Forks and Jets

The true story of a couple or amateur foodie travelogues going around the world

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We have to say, we love the food in Spain. That’s not to say all the food is great or that we have sampled everything, but we have found and loved the basics of Spanish food as we have come to find it: Paella, Sangria and Tapas. (Or seafood, wine and appetizers)

With a little luck, we stumbled upon a cooking class in Barcelona (found out about it while drinking in a pub). The class was simple. Starting with Sangria to quench our thirst, we learned about Tapas called Montaditos to keep us happy while we cooked the main course, the cornerstone of Spanish cuisine as most of us Americans know it, the Paella. Luckily, we were able to piece together the recipes even though it was really hard to focus on the cooking after the Sangria.

Sangria is a refreshing drink often made from very cheap parts. The intent is not to waste good wine, but to have a flavorful and cold drink for a hot day. Best by the pitcher and with friends.

Sangria
Makes one pitcher

half of a peach, roughly chopped
half of an orange, roughly chopped with rind
half of a lemon, roughly chopped with rind
a glass of brandy
5-10oz of sugar
a touch of cinnamon
an average quality red wine — Spanish Rioja is a good suggestion
orange juice
lemon-lime juice or soda

Put all the fruit in the bottom of the pitcher and pour in the sugar. You’ll be surprised how much sugar is required to balance the flavor of Sangria — don’t be shy.
Pour in the brandy, there should be more or less enough to cover the fruit.
Fill the remainder of the pitcher halfway with red wine.
Fill the rest with a mix of fruit juices (but leave a little room for ice!). You decide whether or not to add soda in place of just juice, both carbonated and uncarbonated Sangria is delicious! Juices used can range from 100% juice to even cheap store blends.
If you have time, allow this mixture to come together overnight in the fridge. It can be served immediately, too.
Before serving just put as much ice as you can into the pitcher and you’re all ready.

Sangria makes a lot more sense to mix up in Spain. Wine prices are a fraction of those we are used to seeing in California, and the quality remains high despite the low price tags. Sometimes we also see White Sangria being served, which is made with Spanish Cider in place of red wine. Cider here is bitter and highly effervescent, not so much to our taste, but unique compared to the English tradition. Of course Sangria made with white wine does exist — we just haven’t seen much of it in Spain. If you substitute white wine for the red in the recipe be sure to use a higher quality of wine.

Montaditos are small pieces of bread topped with basics like meat and cheese — one of the many different incarnations of Tapas. Tapas are essentially appetizers; little single-bite snacks made ahead of time and displayed temptingly in bistros. Originally, the Spanish would serve a drink with a plate-like covering to protect it from flies or such in bars. Eventually, these plates came with bite-size snacks, hence the name “Tapas” or tops. The category ranges from little bits of meats and cheese, to whole and prepared fish, to little elaborate concoctions like frittatas and little sandwiches.

Basic Montadito

a few slices off a fresh baguette
one clove of garlic, cut in half
one tomato, cut into quarters
olive oil
manchego cheese
smoked ham

Start off by rubbing the cut side of the garlic clove on the bread.
Pour a little olive oil over the top of the slice.
Take a quarter of the tomato and literally squeeze the wet insides out, onto the bread.
Decorate your Montadito with cheese, ham, frittata, or anything that sounds good or is available.

A Montadito is a blank canvas — once the garlic has made it onto the bread, any topping can be applied, be it smoked meats, cheeses, veggies, fish, pate…

We love paella. Seafood and rice cooked together is like home-made comfort food. Paellas come in endless varieties, but demand high quantities. Often restaurants will serve the dish only for two, and with a considerable wait.

Paella
Serves 6-8

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped tomato
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon each of dried thyme and basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon saffron

2 or 3 chicken breasts, cut up into bite-sized pieces
4 links Spanish Chorizo (not Mexican!), cut into slices
4-1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups long-grain rice
1 pound mussels, scrubbed well, beards removed and rinsed
1 pound assorted seafood: scallops, calamari, shrimp
1 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed
Minced fresh cilantro, lemon wedges and red pimento strips for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sofrito: In a skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and pepper, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, thyme, basil, cumin seed, bay leaf and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the mixture for 5 to 7 minutes, or until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.

Pat dry the chicken and season it with salt and pepper. In a large deep ovenproof skillet heat the oil over moderately high heat until it is hot. Add the chicken to the skillet, cook it for 7 to 10 minutes on each side, or until it is browned and transfer it to a plate. Add the chorizo to the skillet, cook it, tossing, until it is browned lightly, and transfer with a slotted spoon to the plate.

To assemble: Preheat the oven 400 degrees. In a saucepan bring the broth to a simmer over moderately high heat, add the saffron and let the mixture steep for 5 minutes. In a 14-inch paella pan or a large deep ovenproof skillet, arrange the rice, chicken, chorizo and sofrito. Add the prepared broth, bring the liquid to a simmer over high heat, stirring, and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Arrange the shellfish in the pan and bake the paella on the floor of the oven for 25 minutes. (Do not stir the paella during cooking. If the mixture becomes dry, add the additional broth.) Add the peas and bake the paella for 10 minutes more, or until the liquid is absorbed and the mussels have opened. Let the paella stand, covered with a dish towel, for 5 minutes before serving. Serve the paella in its dish garnished with the cilantro, lemon wedges and red pimento strips.

There is no one way to make Paella, but the seafood variety is the most typical in Spain. But just because it’s seafood doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few nice slices of sausage thrown in for flavor. A perfect paella isn’t over-stirred like a risotto, and results in a toasted rice crust at the bottom of the pan called a socarrat.

Comments

  1. Brandi says:
    June 8, 2009

    Mmmm….thank you for sharing!

    Reply

  2. jen laceda says:
    June 9, 2009

    I will have to Stumble this and save this recipe!!

    Reply

  3. Anita says:
    June 14, 2009

    Love Love Love the foodie pics and recipes Thank you for sharing
    XO
    Bruce and Anita

    Reply

  4. Christie @ Fig & Cherry says:
    June 26, 2009

    Great review! I’m currently in Barcelona and am very tempted to check this class out… :)

    Reply

  5. Christie @ Fig & Cherry says:
    June 26, 2009

    What’s the name of the cooking school?

    Reply

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