Spanish Food Parties

 

Volver = To return as well as a rather good movie.

Well, the academic year has kicked off, which means I’m back in Spain.  This year may be a little on the light side, blogwise, as I’m going to be doing a Master’s program as well as my teaching assistant job.  So to make up for it, I’m going to kick out a huge mega entry while I’m still on ‘vacation’ – I had to come back early in order to fix up my immigration status.  I do want to learn several things yet, like migas, lentils, and chocos, so I’ll do my best to carve out some time to cook and share.

Spanish food is trendy in magazines and in foodie circles but most people in the US have never had Spanish food or have a mental image limited to tortilla española and paella.  If they had indeed tasted some of the things Spain has to offer, then it was most assuredly not home cooked.  I decided to throw a Spanish food party as my own goodbye to everyone, that promptly grew into two separate food parties.  As you may have seen more than once before here on the blog, these may very well be the only types of parties I know how to put together.  I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not.

Some of these recipes I’ve got here are dredged from the internet, but all of them have been altered or influenced by me and my friends here in Spain.  The rest have been jotted down in Spanglish (1 kilo tomato, 1 diente de ajo, trocito de bell pepper) directly from real live Spanish people.  So if it isn’t authentic enough for you…move to a tiny pueblo?

Let’s start with the menu.  I live in Sevilla, so the food I eat and therefore cook is definitely Andaluz (Andalusian, but I hate the way it looks in English).  Several of these dishes you’ll find everywhere in Spain, but regional cuisine varies widely.  Pork dishes reign supreme here in jamón heavy part of the country.  To be politically incorrect but historically accurate, Jews were not really welcome around Seville or the surrounding area.  The Spanish Inquisition kicked off in Seville, and there was a nasty massacre in 1391 that decimated the Jewish quarter.  Other cities followed suit, and the options were scarce: leave, convert, or die.  Even after conversion, these newer Christians were viewed as suspect, lesser, and worthy of persecution.  Why do I bring this up?  Because it explains the pork.  Raising pigs and making pork the basis of your diet was a great way to ‘prove’ that you were not in fact Jewish, and therefore less likely to get robbed by the government, shunned by your neighbors, or watched by the Catholic Church.

Sad?  Absolutely.  Culinarily a boon?  Unfortunately, yes.  And now you’ll see why a pork product is in almost every savory recipe.  History lesson over.  Oh, one more thing.  I generally am not a fan of Spanish sweets because they involve heavy doses of honey and anise flavored things.  They got that from the Arabic influence.  I went with pies because while I may be living in Spain, I still am an American passionate about pies.

Victoria took a few shots for me at the second party.

Spanish Food Parties Menu

Surtido de quesos y chacina – meat and cheese plate, other nibbles.

Ensaladilla de piquillos – Roasted red pepper salad

Solomillo al whiskey – Pork loin in a whiskey sauce

Solomillo al vino dulce – Pork loan in sweet wine

Gazpacho – Cold tomato soup, source of many Red Dwarf references.

Tortilla española – Spanish omelet

Croquetas – We stole the French word, croquette

Berenjenas con miel – Fried eggplant with molasses

Strawberry Rhubarb pie

French Silk pie

Are you ready for all that?  Let’s start off easy.

Surtido de quesos y chacina

I bought two types of cheese – manchego and P’tit Basque cheese.  Both are cured sheep’s milk cheese.  Manchego is the most famous Spanish cheese and is very hard and sharp, with those salty crystals that some cheese develop.  P’tit Basque is technically French, but the País Vasco has its own ideas that don’t follow the UN agreed upon borders, and it was on sale.  Softer, less cured, tasty.  Then there is true Spanish hard cured chorizo (pork alert) and membrillo, the quince paste I’ve talked about before.  The thing in the middle that looks like a cat food tin is actually paté – Spanish paté (pork alert).

Jabugo is one of the best jamón pueblos of Spain, along with Castaño del Robledo, Aracena, and Monesterio.  Northern Andalucía and Extremadura, basically.  Since jamón only uses up the legs of the pigs, the rest of the meat is made into various sausages and cured meats (chorizo, morcón, caña de lomo, morcilla, longaniza, why do I know so many of these?) and paté. This was a gift from my coworkers that I hid from my friends here as a present to my mother.

Besides meat and cheese, there were other nibbles and bits that I also put forth.

Manzanilla olives.  These are indeed Spanish olives, though a very familiar sight to anyone who has ever had a martini or…you know…watched TV. Here they usually are not pitted, but I prefer them this way because I am lazy.

These are altramueces, casually called chochitos.  They are broad beans presesrved in brine and their nickname is…let’s translate it as lady bits. They come in some bars as a free tapa to get you to drink more beer, which is why they are often sold under this name:

L’il salties.  I brought these from Spain for this party, so I don’t know where you can get them here.  I really like them with my beer, but they had a dubious reception.

Picos or literally snacks are Spanish breadsticks served to go with just about anything.  They serve as a great palate cleanser when eating chorizo and cheese. I’ve seen them in several import food stores, like World Market, Whole Foods, and DeLaurenti’s Deli in Pike Place.

You can tell Alida decorated and Victoria took the picture. Actually, Alex put together the cheese plate, so this picture has nothing to do with me at all...

Enough snacks.  Let’s get down to some recipes.

Ensaladilla de piquillos

Piquillo peppers are a Spanish red pepper that usually come in cans or jars preroasted.  Here you can get a can for a euro or two, but when I finally found them in the US they were $12 a can.  I love piquillo peppers, but not enough to make a salad out of them for 20 people at that price.  Sub in any roasted red pepper that tickles your fancy, as I did.

Ingredients:

Roasted red peppers, sliced

Finely diced onion

Tuna

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

This isn’t really a measuring recipe.  It’s basically equal parts of all three main ingredients, with a little extra roasted red pepper thrown in.  Then give it a good swig of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and stir.  Ta da!

Solomillo al Whiskey

Honestly I’m not going to post the recipe for this one.  I was not entirely pleased with the recipe.  I added quite a bit to it at the end and now I couldn’t reproduce it if I tried.  If I find a better recipe for it, I’ll pots it.  Basically it’s pork loin fillets in a sauce made of whiskey, lemon juice, and roasted garlic.  This sauce was too bitter. Moving along.

Solomillo al vino dulce

I don’t have pictures of the preparation of this because it was made for party 2, on day 3 of cooking.  Vino dulce is a product I’ve not seen in the US.  It’s like an intermediary step in between wine and port – a very sweet, raisiny red wine that has yet to get as syrupy and fortified as port.  I brought back a bottle for my sister-in-law and made her this dish twice now – an invention of my roommate, Rosa.  I can’t stand to drink vino dulce (Rosa’s favorite) but I do love this dish.

12 pork loin fillets (cut very, very thin)

2 large carrots, peeled and diced

1 small to medium onion, diced

1/2 c  vino dulce (feel free to use port, watered down)

Salt and pepper

Water

In a very large frying pan, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Salt and pepper the pork fillets and brown them.  Don’t cook all the way through, just get a nice color on them. Remove from the pan and set them aside. If needed add a splash more olive oil and add the carrots and onion to the pan.  Let them saute for fifteen minutes or so until the onion begins to turn transparent and the carrots soften.  Pour the vino dulce over the vegetables as well as about 1/4 to 1/2 c water.  Let the sauce reduce and the carrots finish cooking.  Just before the sauce finishes reducing, return the fillets to the pan to finish at the same time and take on the flavor of the vino dulce.  Pour everything into a serving dish and let your guests at it.

Gazpacho

There are as many gazpacho recipes as there are families in Spain.  I have two or three in my own repertoire as several families have adopted me as the lonely American girl.  This recipe is a really good starter gazpacho, from Marina, a professor I worked with last year.  It doesn’t have the bite that some do and doesn’t have any bread in it to confuse beginners.  So I’ll say this now.  If this gazpacho doesn’t sound ‘right’ to you, stuff it.  Gazpacho comes smooth and chunky, with or without cucumbers, with or without bread, in a bowl or in a glass…as long as it is  cold and tomato based and from Spain, you are probably good.  Unless it is salmorejo.  Which we’ll get to another day. I served mine with little chunks of ham and hard boiled egg to stir in, but some people put chopped apple or halved grapes.  Do what you will!

1 kilo tomatoes

1 large clove of garlic

1/2 medium onion

1/4 green bell pepper

Salt

Olive oil

Vinegar

Put everything in a blender.  Give it a good, generous glug of olive oil, then about half as much vinegar.  A few good grinds of salt.  Blend.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  This will serve about four or five people as a main dish, more as a light appetizer. If you want to drink it, add water.

Tortilla Española

I’ve given a walk through of tortilla here before.  This was one of the main reasons we used 37 eggs on these two parties.

Croquetas

Croquetas are the Spanish comfort food.  There are television ads about married couples threatening to destroy each others favorite possessions unless they admit that their mother’s croquetas are the best.  Rosa’s are the best.  I’ve tried to quantify the ingredient ratios, but really it’s a touch and texture thing.  These came out great, so please try them.  They are basically a little breaded and fried packet of bechamel.  The most common croquetas are bacalao (salted cod), spinach, jamón, and puchero (left over stewing meat, usually chicken and/or pork).   These are ham, of course. These can be made well ahead of time and frozen.  They’ll keep for a month or two easily.   Makes 20 to 30 croquetas.

1 medium to large onion, chopped fine

1/2 c diced ham – saltiest, most cured ham you can find

1 c flour

1/3 c olive oil

2 c milk

For breading:

Flour

Eggs

Breadcrumbs

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil.  Add the onions and saute until they turn transparent and take on a golden color.

Add the flour to the oil little by little until you have a very thick roux. Stir well and cook the roux for a few minutes to get rid of that raw flour flavor.

Add the ham and let cook it into the roux and let it come up to temperature.

This was way too much ham. I've reduced it for this recipe posting, so no worries.

Add the milk little by little, stirring constantly to eliminate lumps.  You want a very thick sauce, not runny at all, so it will hold together.

Pour it into a baking dish or other container and let cool to room temperature before putting into the fridge or freezer to cool.  You don’t want to actually freeze the filling, just make it cold enough to form.  A few hours in the freezer is good, or overnight in the fridge.

What’s that little side dish?  Why…it’s gluten free croqueta filling!

Gluten free croquetas can be made exactly like regular croquetas, subbing in gluten free flour and gluten free bread crumbs.

I only made a few because it was a complete shot in the dark experiement that I am happy to report turned out well.  Alex forgot he had gluten free bread crumbs at home so the breading process was interesting, but flavorwise, they were spot on.

An important note, though, is that you need to cool the roux really, really well.  The gluten free flour mix I used gave off an awful, acrid smell of burning garbanzos.  I kept cooking in the hopes it would work out, and it did.  Just muscle on through.

Now we need to shape and bread.  Set up your station.  Three bowls for breading, then a cookie sheet with high sides lined with parchment paper.

Sorry for the bad lighting - it was getting late.

Take about two tablespoons of chilled filling and roll it into a stubby tube.   Or, another site says to pipe out thick lines of filling and cut them.  Some people make round croquetas.  Look below for what I believe to be the proper croqueta shape.  When they are compact, roll in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.  Lay them out on the cookie sheet and freeze solid.  They must  be fried frozen or the bechamel will melt and explode-ooze out of its breading.

Croquetas should be deep fried, either in a deep fryer or in a pan.  They only need a few minutes to get golden brown and to heat up their interiors – remember they are made from bechamel so too much cooking will make them lose their shape.

The breadcrumbs are an important breading step, as we learned from the gluten free churros.  Also, it’s an important childhood fact, because when you go to the beach, children (and those of us who revert upon hitting the beach) will splash about in the ocean for awhile then run out to roll in the sand, screaming croqueta! Croqueta!    It’s actually pretty fun.

The gluten free ones weren't quite crunchy enough, but that's the power of breadcrumbs.

 

This last savory recipe I saved for last because I’ve been promising it for so long.

Berenjenas con miel

I brought the miel de caña back from Spain with me because it’s a little sweet than our molasses.  You are welcome to use our molasses, but avoid the blackstrap.  You can also use regular, bee derived honey or a mix or the two.

1 large eggplant

1 or 2 beers (no need to use a high quality beer here, just whatever you have on hand)

Salt

Semolina (if you don’t want to go buy this especially, it is ok to use regular flour)

Peel the eggplant, cut of the top and bottom.  Slice the eggplant thinly, then cut those slices into quarters.  If you are using small eggplants, you can just slice them.

Pour the beer into a large mixing bowl and add a generous amount of salt – two or three teaspoons.  Soak the eggplant in the beer. This will give a very light touch of flavor to the eggplant, but more importantly, keep it from soaking up too much oil and getting greasy.  Eggplant is like a sponge – if you fill it full of beer, it can’t take on much else.

Coat the soaked eggplant in semolina or regular flour.

Fry in batches for a few minutes on each side until they turn golden brown.  Drain on paper towels. When they are all fried, salt veeeeery lightly and drizzle with molasses or honey.  Serve with extra to get at the lower layers.

So there we have the savory portion.  We’ve put out quite the spread, haven’t we?

 

Victoria's photo, Alida's table

Ibid. I was really sick of cooking and taking pictures by this point. I was ready to eat, drink, and talk.

OH WAIT!

There’s always pie.  Here is the strawberry rhubarb pie, finally breaking in the new oven.  This was a pie for Gabrielle, Alida, and my grandfather.  Not everyone likes it, though, so for my other pie I chose an easy peasy pie that tastes absolutely luscious.

Chocolate French Silk Pie

This is a pie I make for people who aren’t sure they like pie.  It tastes like you frosted a cookie then completely lost it and just kept frosting. From Ken Haedrich’s Pie.

Graham Cracker Crust

I made this gluten free, so instead of graham crackers, I made my crumbs out of Annie’s Gluten Free Vanilla and Chocolate Bunnies.  It came out awesome.

1 3/4 c graham cracker crumbs (or other hard cookies.  Takes 12 graham crackers)

2 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Big pinch of salt

6 Tbsp melted butter

In a food processor, make your cookies into crumbs.  Add in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and whirl it around again until it’s all mixed up. Pour into a mixing bowl, add melted butter, and stir crumbs with a fork until the butter has coated every crumb.  Pour crumbs into pie shell, and starting from the center and working up the sides, press the crust together.  Place it in the freezer for about 10 minutes, then bake at 350 F for 7 minutes. Let cool.

 

Filling

3 oz unsweetend chocolate, coarsely chopped

3/4 c butter, softened

1 1/4 c sugar

3 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped cream for topping.

After chopping up the chocolate, melt slowly over a double boiler until smooth.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the ever living snot out of the butter until it is whipped and creamy.  This will actually take awhile, so be patient.  Patience is the key to this pie.

Add the sugar and beat for another five minutes (clock minutes, not just gut feeling, meh this is enough five minutes). Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure it is mixing uniformly.  Add in the melted chocolate and beat for about 30 seconds, until it is fully incorporated.  Add the eggs one by one, beating for 4 full minutes after the addition of EACH egg, scraping down the sides from time to time.  You need a lot of air to pull off the texture of this pie, so it will melt upon contact with your tongue.  Add in the vanilla and beat for another 30 seconds.

Scrape into the cooled cookie crumb crust, tent loosely with foil and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.

Alex had the brilliant idea of putting a layer of raspberries on the bottom of the pie but I was so frazzled that I forgot completely about it until the pie was already in the fridge.  So we put them on top.

Well if you made it to the end here, congratulations.  I hope you’ll go out and have your own Spanish dinner nights, though probably on a smaller scale.  Let me know how it goes!

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2 Responses to “Spanish Food Parties”


  1. 1 Dylan Neizer October 20, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Just thought I would comment and say neat theme, did you design it for yourself? Looks great!

    • 2 desasdishes October 21, 2011 at 10:22 am

      Unfortunately, no. The picture in the header is indeed mine, but I am only computer literate and have opted for one of the themes offered by WordPress. There’s a link at the bottom of the page with info on the theme by the people who actually created it 🙂


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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!

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