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spain

Glorious, glorious, ham.

Prior to last week, it had been four years since I’ve been in Spain, or really traveled abroad anywhere; I’m not sure what happened, except that in 2016 we just never got around to putting something together and life simply got int the way the other times. Since this October marks our tenth anniversary, we figured this was as good a time as any to splurge on a trip, and Michael was good enough to indulge my desire to go back to Barcelona; this time, however, we agreed that we should try to fit another location in if we possibly could. Initially, we thought about going to Iceland as well as Barcelona—I spent a good portion of President’s Day researching logistics for this very possibility—but between a lack of convenient flights to and from Barcelona to Iceland and the fact that the weather would be very different in both places (thus making it much more difficult to pack for), we decided that wasn’t the best idea. Michael then suggested San Sebastian, as he’s been wanting to go there ever since we watched the Spain episode of David Chang’s Mind of a Chef season. Read More

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Garlic chicken/pollo al ajillo

Garlic chicken/pollo al ajillo

Over the years I’ve acquired many, many Spanish cookbooks but one of my eternal favorites was one I bought way back in the day on a whim at Crate and Barrel: Spanish Country Cooking. (Yes, I paid retail for it.) I’ve written about it here before in singing its praises for inspiring one of my favorite soups and a fantastic bass recipe fried in pancetta, but probably my favorite recipe to cook from it is a simple garlic chicken number that I’ve loved for years but never shared with you. Well, that stops today, because it’s too good not to enjoy, and when paired with a side salad you won’t feel like you’ve abandoned your resolve to eat a little lighter if you so choose. Read More

Shrimp and Spicy Chorizo with Garlic

When I was planning the menu for our big party a few weeks ago, I had it in my head that I would save a few of the dishes to make while people were there, if only to provide a bit of spectacle and give me a chance to retreat from everyone so I could focus on cooking. The problem with this idea is that inevitably everyone likes to gather in and around the kitchen, whether it’s open or not, and so that doesn’t leave for a ton of space in which you can maneuver. Fortunately it turned out that we had way more food than we bargained for and didn’t need either of these dishes, which worked out well for yours truly because I could never decide on a good time to prep them and as a result, I didn’t waste any food from either dish. Score! Read More

Snails in salsa arribata

Back when spring was easing into summer, I really didn’t fully appreciate just how much we had planned in the first few weeks of the season, and here we are in the middle of July. One thing I resolved on doing this summer was to spend some time revisiting my favorite Catalunyan dishes since we wouldn’t be making our biennial trip over to Europe this year, what with us buying a house and me buying a new car, but with everything we’ve been up to it’s been awhile since we could devote a couple of days to anything more fun than a typical weeknight meal.

With a weekend looming on the horizon with no plans but our own, I decided to give us a chance to relax and give ourselves a mini Caldes d’Estrac vacation, at least with food if not in beach time. Rosado would be poured, caftans donned, and my hope was each dish would bring us back to those warm days we would spend along the Mediterranean coast. Read More

DSC_7686

A few weeks ago after seeing the Spain episode of Mind of a Chef one too many times, I finally broke down and bought myself a whipped cream siphon (specifically, this one). You may be wondering why I wanted to do this, given the fact that:

  1. My husband is lactose-intolerant and therefore we usually have little need for whipped cream in the house,
  2. I am not much of a baker and therefore do not whip up desserts on the regular that would call for whipped cream,
  3. It’s not a small amount of money to pay for what on the surface feels like it could very much just be a fun toy.

All valid points, I grant you. But if you watch “Spain” and specifically watch the segment in which David Chang and one of his pastry chefs make Albert Adrià’s microwave sponge cake too many times, a yearning to recreate this for yourself becomes far too persistent and annoying to ignore. Moreover, I actually had the recipe to make the cake because it’s included in the second issue of Lucky Peach, so it wasn’t as if I’d have to scour the internet in order to cobble together some incomplete facsimile. A quick search on Food and Wine’s website yielded a few more recipes that could be made with the siphon, so I felt like I had created a sizable argument in favor of getting one. Read More

Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes.

Baked eggs with sobrasada at La Tasqueta de Caldes

One of the aspects of Spanish food culture that I love is how they eat eggs at any time of day, with no need to cloak it in the really irritating “breakfast for dinner” trope.* The tortilla is perhaps the most famous way they cook eggs–check out Le culs en rows for her rather brilliant mini-tortillas that you can make in a muffin tin, by they way–but I’m convinced that the Spanish version of any egg preparation is the best. When we do have some eggs on Saturday mornings, Michael follows the technique that José Andrés calls for in his scrambled eggs with shallots and scallions recipe and they always are really creamy and tender because he makes sure they are still a little runny when he pulls the pan off of the heat. And then there is the baked egg variation, which I first enjoyed at La Tasqueta de Caldes in Caldes d’Estrac and I’ve been trying to recreate ever since.

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Tortilla de patatas y finas hierbas/truita a patates amb les fines herbes

Tortilla de patatas y finas hierbas/truita a patates amb les fines herbes

I had high hopes for this tortilla, and while it was delicious and did a pretty good job of matching the idea of the final product that was in my head, there’s also much room for improvement. But that’s how cooking goes some days. The key is, of course, is to crack a few more eggs and try it again.

My initial vision was to make a Spanish-style tribute to one of the best omelettes I’ve ever had: the omelette aux fines herbes at Pastis.* It’s enormous and fluffy and comes with a side of frites, and paired with a good French 75 it’s my platonic ideal of brunch these days. While the dish as-is would be a wonderful dinner, I’m not one for making frites at home, much less on a weekday. Here’s where the Spanish inspiration came in: crumble in some high-quality potato chips (in our case, the house-made chips from Fairway) along with the herbs into the eggs, and cook it all as a tortilla, served with a big salad.

Pastis's omelette aux fines herbes with French Fries

Pastis’s omelette aux fines herbes with French Fries

Because really: if really tasty potato chips are good enough for both Feran Adrià and José Andrés to make the tortilla process a little faster, then they are good for all of us. While the resultant tortilla was tasty, it wasn’t perfectly cooked: the middle was a little runny while the exterior was just a touch too done. This didn’t bother me personally as I like runny eggs, but I’d really like to master the balance of exterior to interior doneness and make a tortilla that is as pretty as it is tasty one of these days. I’ve read that smaller pans are best, so I’ve placed a smaller nonstick on my birthday wishlist and hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to report on my success or lack thereof.

So let’s call this the “before” photo, and the “after” will come when I have less pan to work with and the same number of eggs. Pending that experiment, a recipe will soon follow.

Stay tuned!

*I wasn’t into eggs, much less an omelette, until a few years ago and therefore I have a very limited data set for reference. Feel free to instruct me on where to find better omelettes in the comments.

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