February 18, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine

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In my effort to practice Spanish and also eat mass quantities of Spanish food, I’ve been spending time with my fiance’s mother learning how to make a lot of delicious Spanish favorites. Yesterday I learned how to make huesos de San Expedito – “huesos” meaning bones (I suppose they are called this because they are shaped a bit like bones?!). They are little pastries that are easy to make, preserve well, and have just the right amount of sweetness! So here’s what you’ll need:

    1 egg
    250 grams of flour
    50 grams of sugar
    1 teaspoon of baking powder (or one envelope if you live here in Spain)
    3 tablespoons of olive oil
    3 tablespoons of water
    2 tablespoons of anis
    1 lemon

First you will want to heat up your three tablespoons of olive oil. While it’s heating up, slice off four pieces of lemon rind and add it to the oil. You will want to fry the lemon rinds so that it flavors the oil – just turn them until they are golden, then remove. Now you will want to let the oil cool.
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In a bowl, beat the egg. Once this is done, stir in the sugar, then the water, then the oil (make sure the oil has cooled prior to adding). In a separate bowl, mix the flower and the baking powder. After this, you will combine both bowls to create the beginning of your dough. Stir the mixture and then once congealed enough, remove and begin kneading (using additional flower to keep it from sticking).

Once the dough has the proper consistency, create a ball and cut a cross on top so that the dough may expand. You will want to cover it and let it rise for about an hour.
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After the dough has risen, you will take small pieces (about a spoonful each) and roll them between your hands to create a stick-like shape (hmm, or shall I say a bone-like shape??). While doing this, fill up a deep pan with oil (preferably olive oil – but note that you can reuse the oil for this same recipe later by just preserving the leftover oil in a jar). Heat up the oil on high.
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Once the oil is hot, add one of the “huesos” to the oil – it should start sizzling intensely. If it’s sizzling, add as many as you can fit in the pan. Now the trick here is that you don’t want it to cook the huesos so fast that the outside cooks, but the inside doesn’t. So once they’ve started to cook a little, turn down the heat, or even remove the pan from the heat in order to let them continue cooking at a lower temperature. Be sure to regularly turn the huesos so that they cook on both sizes. You will want to let them cook for several minutes until they turn a dark golden brown. Once done, remove and place them on a paper towel.

Once cooled (and note, they are best when they are NOT hot), serve with powdered sugar on top. And voila, now you have yourself some lovely Spanish bones, eh hem, huesos!

December 14, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine

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Last weekend Jacobo’s mom taught me how to make one of my favorite Spanish tapa indulgences – croquetas. It is admittedly a laborious process, but not particularly difficult to do. The recipe below will yield you quite a few croquetas (probably around 40), but keep in mind that you can freeze them and that the more you make at one time, the more worthwhile the long process. The recipe below follows no particular measurements – it’s more about achieving the right consistencies – so if you want to make fewer croquetas, just use less flour, and then less of everything else in order to achieve the correct consistency of the bechamel (the creamy like dough). The amounts of meat are completely up to you – it depends on how much you end up wanting in the croquetas.

    Several pieces of jamon (enough to get about a cup or more of shredded meat)

    1 chicken breast

    Broth from cooking chicken (about ½ cup)

    6 large spoonfuls of flour

    A few tablespoons of olive oil

    A couple cups of milk

    A cup or so of powdered bread crumbs

    1 egg

    Salt and pepper

    Keep in mind that you can make virtually any type of croquetas – shrimp, mushroom, cod, or really any kind of meat or vegetable that you have lying around. The key to making it is as flavorful as possible is that you use the broth from whichever ingredient you have in order to enrich the flavor of the croqueta. So, if you decide you want to do shrimp croquetas, boil your shrimp in just a little water (they will cook fast). Once the shrimp are cooked, remove them from their shells and continue to boil the shells in the same water, ultimately using a strainer to remove the shells from the broth (see my post about pimientos rellenos for more details on how to make bechamel with shrimp).

    In this case we made croquetas with chicken and jamon, so what we did was boil one chicken breast in a small pot with just a little water (maybe a few centimeters high with water – don’t use too much or the broth won’t be flavorful) with the lid on. Be sure to turn the chicken so that it cooks evenly. Once the chicken is cooked, reserve the water.

    You will then want to take the meat from the chicken and shred it in a food processor until it’s a pretty fine consistency (kind of like that of stirred up tuna from the can). You will also want to do the same with the jamon (removing any chunks of fat or any hard pieces once it’s been blended).

    In a small pot, heat up a couple cups of milk – not boiling, but so that it is warm.

    In a separate medium pot, add enough olive oil so that it covers the bottom of the pan and then some. Heat it up, but not too high, as now you will want to add flour and you don’t want to burn the flour! Add 6 or so heaping large spoonfuls of flour, stirring it with the olive oil. While you do this, continue to make sure that you have heat, but not too much. You will want to stir until the consistency is similar to that of pie dough or pasta dough. If it’s too dry, add more oil, if it’s too moist, add more flour.
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    Once your mixture has reached the right consistency, you will want to start mixing in the warm milk. Add a little milk at a time, through a small strainer to remove any of the cream. Stir it in slowly with the dough mixture – you will still want to do this over the heat, but be sure it’s not too hot. You may even want to alternate having the pot on the burner and then off the burner in order to control the heat. Be sure to mix everything well!

    Continue to add the milk so that the consistency starts to get creamy. Before it gets too creamy though, begin adding the reserved chicken broth. The goal is to get the consistency to a mashed potato like texture and very fine with no chunks, so if once you’ve add the broth, you still need more moisture, begin adding milk again. Toward the end, add a few pinches of salt and even some white pepper (or whatever you prefer) – you may want to taste to make sure it has enough salt, but if you’re using jamon (or any salty equivalent), remember that the jamon will add more salt.

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    Finally, add the jamon and chicken and stir fully. Now you will want it to cool completely before moving to the next step.

    Once cooled (whether in the fridge or otherwise), stir up the mixture to ensure the top isn’t too hard.
    On a plate, pore a bunch of your breadcrumbs. Separately, in a shallow bowl, beat one egg.

    Now, with the bechamel dough, you will take two small spoons in order to create the oval shape of the croqueta – don’t worry too much about the form, this is more to ensure even quantities. Place your spoon fulls of mixture in the egg, fully coat with egg, and then place in the bread mixture. Cover the dough fully with crumbs, then form the shape of the croqueta, and set aside on a tray.

    Now, all you need to do is put them in the fryer until they’re a golden brown, or you can even freeze them for another day. Or, if you are desperate and curious like me, you can pop them in the oven (the fryer scares me sometimes) – it’s not nearly as good, but if you must, it’s an option.

    That’s it! Viva la croqueta!

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    July 8, 2009 - Posted by Erin in Food and wine

    Gazpacho in Spain is quite different than the gazpacho we know in the US. In the US it often seems to take on any form of cold tomato-y soup, usually chunky. Where as in Spain, it’s usually not thick at all, so much so that it is often consumed out of a glass, and even over ice. Gazpacho originates from Andalucia, the southernmost region of Spain, where it gets tremendously hot during the summer – so it’s understandable that a cold bowl (or glass rather) of gazpacho would be quite soothing. During the summer months in Spain, you can find gazpacho at nearly every restaurant (even McDonalds!). Often times you’ll find a dish called salmorejo as well, which is similar to gazpacho, but thicker and served with slightly different condiments.

    This recipe comes from Jacobo’s mother and has been passed down for at least three generations.  His mom  has a constant supply of the gazpacho in the fridge all summer long. Jacobo will often make it as well (especially when I ask him nicely). Some gazpachos come with cucumber and red bell peppers already blended into the soup itself, but this one leaves those items out. What is very typical, however, is for gazpacho to be served with a “guarnicion” – basically condiments that include: small bits of diced bread, cucumber, onion, and red and green bell pepper. Then you can just sprinkle these items on top.

    Recipe for one blender full of gazpacho:

      Bread (1/3 of a normal baguette of bread, use more if you want a thicker gazpacho)
      Diced tomato with skin (until it fills no more than 2/3 of the blender)
      2 tablespoons olive oil per blender
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/2 teaspoon black pepper
      3 cloves
      3-4 thin slices of a garlic clove
      1/4 teaspoon or less of cumin
      1/4 teaspoon or less of paprika
      2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
      After you added all ingredients, fill blender with water until water covers 2/3 of the content

    Directions: Blend all ingredients above, then poor into strainer (one that is almost screen-like – not a pasta strainer), and mash the liquid through such that only the liquid passes through, while the seeds and other sediment stay inside the strainer. The liquid is your gazpacho, so put it in the fridge, let it chill, and then serve (preferably with some yummy bread for dipping!)! It can stay in the fridge for about a week and still be good.

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