Sangria. You’re welcome.

Sangria Tasting at Wine Gourmet, Thursday, Sept 10, 5-8 pm

Sangria is the perfect summer sipper.

Sangria is a host’s best friend.  Made properly, Sangria is tasty, food-friendly and a perfect quaffer for guests “not into wine.”

Sangria originated in Spain. The word Sangria comes from the Spanish word, sangre meaning blood. The drink gets its name from the red color of the wine used in a traditional sangria recipe. The drink is also made with white wine which is called sangria blanco.

Sangria is basically a mix of wine, juices, soda water and fruit. Any young red wine can be used in a traditional recipe.

Tried and True Tips for Making the Best Sangria:

1.         Good, quality ingredients are important in this drink. Wine is the dominant ingredient, so take care to use a good wine.

2.         It’s important to allow time for the wine to blend with the fruit.  A few hours or even overnight in the refrigerator will enhance the flavor.

3.         Add soda and ice just before serving.

4.         Use a Spanish Rioja to get the authentic flavor of red Sangria.  We have a few wines that are perfect- Protocolo Tinto $8.99 and Montebueno Rioja $9.99

Published in: on June 30, 2010 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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One Foodie Couple’s Journey Through Spain – Part II

Adam Z. Markham

In our last chapter we discussed conspicuous consumption and the eating of “all-things-pig”.  Well, why change when you’re on a roll?

After leaving the Mercado de San Miguel, we set out searching for what is literally the single oldest restaurant on planet Earth (at least according to the Guinness Book of World Records).  Casa Botin opened in 1725 and has been operated continuously since.  Think about that.  The place is 51 years older than the United States.

Casa Botin

Casa Botin

Our motivations were pure and well-founded, as Casa Botin´s specialty is suckling pig roasted whole in a wood-fired oven.  As luck would have it we were only about a block from the place.  When we arrived it appeared they were closed for the afternoon but two young guys coming out told me they still had some reservations left… for 11:30pm!  When we went in, the guy in front of me apparently got the very last reservation of the evening.  I begged the man at the desk.  I begged some more.  He absolutely and adamantly refused to give us a coveted slot.  I am not ashamed to admit that when we left the building I wept a little.

My adoring wife, sensing my pain, tried to go back in but they had locked the door.  She then found the door to the kitchen and barged in but was summarily dismissed by the head chef and manager… the nerve!  She then came back out and knocked on the front door until the Maitre De came and unlocked it again.  As he let her inside I stayed put and, honestly, I prayed in Spanish.  She emerged with a smile on her face and fists clenched over her head.  At this juncture I feel the need to point out the following:  it is a sign of true love when your wife literally gets down on her knees and begs, BEGS a man for a dinner reservation all so she and her husband can eat a baby pig.  We had dinner reservations for 11:50pm… WHOO-HOO!

Reservation secured, we headed back to our hotel, the Petit Palace Puerta del Sol to sleep off our experiences at the Mercado and to gird our loins for that which lay ahead.

Roast Suckling Pig!

That evening we arrived at Casa Botin early (at about 11:40 pm, mind you) in eager anticipation of our meal.  Let me tell you unequivocally people, it did not disappoint.  Our new little porcine friend arrived on our plates in steaming, succulent glory.  The meat was pale, juicy, mouth-wateringly tender and shockingly flavorful.  The skin… THE SKIN!  The skin was the color of honey and was perfectly crunchy.  It was divine.  Accompanied by nothing more than simply roasted baby potatoes and a bottle of 2005 Acon Crianza that was 100% Tempranillo, this was absolutely the dinner of a lifetime.

On our way home we made two pit stops.  First, we stopped into a bar for a nightcap.  The only reason I bring up this particular place is because of a rather unusual wall-hanging.  They had the mounted, coal-black, mummified head of an enormous boar behind the bar wearing a giant pair of sunglasses that concealed its eye sockets.  The eyes themselves had evidently been replaced by glowing light bulbs.  This is a country that spends a potentially inordinate amount of time contemplating pig.  These people are alright by me.

Our second stop was for churros and chocolate.  Churros are a sort of extruded doughnut batter that when deep-fried comes our looking like a five-inch long noodle about the diameter of your thumb.  It is served with hot chocolate.  Every single late night reveler in Madrid apparently ends the evening with a stop off for this treat.  Kendall and I had heard about it, but frankly we had a bit of trouble understanding the fervor for a simple cup of hot chocolate with a doughnut.  Make no bones about it, one of my favorite things on earth is chocolate but come on, how good could it really be?

Churros & Chocolate!

We doubt no more.  When you walk in there are no choices.  The only options are “uno, dos, tres”, etcetera.  What was it like?  Forget I ever used the words “hot chocolate”.  This stuff came out in a steaming mug and you could practically stand a spoon up in it.  It was thick, dark brown and viscous and was freakishly delicious.  The churros had a perfect crunch and tooth on the outside and were soft and pillowy on the inside.  Dipped into the chocolate, they were the stuff of legend.

It was then off to bed for yet another round of digestion.

In our next installment intrepid reader, we awake in preparation for our 200 mile drive north through Bilbao (complete with a visit to the Spanish Guggenheim!) on our way to the coastal town of Deba.

…Adam

One Foodie Couple’s Journey Through Spain – Part I

Adam Z. Markham

I recently read an opinion by the editor of Bon Appetit magazine that one of the primary reasons people travel is for food.  I know in our case it is.  When my wife, Kendall and I decided to honeymoon in Spain, food was definitely one of our motivating factors.

Ah, Spain.   A better decision we could not have made.  If you have not personally travelled to Spain, I cannot begin to encourage you strongly enough, especially if you are a foodie.  Over the next month or so I will publish several installments detailing some of the more spectacular aspects of our journey.  What better place to begin than in our first stop, Madrid, with an homage to my well-known predilection for all-things-pig!

Museo del Jamon!

Museo del Jamon!

The pork, MY GOD, the pork in Spain!  Most of the Spanish must eat pork three meals a day.  The sheer quality and quantity of pork product the two of us ate in the first 36 hours alone is unimaginable to mere mortals.  Suffice it to say, we went to the ¨Museo del Jamon¨.  Yes, you read that right folks… the Museum of Ham.  The Museo del Jamon is actually less a museum and more a food store/restaurant.  Kendall and I made a conscious decision to make it our first official meal in Spain.  We simply ordered up a sampler platter of Iberico hams and sausage products along with a bowl of olives, some beautiful Manchego cheese and a loaf of nice, crusty bread.  Perfect in its simplicity and accompanied by dos grande cervezas, this was, I swear, one of the greatest meals of our lives!

That first evening we went out for tapas.  A simple salad made of canned tuna and tomatoes was a delight (Spanish canned seafood products bear no resemblance to their American equivalents and are, in fact, often even better than fresh).  Our second course was a glazed pork chop accompanied by French Fries.

"The Best Pork Chop EVER"

The description may not sound so exciting but the dish itself led Kendall to exclaim “this may be the best pork I have ever put in my mouth!”  We had a pitcher of fantastic sangria with our meal.  Sangria in Spain seems to be a much simpler affair than it does in the States and makes me want to rethink my recipe no matter how good it might be.

Caviar & Vodka!

Our second day on the ground we went to Mercado de San Miguel, one of the largest and most notable food markets in Espana.  We stayed for over three hours and enjoyed exquisite Spanish sturgeon caviar (we had a small sample of the relatively inexpensive $70 per ounce kind since the Russian Beluga ranged up to $4,000 per pound!) with the finest, smoothest Russian vodka I have ever tasted.  We also sampled grilled octopus and potato skewers and then olives stuffed with pickled sardines and roasted red peppers.  We drank a Taittinger Rose Champagne with strawberries (yes, a French Champagne in Spain – fear not, we had plenty of Cava as well) followed up by fois gras topped with a Valencian orange marmalade.

Sea Urchin, Ostra Gigante and Cerveza

We are adventurous eaters in general and had decided to push ourselves to the limit so we then went to the fishmonger and ordered up fresh, raw sea urchin and ¨gigantic oysters¨ on the half-shell.  Sea urchin.  What can I say?  Honestly, it tasted exactly like the ocean smells (on a good day) and was indeed a bit challenging.  I am not entirely sure we are dying to repeat the experience but I would not trade it for anything.  The oysters, on the other hand, were not in the least bit challenging and were washed down with Spanish Estrella Damm cerveza.

We then moved on to the butcher counter and had a (GET THIS!) $50.00 per pound beef that had the texture of fine silk and was cured in a style similar to Spain´s famous hams.  It was an absolutely sublime experience that you would have to try to believe.  Think chipped beef if chipped beef was one if the greatest red meat products you have ever put in your mouth.  We then proceeded to the queso counter and had a “Minitorta de Oveja”, one of the best, creamiest, funkiest cheeses I have eaten in my life.

Minitorta de Oveja

After an experience like this, what to have for dessert?  How about  ENORMOUS prawns?  I’m talking bigger-than-hot-dog prawns.  The problem was we then realized that we would have to buy about a dozen of the things and honestly didn’t feel up to it after such a bout of conspicuous consumption.  I asked a very nice bartender I had met earlier if a smaller quantity was available.  When the fishmonger turned his head for a moment she surreptitiously grabbed a couple and shoved them at me.  Kendall and I snuck off into a corner to gulp them down but before we could the bartender came running back over with a couple of lemon slices for the squeezing.  Good shrimp.  I’m talking good shrimp.  Our new friend sat watching us happily as we consumed our illicit goodies.  When we were done we literally sucked the fat out of their heads for good measure!  What I would give to have such an experience available to us here in the Roanoke Valley. 

Surreptitious Shrimp

Next Chapter:  Suckling pig at the oldest restaurant on earth!

…Adam

The Ultimate Paella!

Adam Z. Markham

In preparation for an upcoming trip to Spain my wife and I had two friends to dinner… Barb and Dave have traveled Spain extensively and we wanted to pick their brains. Deciding to cook paella, I proceeded to look in my cookbook collection for the best version I could find… evidently things were not going to be that simple. I found great and dramatic variation between the recipes.

I then checked out the web. Big mistake. The recipes I found there were even more disparate in opinion! Some folks were purists, insisting on the inclusion of rabbit and the exclusion of seafood. Some cooked on the stove top while others espoused an oven-based method. Some added saffron while others insisted its inclusion was akin to culinary heresy.

What started out as a simple search for a decent recipe ended up (much to the chagrin of my adorable wife) turning into a day-long quest for the perfect paella recipe.

Researching the history of the dish, I discovered it was originally cooked over an open flame often made from grapevines. Grapevines being hard to come by in the wilds of Bedford County, I decided to utilize my trusty Weber gas grill, “Old Smokey”!  Being an enormous fan of all things porcine I decided that the addition of chorizo was not even up for debate… pig simply makes life a better place. Seafood seemed an obvious choice, as did chicken, so I settled on mussels, shrimp and boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The most traditional rice for paella seemed to be Bomba, but due to difficulty in sourcing it (as well as a bout of periodically-occurring procrastination) I decided to use Arborio instead.

The end result was shockingly tasty and was proclaimed by our guests to be the “Ultimate Paella” (insert mental image of host grinning like an idiot)!

I strongly recommend sourcing and buying a paellera (the traditional cooking vessel). They are usually sold based on the number of servings they will produce. This recipe was developed using a 6 serving paellera approximately 16″ in diameter that I purchased from Provisions Gourmet in Roanoke. If you don’t happen to have a paellera – and are determined not to own one – you could substitute an oven-safe skillet of similar diameter although I don’t recommend it (hey, I said it was the ultimate paella, I never said anything about easy or quick).

Suggested Wine Pairings: If you are in the mood for white, a nice Albarino such as Salvenal Cosecha 2008 (only $14.99 at Wine Gourmet) would work nicely. For a red wine, try a Spanish Garnacha such as Atteca Old Vines 2008 (an absolute bargain at $17.99!).

Mmmmm..... paella!

Grilled Mixed Paella
Serves 6  VERY hungry people

½ cup good dry white wine – preferably Spanish
1 tsp. saffron threads, crushed
1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, peeled, cut into 1 in. dice – skin reserved
5 large cloves garlic, peeled, minced – skin reserved
½ cup packed fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves, lightly chopped – stems reserved and chopped
1 ½ lb. shrimp – peeled and deveined, lightly sprinkled with sea salt – shells reserved
7 cups good quality low-sodium chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 tbsp. olive oil (preferably Spanish)
8 oz. Spanish chorizo cut into ½ in. chunks
6 boneless/skinless chicken thighs
1 red bell pepper cut into 1 in. dice
1 green bell pepper cut into 1 in. dice
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
½ tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. sweet paprika
2 ¼ cups unwashed Arborio rice
2 to 3 tbsp. demi-glace, depending on strength
10 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
¾ cup fresh peas (frozen is acceptable)
½ cup pitted olives [preferably Spanish (such as Manzanilla) stuffed with anchovies – trust me!]
1 large fresh rosemary sprig
½ lb. mussels – cleaned and debearded
3 large lemons

Preheat grill over medium high heat and cover. Ideally the grill should hover around 350˚.

Prepare all ingredients (mise-en-place) beforehand. Put thyme, sage, and both the sweet and the smoked paprikas into a mortar and pestle and grind until well combined.

Put saffron into white wine to soak.

In a medium saucepan add reserved shrimp shells, onion and garlic skins and parsley stems to chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes. Strain. Keep broth hot but not boiling.

On grill, add olive oil to a paellera (paella pan) for six and heat until shimmering. Add chorizo (do not be tempted to use Mexican chorizo because it is too greasy) and brown all over. Remove. Salt chicken, add to pan and sauté until nicely-browned. Remove. Add onion, peppers and fennel. Lightly salt and sauté 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the herb/paprika mixture to the pan, along with garlic, and continue to stir for another minute.

Add rice to pan and stir until grains are evenly coated with oil and beginning to become translucent. Add the demi-glace, half of the parsley, tomatoes, peas and olives. Stir until demi-glace has melted. Return the chorizo and chicken to the pan.

Stir in the wine/saffron mixture and 4-4 ½ cups of the stock (there should be enough to cover the rice by ½ inch or so). Cook with grill lid open, occasionally stirring gently, until dish is no longer soupy but still contains plenty of liquid, 5-10 minutes. Level out the top of the paella, place rosemary sprig on top and close grill lid. Cook without stirring for 10 minutes at 350˚, checking occasionally to ensure the rice is not burning. More stock may be added as necessary (see note below).

Open grill lid and nestle shrimp into the paella. Insert mussels hinge-side down and close grill lid. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the mussels have opened. Discard any unopened mussels.

Remove from heat. Scatter remaining parsley and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top and cover with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes. Serve in the paellera at the table with additional cut lemon wedges as garnish.

PLEASE NOTE: Paella is ALL about the rice. The additional ingredients are subject to change and should be considered secondary to the perfect rice. When properly executed, the rice texture should be somewhere between the fluffiness of a pilaf and the creaminess of a risotto, with nice little “crunchy bits” around the bottom and sides of the pan. Remember: the rice will continue to cook as it rests, so to compensate, it should actually be a bit TOO al-dente at the end of cooking phase. If the rice appears to be absorbing all the stock but is not yet sufficiently cooked add a bit more stock. If it appears to be getting done but the rice is still a bit too soupy, open the lid to the grill and turn it up (being careful not to let the paella burn on the bottom).

…Adam