Saturday, November 9, 2019


I get it—sheet pan cooking is easy. No wonder so many variations on this cooking method appear in the food media—from chicken to meat to vegetables to fish and in various combinations. Because the foods are spread in a single layer, they cook relatively rapidly. And, because several foods can be cooked on the same pan, it saves clean-up of many cooking utensils.

Sheet pan cooking is not so different from what in Spain is called cooking “en lata” (a lata is a baker’s rimmed oven pan) or “en rustidera” (a large shallow roasting pan). The pan needs to have a rim high enough (minimum 1 inch) to contain the main ingredients and any liquids. I found the broiler pan that came with my electric oven to be perfect.

Pieces of rabbit and chunks of potatoes and eggplant roast in a sheet pan with olive oil, whole cloves of garlic and Sherry.

I’ve adapted the sheet-pan technique to an old tapa bar favorite, food cooked al ajillo, with just a “little” garlic (meaning lots of garlic).  The cooking medium—olive oil—becomes the sauce, flavored with garlic and Sherry, plus a scattering of herbs. It’s often served with patatas fritas—fries—as well as bread for sopping up the juices. Here, the potatoes roast with the meat. I added chunks of eggplant to the rendition with rabbit. It soaked up the flavorful oil beautifully.

After roasting, heap the rabbit, potatoes and eggplant on a platter and spoon some of the flavorful juices over all.

A meal in one pan--just add salad. Serve Sherry with the meal--here a medium amontillado. (It's still International Sherry Week!)

Rabbit roasted in oil is tender and succulent.

Sheet Pan Rabbit with Garlic and Eggplant
Conejo al Ajillo en Lata

Serves 2-3.

1 ¼ pounds rabbit, cut in serving pieces (½  rabbit)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sprigs of rosemary or thyme
Chopped parsley
6 cloves garlic, 1 clove chopped, 5 cloves whole
½ cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant (about 14 ounces)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 medium potatoes (about 10 ounces)
¼ cup medium Sherry (such as amontillado or oloroso seco)
Alioli of roasted garlic, to serve (recipe follows)

Sprinkle the rabbit pieces with salt, pepper, sprigs of rosemary or thyme, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and 1 clove chopped garlic. Allow to stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Rabbit pieces first macerate with herbs and chopped garlic. Whole cloves of garlic roast with the meat and vegetables.

Add ½ of the oil to a sheet pan. Spread the pieces of rabbit in a single layer in the pan.

Cut the eggplant in 1-inch cubes. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Spread them in the pan with the rabbit.

Peel potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon oil. Add to the sheet pan.

Lightly crush garlic cloves.
Use the flat side of a knife to lightly crush the remaining 5 cloves of garlic. Scatter over the rabbit.

Pour Sherry over the rabbit and vegetables. Add all of the remaining oil to the pan. Place a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme on top.

Roast the rabbit 15 minutes. Turn the pieces of rabbit and, if possible, the potatoes and eggplant too. Roast 15 minutes longer, until rabbit and potatoes are done.

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and accompanied by alioli of roasted garlic.

Chunks of potatoes get crisp, eggplant turns soft and soaks up the oil.

Sheet Pan Chicken with Garlic
Pollo al Ajillo en Lata

I prefer drumettes, the thick wing joints, for this recipe.

Serves 4 as a main course.

2 pounds chicken wing joints
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
Sprigs of fresh thyme
8 cloves garlic (2 chopped, 6 whole)
¾ cup olive oil
1 pound frying potatoes
8 ounces portobello mushrooms
Red chile (optional)
½ cup medium Sherry (such as amontillado or oloroso seco)
Chopped parsley
Alioli with roasted garlic (see recipe), as an accompaniment

Place wings in a bowl and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, pimentón, thyme and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a rimmed sheet pan. Spread the wings in the pan in a single layer.

Peel the potatoes and cut them in strips as for fries. Toss them in a bowl with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of oil. Spread the potatoes on the pan with the chicken.

Clean the mushrooms and cut them in quarters. Toss them in a bowl with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms to the sheet pan. Cut the chile, if using, in pieces and add to the pan.

Wings, potatoes and mushrooms, ready to roast.
Lightly crush the whole garlic cloves, using the flat side of a knife. Leave the skins on them. Scatter the garlic among the chicken pieces and potatoes. Scatter sprigs of thyme over the wings and vegetables.  Pour all the remaining oil over the wings and vegetables.

Roast the wings 15 minutes. Carefully turn the wings, potatoes and mushrooms. Add the Sherry and return to the oven until chicken and potatoes are done, 15 minutes.

If desired, place the sheet pan under the broiler for 5 minutes to brown the tops of the wings.

Serve sprinkled with parsley and accompanied by alioli with roasted garlic. 

Alioli of Roasted Garlic
Alioli con Ajos Asados

Alioli sauce is made with mayonnaise from a jar and roasted garlic.

Use the cloves of garlic that roasted with the chicken wings or rabbit to make this sauce. If desired, the excess flavorful oil from the sheet pan can be incorporated in the sauce too. Serve the sauce with the wings, rabbit or with any meat or vegetables.

5-10 cloves of roasted garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup mayonnaise from a jar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Salt, to taste

Crush garlic with a fork.
Discard garlic skins. Place the garlic in a small bowl and mash them with a fork. Stir in the olive oil. Whisk in the mayonnaise, lemon juice and parsley until the sauce is fairly smooth. Add salt to taste. 

Sauce keeps, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

More sheet pan recipes:

More al ajillo recipes:

Saturday, November 2, 2019


In case you were looking for a theme for a party, here’s a good one—International Sherry Week, November 4-10. This fabulous wine that is made exclusively in Andalusia, Spain, comes in so many styles that you could try a different one every day of the week. Check out the web site Sherry Week to find tasting events near you or download the easy guide to food-matching with Sherry that will give you ideas of how best to serve this versatile wine. 

Serve Sherry with tapas.

Yes, serve Sherry with tapas. It’s the original tapas wine. But, you can also serve Sherry right through a meal, starting with a fino with aperitifs, amontillado with the bisque, oloroso seco with stuffed turkey and cream Sherry with the pumpkin pie.

By the way, you can use any type of wine glass to serve Sherry. I used to be a purist and even carried my own Sherry glasses when I travelled to the U.S. on book tours, where the type of glass was unknown. Called a catavino, it is a slim glass with a narrow top, the better for inhaling the wine’s aroma. But styles have moved on. If I’m serving Sherry with a meal, I like a medium-sized white wine copa.

Besides being the wine that goes with everything, Sherry is superb in cooking, from soup to sweet. Don’t look for “cooking sherry.” There’s no such thing. Real Sherry is real Sherry, with denominación de origen Jerez-Xeres-Sherry. Most Sherry is very reasonably priced, meaning it’s affordable enough to use in the sauce as well as to drink.

I delved into my cookbook collection, looking for some new ideas for cooking with Sherry. I rediscovered El Vino de Jerez en la Cocina Universal (Sherry Wine in International Cuisine) by Lalo Grosso de MacPherson (Espasa-Calpe; Madrid, 1982). Lalo Grosso, who grew up in Cádiz, daughter of a shipping magnate, learned to cook from the family cook and on travels with her father. After marriage (she had six children) Lalo set up a pioneer catering business in 1971, producing exquisite spreads for weddings, baptisms and banquets. With the sponsorship of the Academia Española de Gastronomía and the Cofradía de la Buena Mesa, Lalo wrote her first cookbook about Sherry. She became an indefatigable promotor of Sherry and of Spanish gastronomy abroad. (María del Rosario Grosso (Lalo) was born November 7, 1932, so Happy Birthday, Lalo.)

All of the more than 300 recipes in the book incorporate Sherry in one form or another (including vinagre de vino de Jerez—Sherry vinegar). Encompassing both Spanish and international dishes, they range from Shrimp Toast (oloroso seco); Béarnaise Sauce (fino + Sherry vinegar); Truffled Consommé (oloroso), dedicated to former king, Don Juan Carlos, who once dined in her home; Steak and Kidney Pie (oloroso seco); Lasagna (with pork loin, chorizo, mushrooms and fino); Broccoli (with fino, cream and almonds); Truffled Turkey (oloroso seco); Partridge (a whole bottle of manzanilla de Sanlúcar); Pears in Wine (fino + oloroso), and Apple Tart (sweet Sherry).

I chose a recipe from the book for Rape al Jerez, Monkfish with Sherry. Chunks of fish cook in a simple sauce made complex with the addition of Sherry and brandy.

Chunks of monkfish and shrimp cook in a sauce redolent of dry Sherry with a touch of brandy.

Serve Sherry with the meal, not just with tapas.

Monkfish with Sherry Sauce
Rape al Jerez

(Recipe adapted from El Vino de Jerez en la Cocina Universal, by Lalo Grosso de MacPherson.)

Both brandy and Sherry.

The mellow, winey flavor of this sauce is enhanced with the addition of brandy as well as Sherry. If available, use Brandy de Jerez. 

Monkfish (also known as angler fish) is a fine choice, as it’s very meaty and doesn’t disintegrate in cooking in the sauce. The fillets are cut into chunks, whose shape made me think that scallops would be a delicious substitute in this recipe.

Monkfish separates into fillets.
You will need a thick tomato puree—not concentrate—for this recipe. Use canned sauce or try the recipe that follows, spiked with additional Sherry.

Serves 4.

4 monkfish fillets, 6-8 ounces each
Salt and pepper
Flour for dredging
Olive oil
¼ cup finely chopped onions
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup thick tomato sauce (recipe follows)
¼ cup brandy
½ cup fino (dry) Sherry
½ cup water or fish stock
Freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces peeled shrimp
1 red pimiento (canned), cut in thin strips
Hard-cooked egg, sliced
Black olives, to garnish
Chopped parsley

Cut the fish into 1 ½-inch chunks. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and allow to come to room temperature.

Fry fish before cooking in sauce.

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a skillet. Dredge the pieces of fish in flour, pat off excess and fry them in the oil, turning to lightly brown all sides. The fish does not have to cook through as it will finish cooking in the sauce. Remove the fish and reserve it.

Strain the oil into another pan or cazuela, adding enough additional oil to make 3 tablespoons. Sauté the onions and garlic on moderate heat 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce and cook 2 minutes. Add the brandy and cook 3 minutes. Add the Sherry and water or fish stock. Season with ½ teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add the fried pieces of fish. Cook the fish in the sauce, turning it once, 10 minutes.

Add the shrimp and strips of pimiento to the sauce. Cook until shrimp begin to curl and turn pink, 3 minutes.

Serve the fish and sauce in individual cazuelitas garnished with sliced egg, olives and chopped parsley.

Drink Sherry all through a meal. With the monkfish, a fino.

Tomato Sauce with Sherry
Salsa de Tomate al Jerez

You will not need all of the sauce for the Monkfish with Sherry recipe. Store the sauce, covered tightly, in the fridge. Use it on pasta or pizza, on fish, chicken or meat, with vegetables. Vary the sauce by adding additional herbs to taste.

Makes 1 cup sauce.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika)
1 ½ pounds tomatoes, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
3 tablespoons Sherry, dry or medium
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

Heat the oil in a heavy pot. Sauté the onions and garlic until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the pimentón and immediately add the chopped tomatoes. Add the Sherry. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to moderate. Season with salt, pepper and bay.

Sauce starts as a sofrito with onions, garlic and tomatoes plus Sherry. After cooking, puree it in a blender.

Cook the sauce, uncovered, until it is very thick, about 45 minutes. Let it cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. If desired, the sauce can be sieved as well.

If you want to know more about the types of Sherry and how they are made, see this previous blog post, Celebrate Sherry.

More recipes using Sherry:

More recipes with monkfish:

Saturday, October 26, 2019


The vendimia finished, grape juice percolates in vats, magically turning into wine. Spain, third in wine production worldwide, has a deep tradition of foods associated with the vendimia. One is gachas de mosto, a traditional dessert made from mosto, grape “must,” the juice before it is fermented.

Gachas de mosto, a pudding made from grape juice.

Gachas is somewhere between a confection and a pudding. It is undoubtedly of Moorish origin and is somewhat similar to Turkish delight, which in turn is a variation on halvah, which, long ago, was also made with thickened grape juice.

The grape must is boiled down to a sweet syrup, then thickened with flour. Depending on the sweetness of the grapes, it needs no added sugar. (There is also a savory version of gachas that does not use grape juice.)

In Málaga province, region of famed muscat wines and raisins, the juice for this traditional dessert comes from Moscatel de Alejandria grapes. In Jerez, the Sherry varietal, Palomino, is used. In La Mancha, where the gachas are also called mostillo, the most common grape used to be the Airén, but now the sweet is made with Tempranillo (red). In Córdoba, where gachas de mosto is a typical sweet for the holidays of Todos los Santos (All Saints’ Day), November 1, and Fieles Difuntos (Day of the Dead), November 2, the Pedro Jiménez grape of Montilla-Moriles forms the base of the dessert.

Late-harvest muscatel grapes. As the skins begin to turn brown, the sweetness intensifies.

A friend gave us a basketful of Moscatel grapes, inspiring me to make juice. I picked off the stems and stalks, popping the grapes as I plopped them in a big bowl. I used my hands to knead them to release the juice (not a large enough quantity to bother getting my feet sticky). I strained out seeds and skins, pressing on the pulp to get as much juice as possible. Fruit flies began swarming almost immediately.

One pound of grapes made approximately one cup of juice. I had about three cups of juice. I bought bottled mosto, a pasteurized, unsweetened grape juice (nowadays made from concentrate) to combine with the fresh-pressed juice for making the dessert.

Typically, gachas is thickened to make a paste so stiff that, after cooling, it can be sliced or even cut into shapes. Some wine-country chefs have re-invented the whole concept, thickening the reduced grape juice very lightly and aerating it in a siphon to make “foam.”

I chose a version midway between—the following recipe makes a dessert like wobbly Jello. (But, with no gelatine, it is vegan.) Its sweet, winey flavor is delicious alongside baked apple or spiced pears. While not traditional, whipped cream or Greek yogurt goes nicely with it.

An autumnal dessert plate--grape juice pudding, baked apples, toasty almonds, cinnamon and a dollop of cream.

Pudding has the consistency of wobbly Jello.

Another way to serve--ladled into dessert cups.

Grape Juice Pudding
Gachas de Mosto

Skim off foam that rises.

Fresh-pressed mosto or grape juice will create a lot of froth as it comes to a boil. Skim off all the foam that rises to the top. 

If you don't have mosto, use any unsweetened grape juice.

The easiest way to calculate whether the juice has reduced by half, rather than measuring volume, is to measure the depth of juice in the pan before cooking (use a ruler). When it has reduced to half of that depth, it’s ready. 

I used as a mold a 8.5-inch X 6.5-inch Pyrex pan. Cut into 2-inch squares, the recipe makes 12 servings. The gachas mixture can also be ladled into individual dessert cups. 

I used blanched and skinned almonds, fried in olive oil, to garnish the pudding. Sesame seed or walnuts are also traditional. 

9 cups unsweetened grape must or juice
Strips of orange zest
Cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 cup cake flour
Olive oil or almond oil to grease the mold(s)
Toasted almonds, sesame seeds or walnuts
Ground cinnamon (optional)
Whipped cream or Greek yogurt, to serve (optional)

Reserve 1 cup of the grape juice. Place the remaining 8 cups of juice in a large pot with the strip of orange peel, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil, skimming off any froth that rises to the top. Lower the heat to medium-high and continue cooking the juice until it is reduced by half (4 cups). This can take from 50 to 60 minutes. Skim out and discard the orange peel, cinnamon stick and cloves. Let the juice cool slightly.

While the grape juice reduces, beat together the reserved 1 cup of juice and the flour until completely smooth (a blender works well for this). 

Reduced juice is thickened with flour.

Return the reduced juice to the heat. Whisk in the juice-flour mixture. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or paddle until the mixture is thick and completely smooth, about 10 minutes. 

Have ready a mold or 12 individual cups lightly greased with olive or almond oil. If using sesame seeds, scatter them on the bottom of the mold. If pudding is to be served directly from the mold or cups, decorate the top with almonds or walnuts.

Pour the thickened juice into the mold or cups. Let set until completely cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

If pudding is to be served directly from the mold, stud the top with almonds.
To serve, loosen around the edges of the pudding with a knife. Place a serving dish on top of the mold and invert the mold so that the pudding releases onto the platter. Sprinkle the top with toasted almonds or walnuts. Cut into portions to serve. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired. Accompany with whipped cream or Greek yogurt, as desired.

Cut the pudding into squares to serve.

More recipes using grape juice (mosto):

To accompany the gachas: