Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Calçotada: A Catalan Allium Bacchanal

The Calçot is a scallion varietal that is grown in Catalonia. Commonly accepted folklore (e.g. Wikipedia) tells us that Xat de Benaiges, a Catalan farmer, grew Calçots by covering the edible part in dirt. This induces a phenomenon called etiolation. There I go again using one of those sexy food words. Etiolation occurs when plants don't receive sunlight, preventing chlorophyll from forming, keeping them a pale white color. This is the same process used to create white asparagus. A similar process, that involves burying me in work, is used to induce etiolation in Pablo.


The Catalans or Catalonians as they would probably rather not be called, throw barbeque like parties called Calçotada's, where calçots are grilled over dried vines and then smothered in sauce and eaten while drinking ridiculous amounts of wine.

I don't live in Spain, which makes me sad for a whole host of reasons. But fortunately, in my own neighborhood, I discovered:


Wintered leeks (about as close as you are going to get in NYC) substituted for Calçots. It was pretty fucking awesome. I could go on about how delicious everything was, (which everything really f'n was), or I can tell you how you can actually put together your own Calçotada. Right here, Right now.

The components:
  1. Leeks. Again, you probably aren't going to find Calçots. Leeks are just fine for this.

  2. Fire. Used to grill the leeks (and also meat). Unlikely you are going to be able to build a fire out of vines. Wood or charcoal should be just fine.

  3. Meats. Sausage and Lamb Chop. Keep it simple and carnal (big pile of meat).

  4. Romesco/Romescu Sauce. Catalan ketchup. A nut (hazelnut or almond) based garlicky, pepper sauce. There is also a regional variant called Mxylplyx. Oh no, wait, it's called Salvitxada. I'll be honest, I haven't deduced what the difference between the sauces are yet.

  5. Wine. Red, Rose or Cava. More important than type of wine, what you really need is a...

  6. Porron. This is basically a beer bong for winos. Imagine a vase with a spout that comes to a narrow point coming from the bottom. Can't imagine it? Here:


    Tip the point into your mouth and extend your hand holding the Porron as far from your face as you can, keeping the narrow jet of wine pouring into your mouth. When you can't take any more: bring the point close to your face and return it to an upright position, attempting, but most likely failing, to prevent pouring wine on your face and shirt. Repeat ad nauseum... sometimes literally.
Congratulations! Now you can have your own Calçotada.

You're welcome Internet.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Zero Effort Pulpo A La Gallego

Octopus is a notoriously finicky ingredient. You are usually battling flavor and texture. As McGee writes:
The recipes themselves are all over the map with their advice for making octopus tender. Salting is essential to tenderness, or fatal; brief dips in boiling water tenderize, or long slow cooling, or a rubbing with grated daikon, or the addition of a wine cork to the cooking liquid.

McGee continues to perform his own experiments with which he does come up with two ways to prepare octopus. Brine/simmer and self-braise at low temp.


While I am sure they both work really well, I found that sous vide is hands down the way to go. And it makes sense, because it is sort of like a self braise. One of the best things about cooking Octopus is that you can cook it at a temperature perfect for cooking vegetables. Starches break down around 80C, while pectin doesn't break down until around 85C. And when I think Octopus and starches I most certainly think of Pulpo A La Gallego.

Pulpo A La Gallego is a spanish dish that is basically boiled octopus and potatoes drizzled with olive oil and paprika. It was crazy easy to do this SV-stylee. Bag of potatoes with olive oil, s&p, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Other bag is octopus tentacles with olive oil, salt and lemon juice. 180F for 4+ hours to get the octopus nice and tender.

Take out potatoes and arrange on a plate.

When the octopus is done, you'll have a bag of mostly octo-juice as octopus are mostly made up of said juice. Remove tentacles, retain the octo-goodness in the bag, its pretty gelatinous, reuse for a sauce. Slice tentacles, squeeze more lemon juice on them, and put on top of potatoes. A drizzle of olive oil and some paprika and boom you're done.

As far as breaking down the octopus and the tentacles post water bath, sharp kitchen shears are definitely the way to go. Cut out eyes, innards, beak, removed head then cut through the webbing to get each tentacle whole.

Friday, May 8, 2009

easiest way to enjoy octopus.


olive oil, salt, lemon juice. 180F. drop and go to work.

TGRWT17 Redux: Apple/Rose

Two months in a row with rose based food pairings. This time it's Apple/Rose. It is pretty hard to get around the whole persian/middle eastern connection. So I am not going to shock you with MORABAA-YEH SEEB, an apple jam with citrus (usually lime, sometimes lemon) and rosewater. Will you be dazzled with the Rose Scented Apple Pie? What if I were to tell you of a tree that produces a fruit called the Rose Apple, which is neither Rose nor Apple and is yet reminiscent of both?


That's right... the Syzygium jambos produces a fruit that is according to some random sources on the internet both apple and rose like. The above picture comes from here, where you can also find some recipes.

I think when:
  • nature itself
  • the ancient persians, and
  • the mother-f'n food network
have managed to combine the two flavors, we can call this pairing a lay up.



Escolar: The World's Most Dangerous Fish

Escolar is the most controversial fish that you are likely to find in your fish market. This firm, white fleshed fish has an incredibly ric...