Usually when I want to recreate a dish I’ve had in a restaurant, I’ll go back and study their online menus to get a feel for the ingredients (at least the ones that are listed) and try to figure out a recipe using that and possibly other recipes that may be similar in execution, but there is something to be said from diving into a cookbook provided by one of your favorite restaurants. I’ve written of my love for Barcelona (the restaurant) before, and when they released a cookbook that features many of their signature dishes, it was a foregone conclusion that I’d end up getting my hands on a copy sooner or later. It arrived in the form of a birthday gift from my parents and I eagerly dove into it while on the infuriating train ride home (a trip I will relate in more detail on another day), picking out dishes to make when we finally made it home.
It shouldn’t be surprising that we’ve already started cooking our way through the book—not only were tapas the perfect meal to have after a day of traveling; they were the perfect meal idea for a Saturday of entertaining our friend L a week later. Presenting her with the book upon returning home from brunch, she was directed to pick out a few for us to make for dinner that night. Unsurprisingly, the chorizo with figs (apparently the closest thing to a top seller at the restaurant) was her primary request, but she also picked out the herbed goat cheese and wild mushroom dish and I requested the mussels in a spicy tomato sauce—something I had wanted the week prior, but was wary of purchasing shellfish on a Sunday. Four different tapas dishes seemed reasonable enough for us to nibble on as the evening wore on; after all, we only had our brunch meals to go on and we spent much of the afternoon traipsing around the neighborhood–surely we’d be fine, no?
Well, the mussels al diablo had to wait–not only because our eyes were much larger than our stomachs, but because I committed a crime of mussel-cide: I suffocated the mussels we bought at the fish market at 108th and Amsterdam because they were wrapped in plastic for far too long. I didn’t realize this until the next day, at Fairway, when the fishmonger handed me my bag of two-dozen littlenecks unbound to allow them to breathe in order to try the recipe again, albeit with clams because I was put off by how “delicate” I found mussels the last few times I tried them. Besides, cleaning was easy: I filled a bowl with cold water, placed the clams in the bowl in an even layer, and let the sediment rise to the top.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though, because that was Sunday’s dinner. On Saturday we stuck with the mushrooms (which were gently sauteed, then simmered with beef broth to become rich and meaty, and then mixed with thyme and goat cheese when served) and the chorizos, which Michael has found to be extraordinarily easy–even more so than the chorizos in red wine we usually favor. There was also a last-minute decision to include a calamari dish that we had enjoyed during one of our most recent visits to the restaurant that provided Michael an opportunity to redeem himself after his less-than-successful ceviche from New Year’s.
As much as I enjoy a plate of fried squid, it’s nice to take a break from all of that breading and enjoy the squid for what it is, and this preparation does not disappoint. There’s not much to this on the surface: the ingredient list is short (just some oil, crushed red pepper, and some garlic), but the trick is to cook it with two pans–one very hot to start, and one less so to finish. It was certainly better than the ceviche incident of
Despite exercising some restraint in what we made, we were still faced with leftovers of both the mushrooms and the chorizos, and given how we hate wasting food, knew we’d have to figure out how to use them over the next few days. As a result our tapas dinner stretched over both nights, and the mushrooms were saved to be tossed with fresh pasta later in the week, in an effort to recreate yet another recent restaurant dish (albeit not from Barcelona).
As for Sunday’s meal: well, my one complaint was that we didn’t buy enough bread to sop up the glorious spicy, briny tomato sauce–this was better than any red clam sauce I’ve ever tasted, and I definitely want to adapt this to go over pasta soon.
Overall, I’m thrilled with this book, and I have a feeling it will get covered in cooking splatters sooner than later as we work our way through it.