Oh, it’s been a week for the pair of us, for very different reasons. We’re taking solace in the fact that tonight we’re headed to Michael’s favorite place in the city to find rejuvenation and restoration, otherwise known as Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. If you can’t tell, restoration for us comes in a plate of delicious barbecue (well, for me, it’s their phenomenal Cuban sandwich platter and the smoked wings) because it’s food that we really can’t make ourselves, at least not properly with a smoker or outdoor grill. We’ve kept our eating out at a minimum lately for a variety of reasons, but it’s finally time to indulge in food that we can’t make ourselves in our little New York apartment. That’s not to say, of course, that we haven’t been enjoying ourselves on that end as well.
Take last weekend: our awesome friend VP visited us from Jersey for dinner, and we saw it as the perfect excuse to make the anniversary dinner that wasn’t to be, i.e. roasted veal short ribs. With more than enough time allotted to order them in advance, we knew we’d have that as the centerpiece of the meal; the question that remained, however, was what to serve with it. The one issue I have with the Les Halles Cookbook is that it features very few side dishes aside from those that are potato-based. Frankly, if I’m going to get potatoes at Les Halles, I want their fries, and as we’ve discussed before that can be a mildly terrifying task to carry through at home.
So what to do? I suggested serving the ribs with couscous as it would be quick and easy to do, but something a little more substantial was in order–and that’s how I came to making two more taps from The Book of Tapas. Since the ribs needed a good two and a half hours to cook, I figured that making and serving the tapas would make for a substantial-enough appetizer without filling us up too much.
The two here served us very well, though one was honestly a little tastier than the other. The mushroom-anchovy fricassee was simply all right when compared to the Idiazabal tapa–I made the mistake of using Woodear mushrooms in my mushroom mix, and they threw off the texture completely. It wasn’t inedible or anything, but after the indulgence of both the Idiazabal as well as a serving of queso Valdeón (a Spanish blue cheese that will convince you that you can like blue cheese even if you think it’s too much), we were left with some sizable leftovers. I think we all couldn’t help but compare it to the wild-mushroom and herbed cheese tapa from Barcelona, and since the latter is so rich and savory, anything more subtle will inevitably appear wanting in flavor.
As for the other tapa of the evening, well, this is a recipe for anyone looking for something simple to serve during the upcoming holiday season while your various roasts have at it in the oven. Idiazabal cheese (similar to Manchego, but a little more robust) is sliced into wedges and marinated in milk and crushed peppercorns for a half-hour, infhsing the cheese with a little more flavor while making it easier to sink your teeth into. In the meantime, you simply fry a sliced onion in oil until the pieces become nice and crispy, drain on paper towels, and you put a little cheese and a little onion onto a slice of baguette. The recipe also called for a drizzle of honey which I forgot to add, but I would wager that a little sweetness would make this dish even more delightful–but if you forget it too, no one will be the wiser.
Idiazabal Tapa with Fried Onions
adapted from The Book of Tapas
serves 3 as an appetizer
- 1/3 lb of Idiazabal or Manchego cheese, sliced into wedges
- 2 Tbsp lightly cracked peppercorns
- 1/2-1 cup milk (you need enough to submerge the cheese)
- 6 slices (on the bias) from a French baguette
- 1/2 onion, sliced thinly
- 1/2 cup olive or safflower oil
In a small bowl, add cheese slices and peppercorns and cover with milk until the cheese is submerged; let sit for 30 minutes. In the meantime, heat 1/2 cup of oil of choice in a small saucepan and fry the onion until it gets nice and crispy–this will take about 10 minutes, so wait until the cheese is almost ready to do this. Drain the onion on paper towels, and then take a slice a bread, add some cheese, some onion and drizzle with honey if desired. Serve immediately.