red onion
lots of garlic
green and black olives

The only seasoning is saffron and good chicken stock

Since I don't have a paella, I use a very large fry pan.

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#6 KatieLoeb

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 09:27 PM

I happen to have a paella pan, which I use on the stove top to start the dish, and then finish it in the oven, covered with foil until the saffron flavored broth/wine liquid is all absorbed. Paella is not a highly seasoned dish, but rather allows the ingredients to shine. I like to use chicken thighs, chorizo, calamari rings, shrimp and some clams and/or mussels as available. There have to be peas added toward the end and some roasted red pepper strips arranged across the top. Otherwise it's pretty much a "clean out the fridge" casserole, brought to a higher plane by the addition of the saffron to the broth. Pretty simple stuff. And always a crowd pleaser. There was a great version of paella done on FoodTV awhile back, with Padma Lakshmi hosting. She helped make a giant paella over a fire outdoors. I could practically smell it coming through the TV set! That recipe doesn't seem to be in the FoodTV recipe archives though. :angry:

Edited by KatieLoeb, 26 May 2003 - 09:34 PM.

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#7 Jaymes

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Posted 26 May 2003 - 09:33 PM

The first thing the Spaniards will tell you is that the type of rice is very important.

An absolute must is a round, short grain type, and the best of the best is Calasparra rice, grown in in the province of Murcia, southeastern Spain.

This is an excerpt from a brochure about Calasparra rice that I brought home from my last visit to Murcia:

"The rice is grown in ancient terraces built by the Moors and these fields are irrigated by the cold water of the River delta. It is a short grain rice, whose starch structure gives a much moister, stickier finished consistency to that of long grain. Traditional Spanish rice dishes use the great absorbency of their short grained varieties which were flavoured with whatever was fished, hunted or came to hand. The rice grain acts as a vehicle or sponge for all the flavours of the ingredients cooked with it."

#8 dave88

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 02:15 AM

Actually, Tyler Florence knows more about paella than anyone from Spain. In fact, anyone at FTV knows more about food than the rest of the world combined.

When I was living in Spain, the words "Cajun" and "Tyler Florence's recipe" came up so often, I thought I was high from the crocus stamen so described as "saffron" from the writers at FTV.

Please release me from this indignant state.

#9 Wimpy

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 03:11 AM

While the Paella Valenciana known to most is a mixture of meats and seafood, my understanding is that purists abhor the idea (although I must say it tastes good) and that in fact the traditional Arroz a la Valenciana contains snails found in the rice fields, and possibly rabbit (dont' remember just now).

Question: I alway season my paella indirectly, i.e. I make the broth well in advance (from shrimp shells if seafood, from chicken base if meat) and season it with salt and also once taken off the heat, throw in the saffron threads. I find that this way, the saffron flavor (and color) is distributed much more evenly than if I threw the threads into the pan during the actual cooking process.

So am I breaking any tenets of good paella making?

By the way, I find the squeezing of a bit of lemon over the finished dish to be quite essential to the taste. You?

Edited by Wimpy, 27 May 2003 - 03:11 AM.


#10 Carlovski

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 03:35 AM

It has always been my impresssion that an authentic Paella is a dish of the land, not the sea (i.e it is from where they grow rice, not where they fish!). It may contain eel taken from the river, but is not meant to be a seafood dish.
My guess is the 'popular' version is due to the fact that Spanish holiday resorts are on the coast, therefore tourists expect seafood, and it is also likely to be cheaper. They also want to eat 'Spanish' food, therefore they get Seafood Paella.
I have seen recipes for other 'Arroz' dishes which do contain seafood (Which are a lot closer to a risotto) whether they are more authentic I am not sure. I have had a dish with a lot in common with a paella, but made with small pieces of pasta instead.

On saying all this, I am not that much of a stickler for authenticity, I love Paella, and I like mussels and squid in my paella. And you are right, the lemon is essential (in my book anyway - especially when the pan is still hot enough that it sizzles).
As for how 'flavouful' it should be, while it probably shouldn't be spicy like a jambalaya, the best versions I have ever had have contained enough saffron to make your lips tingle - probably a bit cost prohibative in most places.

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#11 KNorthrup

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 12:57 PM

Mmmmm...paella.

I know the Spain/Portugal volume of the Time-Life Foods of the World from the late 60s has a large section, maybe even a chapter, on paella and how it's one of those things where half a dozen villages/regions claim origination and authenticity and they're all different. Will try to post a summary when I get home tomorrow if the thread is still active.

#12 fifi

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 02:25 PM

Paella looks suspiciously like jambalaya, except it has saffron. There are probably as many regional versions of paella as there are for jambalaya. And if you want to start a really serious food fight, just say one or the other is THE authentic one. I think it is good, ok, not something I would drive a significant number of miles for.
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#13 guajolote

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Posted 27 May 2003 - 07:04 PM

The original paella has snails, rabbit, and green beans. It also must be cooked outdoors over an open fire by a man.

I'm a fan of putting whatever you want into it though. In Catalonia they don't add saffron (they should). The rice Jaymes refered to is highly recommended, but arborio rice will do in a pinch. You could probably use the Japanese style Cal-Rose rice too, but the rice has to be short grained - not long grain.

The fact that so many of you use chicken thighs shows how smart people here are. I also like using cubes of pork shoulder. If you want to make a fancy paella put a cut up lobster in there.

Also, one other key thing is you must fry the rice before adding the liquid, like a risotto. All the liquid should be added at once though, and stirred very little.


#14 torakris

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 12:31 AM

I use Japanese rice with great success, (in a very small voice....) I use it in risotto too.

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#15 guajolote

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 08:37 AM

I use Japanese rice with great success, (in a very small voice....) I use it in risotto too.

I once read an article somewhere where they had Italian chefs use top grade Japanese rice and Japanese chefs used arborio. Both sides agreed that the others rice was great.

Just don't use long grain in paella.


#16 Bux

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 09:33 AM

It has always been my impresssion that an authentic Paella is a dish of the land, not the sea (i.e it is from where they grow rice, not where they fish!). It may contain eel taken from the river, but is not meant to be a seafood dish.
My guess is the 'popular' version is due to the fact that Spanish holiday resorts are on the coast, therefore tourists expect seafood, and it is also likely to be cheaper. They also want to eat 'Spanish' food, therefore they get Seafood Paella.
I have seen recipes for other 'Arroz' dishes which do contain seafood (Which are a lot closer to a risotto) whether they are more authentic I am not sure. I have had a dish with a lot in common with a paella, but made with small pieces of pasta instead.

I think it's easier to talk about a dish's origins than to debate the authenticity of any one version. What makes a dish authentic? My guess is that more paella is served to tourists in Spain than is eaten by the natives and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that most of that is prepared sous vide at the Paellador commissary and delivered to local restaurants to be reheated and served at inexpensive cafes an restaurants in Catalunya. In the town of Rosas, just a few kilometers from the very famous El Bulli, boil in bag paella appeared to be something a restaurant bragged about rather than hid, judging by all the signs announcing it in front of restaurants. Paellador introduced its product in the US market with ads in the NY Times indicating which restaurants were serving it. I've always been leery of ordering paella in the states, but like bouillabaisse, even a second rate inauthentic paella can be a great crowd pleaser if you're looking for delicious rather than authentic.

Paella is but one of many rice dishes in Spain and in most restaurants, I'd recommend most of the other rices dishes over paella if for no other reason than I feel they're made for local rather than tourist tastes. It's possible I've never had a great paella, let alone an authentic one, but I've never had one I didn't enjoy. Nevertheless, I'd opt for an "arroz caldosa" with lobster or mixed seafood most of the time. In a good restaurant the depth of flavor in magnificent. Pasta is a commonplace ingredient, particularly in Catalunya and there are versions of seafood and pasta that are parallels to the local rice and seafood dishes. I believe, Catalunya, the Balearic Islands and Sardinia were part of the same kingdom once.
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#17 phaelon56

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Posted 14 April 2004 - 11:48 AM

I'm reviving this thread in anticipation of getting back into paella preparation on a semi-regular basis. I've always enjoyed it at home and typically make enough to freeze up several containers to for later use as microwaved lunches and dinners.

The recipe I've been using for years is from the Jeff Smith's old Frugal Gourmet's syndicated newspaper column. I recently saw a rerun on FTV of the "Best Of Paella" episode with Tyler what's-his-name. Smith's method is nearly identical to the manner in which FTV showed it being prepared among the Cuban community in South Florida. That's fine and it is tasty but I'm intrigued by the enormous shallow paella pans that were shown when it was being prepared in Valencia Spain. I'd like to retain most of the ingredients I'm presently using but want to prepare larger batches - I'm sure the absorption of liquid issues that I have encountered on occasion are due to trying to use too large and deep a container for the amount of rice. I have a heavy duty paella pan by Le Crueset but it's small - perhaps 11 or 12".

I've been intrigued by the offerings at

PaellaPans.com

They offer traditional paella pans in a huge variety of sizes and also sell tripods and propane burners designed for use with the extra wide ones. I'm in search of feedback from people who may have tried the larger pans and can comment on the relative value of carbon steel vs. stainless vs. enamel finish in these products.

If you've used the extra large pans (22" is the size I'm thinking of), did you use it on two burners of a gas stove? On a Weber grill? With an outdoor propane burner? Also.... are there specifics tips and tricks in technique that help to ensure better results when making the jump to the larger pans?

I'm also open to discussions of new and different recipes. I have been using uncured Portuguese style chorizo that I was buying in Newark's Ironbound section but now that I'm back up here in the boondocks I'll be switching to a cured Chorizo that one of my local markets carries. Am also in search of feedback regarding the use of rabbit. My local farmers market has fresh rabbit available every Saturday morning and I'd love to find a good use for it. Does one use the entire rabbit and if so, how is it sectioned? If not... what sections should be used?

Last but not least - I'm using Spanish saffron. Is it worth seeking out Persian saffron? Is it that much better or more intense in flavor?

#18 thursdaynext

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Posted 14 April 2004 - 12:11 PM

I usually prepare paella outdoors, using a (non-stainless) steel pan. Mine is 18". This link gives some basic tips about outdoor cooking: tienda.com You can also use a gas grill, but it's a little trickier to finish the dish.

Edited by thursdaynext, 15 April 2004 - 07:14 AM.

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#19 GG Mora

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Posted 14 April 2004 - 01:20 PM

Bollocks. I just spent half an hour typing up a response and somehow lost it. :angry:

Paella happens a lot around here. My husband's father is from Valencia (family came here when Franco got going), so paella is a big deal. Everyone has a different approach – my FIL and his brother bicker endlessly about ingredients and method. My husband's brother makes an entirely different paella than does my husband, and my husband's paella has evolved significantly since he hooked up with me. All of them would agree, though, that the best paella is made in a carbon-steel pan and cooked over a wood fire.

Bottom line is, bigger pan needs bigger fire. You can fake it across two burners, but you'll have to finesse the pan (rotate it) for even cooking (DON'T stir it!). There is a paella-specific propane burner (called a paellero), available in a number of sizes, that will make the job easier. Tienda has them: paellero. FWIW, a paella pan is also called a paellero.

Our party pan is 26", and that usually gets cooked over a wood fire. My husband makes a low tripod out of three lengths of re-bar driven into the ground, then builds a fire using small sticks (about 1" in diameter). The small sticks are important: they let you stoke the fire up to a rage quickly and cool it down just as fast. It's important to level the pan, especially if it's a big one. Just fill it with water and place it on whatever setup you're cooking on, then futz until it's level.

Here's a photo of the fire setup:

Posted Image

I think that's a 22" pan. We had three going that night – the 26", this one, and a 16" without meat for the fish-eating "vegetarians".

Here's a finished paella, albeit from a different party:

Posted Image


Sorry if this post is a little disjointed. The first one was spot-on. :hmmm:

#20 SobaAddict70

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Posted 14 April 2004 - 01:37 PM

I remember an account of a paella being made in the Time-Life Foods of the World series, in the Spain volume to be exact -- ditto on most of the details above, except that in the center was a dish placed face down and another on top of that placed face up, with salad in it.

The idea was, that you'd eat the paella on the outside, alternately with bites of salad from the center, and when the salad was gone, take off the center plates and consume the paella in the center.

Soba

#21 fresco

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Posted 15 April 2004 - 03:15 AM

What about saffron? I've been making paella for years with it, only to read in Saveur a while back that in Valencia (and elsewhere in Spain) restaurants and people at home use food dye.
This was certainly the case with the paella I sampled on two separate occasions a couple of weeks ago in Seville. Is it a cost issue, or have people concluded that it just doesn't make enough difference to bother with?
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#22 phaelon56

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Posted 15 April 2004 - 05:59 AM

I can't comment on what tradition or even current practice calls for but having tried it made with turmeric for color and flavor and also with saffron - I really prefer it with saffron. I was getting Mexican saffron realy cheap but the latest container I got is (supposedly) of Spanish origin. You can't skimp on the saffron if you really want the flavor but it is a unqiue taste that IMHO cannot be duplicated with anything else - not even close.

#23 thursdaynext

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Posted 15 April 2004 - 07:22 AM

What about saffron? I've been making paella for years with it, only to read in Saveur a while back that in Valencia (and elsewhere in Spain) restaurants and people at home use food dye.
This was certainly the case with the paella I sampled on two separate occasions a couple of weeks ago in Seville. Is it a cost issue, or have people concluded that it just doesn't make enough difference to bother with?

It has got to be a cost issue- otherwise why even bother with the yellow dye? It appears that people expect saffron in the dish & would rather fake it than omit altogether.
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#24 fresco

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Posted 15 April 2004 - 08:28 AM

I'm not sure it has to be a cost issue. Saffron isn't to everyone's taste, especially if the cook happens to be heavy handed.
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#25 thursdaynext

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Posted 15 April 2004 - 12:50 PM

True- nothing worse than wasting enough threads to turn the dish bitter! I just wondered why one would bother to use yellow dye in that case? Must be the weight of tradition. :huh:
"A good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." Virginia Woolf

#26 phaelon56

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 09:48 AM

Long a fan of paella, I suspect that I've never had the "real deal", having never traveled to Spain or Portugal, but I do have a concept of what some variations are. For years I've made my own at home from a Jeff Smith recipe (the Frugal Gourmet). In general, the better the ingredient quality (e.g. using authentic Spanish paella rice rather than Canilla long grain rice, etc.), the better my results. I've always made a practice of doing a prolonged saute of the rice in the olive oil so it gets partially cooked and gains a golden lustre before adding the other ingredients. I've made it in vessels ranging from a big dented Revereware frying pan to a Cusinart 5.5 quart saute pan to an Calphalon paella pan. The only vessel I've never tried is an authentic carbon steel paella pan.

My taste preference is for a drier paella - one with less broth and a better texture to the rice. Much of what I've been served in the Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants in Newark NJ's Ironbound District has been heavy with broth and used cheap long grain rice. The taste was good but texture was lacking. On one occasion I had an outstanding dry paella at Iguana Cafe in NYC, a joint better known for its bar pick-up scene and downstairs dance floor action than for its Mexican food (yet it was actually the best paella I've ever had apart from my own).

A new bistro just opened near my current home. I know the owner both as a patron of her other restaurant and by virtue of a business connection (I installed their coffee brewing equipment). The menu features Spanish, Mediterranean and Moroccan inspired cuisine - a welcome change in a town overrun with chain restaurants and mediocre Italian joints.

I was thrilled to see Paella Mariscos on the menu - they're using real Spanish saffron (not the cheaper Mexican stuff that I use at home), real authentic Spanish paella rice, fresh peas, top quality shrimp etc. . My reaction to their paella after dining there is mixed. I'm not sure if it's an issue with their method of preparation or whether their style is closer to the authentic article and one I'm just not accustomed to.

The entire dish, particularly the rice, was nearly dark brown rather than golden in color and had a smokiness so overpowering that it almost seemed burnt. I was not able to taste the saffron - the nearly scorched character of the rice seemed to dominate. I'm inclined to go in and discuss it diplomatically with the chef but don't want to overstep my bounds.

So.... how smoky should smoky be and is "authentic" paella more akin to what they are serving or closer to what I've had elsewhere?

#27 Adam Balic

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 10:00 AM

Spain has some pretty bad paella in it as well.

I believe to be 'authentic' it has to be cooked by a man, outdoors using a paella. Everything else is open to debate. :smile:

#28 Stigand

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 02:48 PM

One place to find the strict rules laid out is an article in Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything. Adam is right about it having to be made outside; there are also arcane hierarchies of what ingredients are allowed and what aren't.

Having seen lots of paellas in Spain that clearly weren't cooked over a wood fire, stirred anticlockwise with a cedar wand by the light of moon etc., I assumed these rules were being exaggerated for the benefit of gullible foreigners.

But no. A Spanish friend of mine laughed at the thought that I might try to cook Paella inside, in England - even with the proper paella pan, the right rice, and the correct ingredients. And proceeded to explain to me The Rules, which sounded very much like Steingarten's.

Edited by Stigand, 01 February 2005 - 02:48 PM.


#29 AlexP

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 03:50 PM

I would not worry too much about what is authentic or what is not... Even in Spain people have different opinions. I am Spanish, and I have my opinions...

But anyway, for me the key elements are a good broth, generous portion of saffron, and the rice.

If you are interested in recipes, Penelope Casas has several books with recipes for different paellas. I even think she has one just dedicated to paellas, but you might be better off getting one of her general books with all types of recipes.

If you can read Spanish, a search online might give you plenty of recipes by Spanish cooks as well.

I have cooked paella many times, and I am never happy with the results, always finding a problem with something...

Alex

#30 Wolfert

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Posted 01 February 2005 - 05:16 PM

Id like to add my two cents and wear a journalist's hat: A few years back. a representative of the famous Valencian food market explained the difference between paellas and the family-style rice dishes called arroces in terms of gender. Paellas, she told me, are 'virile' dishes because they were originally prepared in wide steel pans in the countryside over a fire ( the smoke) by men who gathered snails, hunted rabbits, and caught duck or fresh watereels,.then cooked them with rice until the grains were plump with flavor yet still dry and slightly firm.
"Womanly' arroces, on the other hand, she told me with a straight face are meloso or soft and creamy. They are not cooked in shallow pans over a fire, but in deeper earthenware cazuelas.

Pimenton de la Vera can do a stand in for the 'smoky" aroma you want, but not necessary if you want to keep arroces and paellas in separate camps.

Edited by Wolfert, 01 February 2005 - 05:19 PM.

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