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Posts Tagged ‘tapas’

Casa Labra, Madrid

Every year, thousands of  pilgrims head to the town of Santiago de Compostela where it is believed that the body of St. James is buried.  Some people will undertake the pilgrimage as a way of penance, and a way to get closer to God.  The pilgrimage can take as little as five days (I was told) or as long as several months.  A pilgrim can also purchase what is known as the credencial or a pilgrim’s passport which is stamped with the official St. James stamp in each town where the pilgrim has stayed.  At the end of the journey, pilgrims receive a certificate of completion, called the compostela, which means they have walked the last 100 kilometers to get to the destination.

They say, this is a spiritual journey of a lifetime that I one day hope to experience.  But in the meantime, I find myself in Madrid instead, and am about to embark on another type of pilgrimage.  This culinary pilgrimage starts at our hotel and I stop at various restaurants and tapas bars along the way to reach, around  five hours later, my destination.  The final stop is a street called Cava Baja.  At first glance, it looks like an almost impossible feat to eat in this many places in one night, but like any pilgrimage, there are mini and longer breaks.  My mini breaks are the tapas bars where we enjoy one or two little dishes and move on.  The longer breaks find us in restaurants like Casa Botin or Casa Lucio for a proper meal.  At the end of our journey, the certificate of completion I get is not a compostela, but instead, a few extra kilos on my frame!

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"Huevos Rotos" literally "Broken Eggs"

Tapas, Chorizo, Fried Egg, Jamon Serrano

I have to admit things were not going smoothly Saturday morning as my Mum and I prepared breakfast.  There was some debate with the Blog Monster as to how this dish was really made.

“Jamon.” I said.

“Chorizo!” She answered

“Jamon!!” I replied

“Chorizo! This is what we used to do in the restaurant” she countered.

You see we were trying to cook up a tapas dish called “Huevos Rotos” – which literally means “Broken Eggs.” Imagine a fried egg presented over a bed of pan fried potatoes, garlic, chorizo (or Jamon Serrano depending on who was making the dish).  The egg is then broken and scattered all over the rest of the dish.  It’s wonderful with a piece of warm bread.  And, while we were having it for breakfast,  you can have it any time of the day.

I first tried a variation of this dish in a Madrid Restaurant called Casa Lucio.  They call it “Huevos Estrellados” and they are acclaimed worldwide for it.  When I first saw it served to me, I said to myself  “they’re just french fries with a fried egg on top”… but I have to admit – it was out of this world.  If you want to be extra indulgent, pay a little more and you get a some Jamon on the side.

You can imagine, two stubborn cooks in one little kitchen disagreeing about how to make a simple tapas dish.  Each of us was insisting that our own version was correct.

Huevos Rotos

In the end, we decided to put both… and it was amazing!

Recipe – Serves 2

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 chorizo, diced
  • 1 large potato, cut into 1 1/2 cm dice
  • 3 slices, Jamon Serrano, torn up
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and and the potatoes, cook on medium high until browned, around 10 minutes or until you can pierce the potato with a fork without resistance.
  2. Remove the potatoes from the pan and now add the chorizo pieces and fry until nicely browned.
  3. Remove the chorizo and add the garlic and lightly fry until there is some colour on the garlic chips.
  4. Remove the garlic and use the same pan to fry and egg.
  5. To assemble, lay the potatoes, chorizo and garlic on a plate, top with the fried egg and lay some torn pieces of Jamon Serrano on the side.   Serve with toasted bread.

Fried Potatoes, Chorizo, Garlic Chips, Jamon Serrano and a Fried Egg

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Stuffed Mussels with ham, bechamel and melted cheese

When I was little, I would sometimes tag along with my Mom when she went to work.  Work, being her Spanish restaurant.  Over the 34  or so years of El Comedor (that means the “Dining Room” which was what the restaurant was called), some of my best memories was when I was allowed inside the kitchen to watch the cooks as they went about their work.

None of the cooks in El Comedor ever went to cooking school, I am pretty sure none of them even graduated high school.  They originally started as  house help (doing the cleaning) for my Grandmother (who we fondly called Mama).

When she started the restaurant they were tasked to cook in the kitchen.

Imagine if you will, a young man, Manny (his nickname for Manuel), who has never finished high school, who has never picked up a cookbook in his life, never held a chef’s knife, never tasted paella,  being asked to give up cleaning, the only job he has ever known,  to cook in a fine dining Spanish restaurant?  It must have taken a leap of faith by my Grandmother, and Manny to both give it a go!

When Ellie mentioned Spanish food to me recently, I realized that I have been very delinquent in posting some of the delicious recipes I remember eating so many years ago when Manny would sneak a little tapa to me while no one was looking. I must have looked like a drooling labrador to him, just watching him cook.  And I guess he took pity on me.

“Don’t tell your Mom okay?” he would say as he handed me a little croqueta or some of the stuffed mussels pictured above.  At the restaurant we called them Mejillones Relleñadas.     I call them – Mussels a la Manny.  They are made with mussels, ham, white wine, an uber creamy bechamel sauce and topped with parmesan cheese. This recipe is so simple and you can make it ahead, just top with parmesan cheese and let it rest in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.  It’s perfect when you are expecting guests – just bake them in the oven prior to serving.

Sadly,  Manny passed away a few years ago but to this day I still think of him when I make this dish – from something that has very humble beginnings – such a beautiful dish!

Buen Provecho Manny!

They're delicious even without baking!

Recipe

  • 25 mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup ham, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • grated parmesan cheese to top
  • salt and pepper to taste

Top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese

  1. Place the mussels in a pot of cold water and bring to the boil.  When they are open, remove from the heat to cool.  Be careful not to overcook.  When they are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and chop (not too finely) and reserve half of the mussel shell.
  2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a sauce pan and add the onions, salt and pepper.  Add the garlic and cook until translucent.
  3. Add the ham and cook for another 2 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Add the flour and cook out for a few minutes, then add the white wine and cook for two minutes, and then gradually add the milk.
  5. Add the chopped mussel meat and the parsley.
  6. Place a spoonful on the reserved mussel shell.
  7. Top with parmesan cheese and bake in a 180c (fan forced) oven for 10 minutes until the cheese has melted.

Stuffed Mussels with ham, bechamel and parmesan cheese

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