Sunday, November 18, 2012

A HOLIDAY MEAL WITH SPANISH FLAVORS

Crunchy sesame-wheat crisps with blue cheese dip.


Got your Thanksgiving menu figured out? This year I have guests who are vegetarian, so I’m not serving turkey. (Have you noticed that vegetarian is the trend this year?)

Most of the dishes will be classic North American (minus fresh cranberries, which I cannot find in Spain). Sweet potato “soufflé,” roasted Brussels sprouts and little onions; chestnut stuffing; apple pie. But, I couldn’t prepare a holiday meal without a little Spanish flavor.

If Thursday is a sunny day, the starter will probably be a Spanish-inflected salad with jewel-like pomegranate and clementines picked from my own tree. If it’s rainy and chill (like today), I’ll opt for a soup, perhaps pumpkin (prepared with oregano and a touch of vinegar, as in this recipe).

Crispy crackers with sesame and olive oil.
For sure, I’ll serve fino Sherry or Montilla-Moriles as an aperitif, along with my home-cured manzanilla olives. And, I’ve just made a batch of regañás, sesame-wheat crisp crackers, to serve with Cabrales blue cheese dip.

Regañás
Sesame-Wheat Crisps


These crispy crackers, popular at tapa bars in Sevilla and Cádiz, are seriously addictive! They’re good all by themselves or as dippers for sauces. They keep well stored in an air-tight container.

In Spain, I can buy regañás in packets. But they are ever-so-easy to make. Get the kids to knead the dough and roll them out. Because the crackers keep well, you can make them days before the holiday.

Roll the dough as thinly as possible. After rolling it out and cutting, pop the trays right in a preheated oven. If you leave them to set, the dough will rise again and the crackers will not be so crisp.

Makes about 200 small crackers.

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
1 cup + 1 tablespoon hot water, divided
1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
2 ¼ cup plain flour plus additional for rolling out dough
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
Pinch of dried thyme or rosemary (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil plus additional to oil bowl


Combine the yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of the hot water and stir to dissolve. Allow to stand until bubbly.

Combine the two kinds of flour in a bowl with the salt , sesame seeds and herbs, if using. Make a well in the center and add the yeast, oil and remaining hot water. Use a wooden spoon to mix the dry ingredients with the wet.

Dough starts out really rough and shaggy.
Turn out on a board and knead the dough. It will be rough and shaggy at first and gradually become smooth and glossy, about 4 minutes.

Clean out the mixing bowl and oil it generously. Gather the dough into a ball and turn it in the bowl to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about two hours.

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Punch down the dough. Divide it in four pieces. Place one piece on a lightly floured board. Roll it out very thinly into a roughly rectangular shape. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet. Prick the dough all over with a fork. With a pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into strips 1 inch wide. Cut the strips crosswise into 2 inch- pieces.

Bake the strips until browned on the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough, rolling out, placing on baking sheet, cutting.

Allow the crisps to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Salsa Cabrales
Cabrales Blue Cheese Sauce


Cabrales cheese.
Cabrales is a distinctive blue cheese from Asturias—sharp, but remarkably creamy in consistency. It makes a delightful dressing or dip when thinned with wine or, in the Asturian style, dry cider. Serve the sauce with endive leaves for dipping; with charcoal-grilled steaks or spooned  over a salad of frisée, sliced pears and toasted almonds. Other blue cheese can be substituted.

Makes  2/3 cup of sauce.

5 oz Cabrales (Asturian) blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped onions
¼ cup white wine, cider, cava (sparkling wine) or dry Sherry
Pinch of cumin seed
Smoked pimentón (paprika) as garnish


Place the cheese in a blender or mini processor with onions, wine and cumin seed. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately or keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days. Serve garnished with a pinch of pimentón.

Endive with Cabrales blue cheese dip.

5 comments:

  1. Love the crisps but a Cheddar cheese dip for me please.

    It's amazing we can't get fresh cranberries, but you can get a pkt of dried in Mercodona!

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    1. Debs: Thanks for the tip about cranberries.

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  2. Hi! I've just happened across your blog and found it interesting, so I thought I'd say hello.

    I've been living in Spain for 20+ yrs. (a small village in Montes de Toledo), and Thanksgiving is always an interesting challenge. I've finally found a decent turkey supplier (Ahorra Más, surprisingly enough), but, as a true New Englander, there are certain things I desperately miss: pumpkin and mincemeat pies, and, like you, fresh cranberries.

    Now our Thanksgiving troop is 15 proud (8 adults and 7 children), so this year my sister-in-law helped out by cooking peas, with bacon, of course! Ay, what would Spaniards do without pork?

    I'm looking forward to checking out your blog recipes, as they seem to be very southern (I had never even heard of regañás before). After so many years, Spanish foods (or rather Castellana-Manchega foods) are a mainstay at our table, but I must admit that Thanksgiving is the one day of the year that I'm all-American!

    Saludos! Karen

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    1. Karen: Glad you find the blog interesting. Yes, those regañás are very Andalusian. I live in the south--but I also wrote a cookbook about the food of La Mancha, COOKING FROM THE HEART OF SPAIN. Cranberries are a missing link for Thanksgiving(see previous Comment). Pumpkin pie is easy--just make puree of calabaza and proceed with traditional American recipe.

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    2. Yes, but the pumpkins just aren't the same... more like squash. But, I think that my main concern is that if I actually made a pumpkin pie, I would have to eat it all by myself! Although I've finally sold my in-laws on carrot cake and zucchini bread, a think pumpkin pie would be too much.

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