30 May 2010

Regional Dinner Party: Spain

I've been meaning to have people over for dinner now and then, cooking a multi-course dinner from a specific region or country, and we finally had our inaugural event the other day. The first country to appear on the menu was Spain, and this was my first time cooking Spanish food other than some random odds and ends. The full menu consisted of:

  • Spanish cheeses with Pan de Horno
  • Cauliflower with cherry tomatoes and Serrano ham
  • Paella de marisco (seafood paella)
  • Bizcochos Borrachos (drunken sponge cake)
  • Licor 43 con leche
The dinner was certainly a success. I just wish I had taken pictures of everything!

Pan de Horno

1 tbsp instant yeast
3 cups warm water
7 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix the yeast and water in a small bowl and let sit for ten minutes. Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl. Using your fingers, mix in the oil with the flour mixture. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and stir with your fingers until the dough is firm and slightly sticky. Pour the dough onto a lightly-floured work surface and knead another two or three minutes.

Grease a bowl with olive oil and place the dough in it. Cover the bowl with a towel and leave until doubled in volume, about an hour. Once the hour is over, punch the dough down and move to a floured work surface. Knead a few seconds, then return the dough to the bowl and cover for another 15 minutes.

Cut the dough into two pieces, then form loaves. Place on a greased pan and cut slits on top of the bread. Turn the oven to 450 degrees F. Cover and let raise for 30 minutes, then bake in the oven for around 30 minutes or until the top is toasted and the loaves sound hollow when knocked on the bottom. Remove to a cooling rack and leave until completely cooled.

Cauliflower with Cherry Tomatoes and Serrano Ham
1 large head cauliflower
1/2 red onion
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/4 lb thinly-sliced Serrano ham
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely-chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Start by cutting the cauliflower into 1-inch florets. Boil salted water in a large pot, then add the cauliflower florets and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Drain in a colander and set aside. Next, cut the ham into 1-inch pieces and cut the tomatoes in half.

While the cauliflower cooks, fry the onion with the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once the onion has turned translucent (about three minutes), add the tomatoes and ham. Cook until just heated, about two minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice and parsley. Combine with the cauliflower and serve warm or at room temperature.

Paella de marisco
1 lb chorizo
1 lb shrimp
15 clams
15 mussels
1/2 cup white wine
1 large yellow onion
5 cloves of garlic
2 cups medium grain white rice
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
2 red peppers
1 green pepper
1 tsp saffron threads
1/4 cup olive oil

I, unfortunately, do not have a paella pan or a pan large enough to cook a paella, so I have to resort to the oven method, which works quite well.
Start by peeling the shrimp, reserving the shells. Put the shells and four cups of water in a large pot over medium heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until reduced to 2 cups. Pour through a fine mesh, reserving the liquid and discarding the shells. Set the newly-created shrimp stock aside.

Boil water in a large pot and add the shrimp. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until just cooked through. Drain and set aside. Crumble the chorizo and cook over medium heat in a large skillet. Set aside.
Clean the mussels and clams, discarding any that do not close when tapped. Add the wine to a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the mussels and clams, then cover. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the shellfish are open, shaking the pot occassionally. Remove any mussels or clams that did not open completely, then set aside.

Turn the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion (chopped) and garlic (minced) and cook for about five minutes. Add the rice, shrimp stock, 3 cups of chicken stock, saffron, about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the rice is al dente and some liquid remains. Transfer to an oven-safe dish, add the shrimp, chorizo, mussels and clams and cover with tin foil. Bake for 30 minutes and serve immediately.

Bizcochos Borrachos

4 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 oz water
1.5 tbsp honey
1 1/2 oz rum
1 cinnamon stick
peel from 1/2 lemon

Turn the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch cake pan with vegetable shortening and flour it (add flour, shake until coated, turn upside-down to remove excess).

Separate the egg yolks from egg whites. Beat the yolks with the sugar in a medium bowl until creamy. Using a stand mixer (or electric mixer), beat the egg whites until forming soft peaks. Carefully fold the yolk mixture into the egg whites. Next, fold in the flour and baking powder. Pour the batter into the cake form and bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before serving.

To make the sauce, add the sugar and water to a large sauce pan and place over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick, honey and lemon peel and let simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring occassionally. Remove from the heat, add the rum and let cool to room temperature.

Cut the cake into 9 pieces and serve each piece with a drizzle of the syrup.

Licor 43 con leche

Licor 43
Licor 43 is a liqueur from Cartagena, Spain, made from citrus fruits, vanilla and a variety of other herbs and spices - 43 in total (hence the name). I served this with warm milk, as I've been told that's the way they do it in Spain. The liqueur itself also works well on its own or on the rocks.

16 May 2010

Mussels with White Wine and Garlic

I love mussels, and I realized I hadn't had any for ages - I think last time was actually when I still lived in Paris (other than in paellas and with various seafood pastas). It turns out Jacquie had only had one or two mussels in her life, but she was certainly willing to try them out. I had to go to a few different grocery stores to locate the main ingredient, but once I had the mussels ready, the recipe took less than 20 minutes to prepare (plus time for soaking and cleaning the mussels). Make sure you use a good white wine and don't skimp on the saffron!

Mussels with White Wine and Garlic

2 pounds mussels
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
5 medium shallots
5 garlic cloves
4 oz whole peeled tomatoes
1 packet saffron threads
1/2 cups chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 cup white wine

Start by soaking the mussels in a large bowl with fresh water. Mix in 1/3 cup all purpose flour or cornmeal to help with getting rid of the sand (this is especially true if you picked the mussels yourself - store bought ones are generally cleaner). After soaking, rinse and clean off any dirt and remove the "beard." The beard is the strings that may hang out from some mussels - grab it with your thumb and index finger and pull it toward the "hinge" part of the mussel to get rid of it. Make sure you discard any damaged mussels or any that aren't shut tight and won't close when you tap them. Set the mussels aside.

Chop the shallots, mince the garlic, chop the parsley and chop the (drained) tomatoes. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large pot. Add the shallots and cook for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 3 minutes. Add the parsley, tomatoes, saffron, wine and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium again. Add the mussels and stir well. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Shake the pot now and then to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom and burns, but don't remove the lid.

Discard any unopened mussels, transfer to a large bowl and serve immediately with fresh bread (baguette is pretty much unbeatable for this recipe). Just make sure you have enough bread to soak up all that wonderful broth...

02 May 2010

Chicken Parmigiana

Chicken Parmigiana (or Chicken Parmesan, as it's generally known) is one of those Italian-American staples that I had never heard of until I moved to the US. While it's not standard fare at our house, I did decide to make it recently and thought the results were good enough to post about!

Chicken Parmigiana

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup AP flour
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 oz Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
pasta, or whatever you want to serve it with
olive oil
1 tbsp butter

Start by trimming any fat off the edges of the chicken breasts. Combine the flour and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper on a plate. Coat the chicken on both sides and shake off any excess flour. Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil and the butter over medium high heat in a large skillet. Saute the chicken breasts for four minutes on one side, then flip and cook another four minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When it comes to tomato sauce, everyone has his own favorite recipe. Let me rephrase that: everyone should have his own favorite recipe. Tomato sauce can make or break a recipe. Personally, I like some sweetness (I add a carrot) and prefer San Marzano tomatoes, pureed together with the water they come in (yes, canned tomatoes). Here's a promise: I'll post my tomato sauce recipe at some point in the not-too-distant future, but not right now. For this recipe, use whatever tomato sauce you can get your hands on.

Turn your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13x9 baking pan and then put about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce in there. Arrange the chicken breasts on top of the sauce, slightly overlapping. Sprinkle with 3-4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. Spoon the remaining sauce over the chicken, then cover with the Mozzarella. Top the Mozzarella with 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake in the oven until heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve with pasta (or whatever your choice of side dish is).