Saturday, October 24, 2020


For you fans of organ meats, here’s a bonus blog. Last week, liver; this week it’s kidneys. But, in spite of several requests, I won’t be delving into brains, “balls,” pig’s blood or sweetbreads just yet. Nor the Madrid tapa bar specialties, gallinejas, fried lambs’ intestines, and entresijos, pieces of mesentery, nor zarajos, lambs’ tripe wrapped on skewers like a skein of yarn, a favorite in La Mancha. (You can see how zarajos are made on this TV clip here.) 

Here’s a really simple way to prepare lambs’ kidneys, skewered with mushrooms and shallots and grilled.

Moderate the heat so that the kidneys cook through before they brown too much on the outside. High heat tends to toughen this tender meat.

Simple and delicious: split lambs' kidneys and skewer them with mushrooms, shallots and bacon. They are quickly grilled on a plancha or skillet.

Serve the kebabs as a tapa or main dish.

Grill kidneys on moderate heat. They're perfect just a tiny bit pink inside.

Lamb Kidney Kebabs
Brochetas de Riñones de Cordero

Lambs’ kidneys
Mushrooms, cut in half
Strips of red bell pepper
Cubes of bacon
Wedges of shallot
Pinch of fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper 
Olive oil

Cut the kidneys in half, remove the kernel of white fat and wash away any blood. (If using larger veal kidneys, cut them in quarters.) Soak the pieces in milk for 15 minutes. Drain well and pat dry. (Discard milk.)

Soak 6-inch wood or bamboo skewers in water for 15 minutes.

Kidneys skewered with mushrooms.

Thread pieces of kidney, mushroom halves, strips of red pepper, cubes of bacon and wedges of shallot on the skewers. Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper.

Place a plancha or cast iron skillet on moderate heat. Brush the plancha with oil. Lay the skewers on the plancha and grill them, without moving them, 5 minutes. Drizzle them with additional oil.

Grill the skewered kidneys on a plancha or cast iron skillet.

Use a spatula to lift and turn each skewer. Grill them 5 minutes more. Serve hot.

Another recipe for kidneys, plus some more recipes with Sherry, just in time for International Sherry Week, this year November 2-8:

For fans of offal (variety meats), more recipes that have appeared in the blog:

Saturday, October 17, 2020



Menu variety! Lamb's liver in an onion sauce spiked with Sherry.

Searching the cold locker for turkey drumsticks at the supermarket, I discovered a section of meats that I had never before explored—los despojos or casquería—variety meats or offal. Brains, kidneys, tripe, sweetbreads, pigs’ feet, chicken’s blood, giblets. 

I’ll have to work up to brains. For now, lamb’s liver is a good starting point. I like liver (except for pork liver, which for some reason, I took a dislike to), so it will give me some menu variety without being too challenging.

This is a Spanish version of “liver and onions.” The onions cook slowly, melting into the sauce. The liver, however, doesn’t need to cook more than a few minutes. It’s best if still a little pink. If lamb's liver is not available, use calves' liver in its place. Sherry is added at the very end of the cooking. Best is an oloroso-seco or amontillado, but, if not available, fino Sherry is fine.

Tender and savory liver is not so challenging. Spanish style, it's served with patatas fritas, fries.

Add Sherry to the sauce at the very end, so its flavor persists.

Lamb’s Liver with Onion Sauce
Higado de Cordero Encebollado

Serves 3-4.

1 pound lamb’s liver
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 onions (about 12 ounces)
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup red bell pepper cut in strips
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken or meat stock
2 tablespoons Sherry
Chopped parsley

Cut the liver into bite-sized pieces. Place it in a bowl and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Cut the onions in half, then slice them in julienne.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy skillet. Add the onions and fry them slowly until they are softened and transluscent, 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon more of oil. Add the strips of red pepper and chopped garlic. Continue cooking on moderate heat until onions are very soft, 10 minutes. Don’t let them get too brown. Scoop out the vegetables and reserve them.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat over medium-high. Add the pieces of liver in a single layer. Allow them to brown without stirring for 1 minute. Turn the pieces and brown them 1 minute more.

Reduce heat to moderate. Move the liver to one side of the pan and add the flour. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and stir it into the flour. Stir the flour into the pieces of liver. Add the stock and stir until the sauce is well blended and thickened, 2 minutes. Stir in the Sherry and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the chopped parsley.

Serve the liver and onion sauce immediately.

More recipes with liver:

More encebollado recipes:

Saturday, October 10, 2020



"Mar y montaña" --the Spanish "surf and turf," seafood and food from the land cooked together. Here the mar is represented by octopus and algae, the mountain by sausage and chickpeas.

A new TV show caught my attention last week—Como Sapiens on Spain’s RTVE-1. It’s a gastronomy magazine, showcasing the best of home cooking, avant-garde chefs doing their thing, regional foods, celebrities who cook and lots more.

One presenter was opening cans and jars of Spain’s fabulous foods en conserva and demonstrating how to use them. He emptied the contents of a jar of baby fava beans into a bowl, added sepia en su tinta—cuttlefish in inky black sauce—from a can and popped it into the microwave. Instantaneous mar y montaña—“sea and mountain”—or, surf and turf. My kind of food.

Since the first weeks of Covid lockdown, when shopping was severely restricted, I’ve restocked my pantry several times. But, I confess to eating more canned and frozen foods than ever in my cooking career.  

So, here’s a version of mar y montaña—surf and turf—cooked with pantry ingredients. I started with a sofrito (could be fresh or canned tomatoes), added chorizo sausage and canned chickpeas, an open jar of seaweed salad (three kinds of algae with olive oil and vinegar), a potato, and, after 15 minutes of simmering, pieces of cooked octopus. I had octopus in the freezer, but canned would work too.  For a vegetarian version, use mushrooms instead of chorizo and algae such as wakame instead of the octopus.

Octopus with Chickpeas and Chorizo
Pulpo con Garbanzos y Chorizo

Quantities can be varied to suit what you have on hand. I used a 660-gram jar of chickpeas, rinsed and drained (2 ½ cups). A mini-food processor is great for finely chopping the ingredients for the sofrito. If using frozen octopus, don’t wash off the gelatinous coating, as it adds to the flavor. Likewise, if using canned fish, incorporate the liquid too. I used fish stock stashed in the freezer. Chicken stock is a fine substitute. Or just use water. If you want a soupier version, add additional stock or water. Taste before adding salt to the pan, as stock, chorizo and octopus are all somewhat salty. 

This makes 2 big servings or 4 small ones.

2 chorizo sausages (6 ounces)
3 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped green and/or red pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons pimentón (paprika)
½ teaspoon smoked hot pimentón
½ cup crushed tomatoes
¼ cup white wine or dry Sherry
1 cup fish or chicken stock
2 ½ cups cooked and drained chickpeas
1 bay leaf
Sprig of thyme
Fennel seeds
1 large potato (10 ounces), cut in cubes
8 ounces cooked octopus, cut in bite-size pieces
Chopped spinach, kale or chard (optional)
Salt to taste

Slice the chorizo into bite-size pieces. Heat the oil in a deep pan and fry the chorizo until lightly browned. Remove and reserve the chorizo. 

Cooks in 30 minutes.
Add the onion, peppers and garlic to the fat remaining in the pan. Sauté them until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the two kinds of pimentón. Quickly add the tomatoes, so that the pimentón doesn’t burn. Add the wine and raise the heat. Cook 1 minute until the alcohol is cooked off. Add the stock, bay, thyme, fennel and cubed potato. Add the chickpeas and chorizo. Cook, covered, until potato is nearly tender, 15 minutes.

Add the cut-up octopus and spinach, if using. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. If necessary, add additional water. Cook 10 minutes longer.  Discard bay leaf and thyme before serving.

More recipes for mar y montaña--most of which can be prepared with ingredients in the pantry and freezer.

Beans with Clams (Fabada con Almejas).
"Cobblestone" Salad with Chickpeas and Tuna.

More about the types of chorizo here.

More about the types of pimentón here.