Mark in Andalucia

I’d been to Andalucia before, but not like this. Aside from the amazing company – I’ll never forget the day I spent driving and eating and napping with Gwyneth and Claudia – I saw and learned and enjoyed so much in such a short period of time, it was really incredible. The highlights, oddly enough were not the Alhambra (which was breath–taking, but I prefer smaller things), but a home–grown mango from the Granadian coast, which has a near–tropical microclimate; an all–fish meal on a breezy, cloudy seashore as early winter was making its presence felt; the torjitas, local churros that were the best I’d ever tasted (from a secret recipe I couldn’t pry out of the guy); and Lebanese food in a tiny plaza in Cordoba.

–MARK

Posted Tuesday, January 7, 2014

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: COCHINILLO ASADO

Mark and Claudia ate this at Mesón de Cándido and it’s pretty much all you need to know when you’re there – maybe a little green salad with raw onion, but otherwise don’t even consult the menu. The skin of the suckling pig is so crisp that it can be famously shattered with a dinner plate.

Serves 6, with leftovers
*A handful of fresh bay leaves
*1 suckling pig (about 12 pounds), cleaned
*1/4 pound high–quality lard, melted
*4 garlic cloves, minced

Put the bay leaves in a large roasting pan and lay the pig on top, belly up. Add about a cup of water to the pan. Cook in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Turn the pig over. Prick the skin all over with a sharp paring knife, then brush with the lard and rub with the garlic. Cook for another 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size of the pig, until the skin is very crispy and the meat is tender and succulent; a thermometer inserted into the shoulder should register 145°F. Let rest for 15–20 minutes. Carve and serve, making sure each diner gets some of the crispy skin.

Posted Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Something Special About This Week’s Episode

Be sure to look out for the incredible Segovian aqueduct in this week’s episode. It stands in the center of the city and it is one of the most important and well preserved Roman monuments in Spain. It’s constructed of more than 20,000 granite blocks that were fitted together without any mortar or even clamps. I can’t believe it’s still standing.

– MARK

Posted Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Spanish Wine 101

Spanish wine is labeled according to the amount of aging the wine has received. A bottle labeled vino joven (“young wine”) or sin crianza (“without aging”) will have had little–to–no wood aging. These wines are often intended for consumption within a year of release. The three most common aging designations on Spanish wine labels are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.

* Crianza red wines are aged for two years, with at least six months of aging in oak casks.

* Crianza whites and rosé must be aged for at least one year with at least six months spent in oak.

* Reserva red wines are aged for at least three years with at least one year of aging in oak casks.

* Reserva whites and rosé must be aged for at least 2 years with at least six months in oak.

* Gran Reserva designation is typically reserved for the highest-quality vintages. Reds require at least five years of aging, 18 months of which must be in oak. Whites and rosé must be aged for at least four years with at least six months in oak casks.

The vintage year or cosecha on any bottle of Spanish wine indicates that at least of 85% of the grapes used in the wine come from that specific year’s harvest.

Posted Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tejeringos

In addition to Spanish and English, I speak a few other languages, Swedish among them. There’s a great Swedish word, lagom, which has no exact translation in English. Basically, though, it indicates sufficiency, the satisfaction of something being just right. Well, terjeringos, a sort of churro, are totally lagom. They are, in fact, the royalty of the churro world – not too salty or sweet or heavy. Just perfect. Just lagom. We had them in Andaluciacute; a and I’m still thinking about them.

–CLAUDIA

Posted Tuesday, December 10, 2013

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: FIDEOS WITH SEAFOOD

At Restaurante Morayma, Esteban Garcia Mingorance, a young chef, prepares traditional Andalusian food, like these fideos. Fideos are short pieces of thin pasta that are traditionally cooked like a rice pilaf–browned in oil, then cooked in only enough liquid to make them tender. You can use any type of seafood you like – whatever clams look best, whichever shrimp look freshest. The end result is a hearty, flavorful dish.

Serves 6 to 8
*1/4 cup extra–virgin olive oil
*1 pound fideos (or substitute angel hair pasta broken into 1–inch pieces)
*1 large onion, finely diced
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*1 teaspoon hot pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
*One 28–ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
*6 cups fish or seafood stock
*1 cup dry white wine
*1 bay leaf
*A large pinch of saffron threads
*1 pound mussels, scrubbed
*1 pound medium shrimp in the shell
*1 pound clams, scrubbed

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the fideos and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until well browned. Using a skimmer, transfer the fideos to a bowl. Add the onion, garlic, and pimentón to the pot and cook until the onion is beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands as you do so, and their juice, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the stock, wine, bay leaf, and saffron in another large heavy pot and bring to a boil. Add the seafood, cover, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until all the clams and mussels have opened and the shrimp are opaque. Transfer the seafood to a large bowl and add the shellfish cooking liquid and fideos to the tomato sauce. Add the fideos and cook, stirring frequently, until the fideos have absorbed a lot of the liquid and are soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the shellfish, simmer gently just to heat through, and serve.

Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Something Special About This Week’s Episode

Fun fact about this week’s episode: The word granada translates as “pomegranate.” This explains the city’s use of the fruit in its coat of arms and on lampposts, street signs, and the like. I ate the best pomegranate of my life from a tree at the Alhambra.

– GWYNETH

Posted Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Canned Tuna

Canned tuna isn’t held with particularly high esteem. It’s usually hidden under gobs of mayonnaise and sandwiched on bad white bread. Spanish canned tuna is a totally different story. It’s harvested in northern Spain, cooked in seawater, and packed in good quality olive oil. It’s not at all dry – in fact, its texture is almost silky. Best left in its olive oil with maybe just a bit of good salt and freshly ground pepper. Perhaps a piece of toast or some good sliced tomatoes, but a fork alone is just fine.

Posted Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dali and Rafa’s

Dali was not a particular favorite of mine, so I took incredible delight in discovering works by him that I’d never seen in the amazing Teatre–Museu Dalí in Figueres, near Girona on the Costa Brava. (The Costa Brava itself is among my favorite parts of Spain – really a must.) I don’t remember a more joyful part of the whole trip than the morning we spent here. Check out Abe Lincoln if you get to this place.

We then hit Roses, which is where El Bulli is. Ferran we’ll cover elsewhere, but what was interesting in this trip is that we ate at Rafa’s, what he’s called his favorite restaurant in town and “the best place in the world to eat fish.”

Pretty great. A place with five tables and two cooks, and Claudia and I ate until we nearly burst. My favorite: the shrimp on a bed of salt.

–MARK

Posted Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Patatas Bravas

Patatas bravas, fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and aioli, are heaven. They’re one of my favorite tapas and the ones at Inopia were some of the best I ever had.

–GWYNETH

Posted Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Something Special About This Week’s Episode

Gwyneth, Mario and Michael Stipe enjoy an out–of–this–world meal of tapas at Inopia in Barcelona. Watching the episode, you might not be able to grasp the amount of tapas they ate: a long ceramic dish of olives–delicious little malagueñas–is brought out first. Then a boda (literally a wedding) of anchovies, both salt–cured and vinegar–cured. Pan con tomate, of course. Then icy–cold bacalao on crunchy bread (pan de aire, which translates as “bread of air”) with olive paste. Next, perfect wedges of green but sweet tomato with tuna belly and scallions. And then jamón, seared tuna, fried gambas (shrimp), tiny fried mullets (“this is my favorite, because I have to work,” says Michael), and anchovies infused with lemon, dredged in flour, and fried. Gwyneth says she’s full and I tell her she’s only started to see the edge of full. We’re not done yet, not even close. Out come baby cuttlefish cooked a la plancha; croquettas de jamón made with Ibérico ham; eggplant with cane sugar; patatas bravas; spiced lamb brochettes; torta Cañarejal cheese; pineapple with lime zest and molasses; strawberries with black pepper and sherry vinegar caramel; finally, small glasses of homemade red peach wine. Michael perfectly renames it: “I’m going to call this place Utopia.”

Posted Tuesday, October 29, 2013

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: GAMBAS A LA PLANCHA

Mark and Claudia loved these gambas (shrimp). Rafa explains that he cooks the gambas on a bed of salt because it preserves their moisture and keeps them juicy. Whatever the reason, his were some of the best. Claudia eats only the shrimp bodies, and Mark loves the heads – like Jack Sprat and his wife, they make a good team.

Serves 2 to 3
* Coarse sea or kosher salt
* 1 pound large head–on shrimp in the shell

Heat a plancha or large cast–iron skillet over a hot grill fire or medium–high heat until hot. Spread a 1/4 inch–thick layer of salt on the plancha (or in the skillet). Lay the shrimp on the salt and cook until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve with plenty of napkins.

Posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mario Batali Heads to Barneys

Chef Mario Batali has joined forces with Barneys New York for a book signing and party to celebrate the publication of Spain… A Culinary Road Trip , the companion book to his celebrated public television series with Gwyneth Paltrow Spain… on the road Again.

Come join us Wednesday, October 29th from 6–8pm where Mario will be signing copies of the book, which was published by the Ecco imprint of HarperCollins. Wine will be provided by Frexienet and Barneys in–house restaurant, Fred’s, will be serving Spain–inspired Mario concocted appetizers from the book.

See you uptown!

Posted Tuesday, October 15, 2013

BLOG: Mark on Juan-Marie Arzak


For some reason, Juan–Marie Arzak (whom I know loves me like a brother), decided to start calling me ‘Grumpy’ (or, as he pronounced it, ‘grahmpy’) when we visited him this time. (I suspect he was prompted by some of the grumpy crew members.) In any case, it was – as usual – an amazing visit to his restaurant, incorporating a fantastic lesson in making pil–pil, one of the truly miraculous dishes of Basque cuisine, a fun trip to the port, a sampling of a few of the local pinxos bars, and of course a quiet meal at Juan-Marie’s restaurant at the end of the day.

When I got home, I made this sort of rough shrimp equivalent of pil–pil, with similar flavors but fewer challenges.

Roasted Shrimp with Herb Sauce
Makes 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 cup parsley (thin stems are okay; discard thick ones)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds shrimp, in the 20 to 30 per pound range, peeled
1/3 cup shrimp, fish, or chicken stock, white wine, or water

1. Preheat the oven to 500dgF. Combine the garlic and oil in the container of a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the scallions and parsley and pulse until the mixture is minced. Toss with the shrimp, salt, pepper, and chilis.

2. Put the shrimp in a roasting pan that will accommodate them comfortably. Add the liquid and put the pan in the oven. Roast, stirring once, until the mixture is bubbly and hot, and the shrimp all pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Posted Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dueling Breakfasts

At the Marqués de Riscal Hotel & Vineyard, Gwyneth and I had a funny breakfast together. She had yogurt with honey on the side, fruit, and coffee with soymilk. I, on the other hand, had torta del Cesar cheese, tongue terrine, eggs, sausage, thickly sliced rye bread with olive oil and crushed tomatoes, melon, and espresso with sugar.

–MARIO

Posted Tuesday, October 1, 2013