Saturday, February 24, 2018


Winter drags on. Today is grey, overcast and cold. Which puts me in the mood to simmer something savory all day—soup, stew or a braise. The warmth and aroma while it’s bubbling away on the stove promise a comforting meal.

Ready for all-day simmering--a pot of beef shanks.

Today I’ve got beef shanks, a cut of meat so tough that slow cooking is the only way to make it edible. The shank is the lower leg of the animal. It’s very lean muscle with sinews and connective tissue. The white membrane that encases the long, tubular muscle looks like fat, but is mostly collagen that converts into gelatin when cooked. It gives the stew flavor and substance (and causes it to set-up like a jelly when cooled).

You may know beef/veal shank better as osso buco, Italian-style braised shanks. They are cross-cut slices including the marrow bone. I’m using the boneless, cylindrical  muscle that runs the length of the bone. In Spanish, it’s called jarrete or morcillo. Morcillo is usually added to cocido, a one-pot boiled dinner, to add substance to the broth.

The shank is a tubular-shaped muscle, full of connective tissue. It needs long, slow cooking to become tender.
I made this with jarrete de ternera, boneless shank of “veal,” which is actually young beef, not true veal. Cut into thick, cross-wise slices, the meat was fork-tender in about 2 ½  hours. A larger piece of meat may take longer.

Shank meat shrinks considerably during cooking. Two to three pounds look like a huge amount of meat, but once braised, the meat loses bulk as it flavors the gravy.

I cooked the shanks on top of the stove. They can also be slow-cooked in the oven (325ºF for about four hours) or in a slow cooker (about 8 hours on low).

You can cook the shank the day before you intend to serve it. Let the stew cool, making sure the meat is submerged in the cooking liquid so that it doesn’t harden when exposed to the air. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The following day, lift off any congealed fat from the top and reheat the stew.

After removing meat, carrots and potatoes, you might want to sieve the cooking liquid/gravy. If desired, the remaining solids—the diced onions, carrots and peppers that started cooking with the meat—can be pureed to thicken the gravy.

Leftovers? Shredded, the meat makes a good filling for tacos. If lots of flavorful gravy remains once the meat is gone, cook more vegetables in it and turn it into soup.

Cooked until tender, chunks of beef shank share the stew pot with carrots and potatoes. Add other vegetables if you wish.

A hint of spring to come! While the stew was cooking, I thinned the carrot patch and added these baby ones to the pot at the last minute.

Fat carrots and baby carrots plus potatoes go into the stew.

The stew makes lots of flavorful cooking liquid. Use any that's leftover to make soup.

Meat is fork-tender after hours of cooking.

Slow-Cooked Beef Shank
Xarrete Estufado

This recipe is from Galicia in northwest Spain. In the galega language, jarrete is xarrete and estofado, stew, is estufado.

Serves 4-6.

2 ½ pounds boneless beef or veal shank
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
1 clove
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Pinch of thyme
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped onions
½ cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 teaspoon pimentón (paprika)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup chopped tomato
½ cup dry fino Sherry
2 tablespoons brandy
4 cups meat stock or bone broth
2 bay leaves
4 carrots, peeled
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in 2-inch pieces
Chopped parsley, to serve

Cut the shank crosswise into 1 ½ -inch slices. Place them in a shallow bowl or tray.

Before cooking, the meat is seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and parsley.

Crush the garlic in a mortar with the coarse salt, peppercorns and clove. Place the mixture in a small bowl and add the parsley, thyme and 1 tablespoon of oil. Rub the spice mixture all over the meat. Allow to set at room temperature for 45 minutes or, covered and refrigerated, up to 8 hours.

Heat remaining 4 tablespoons of oil in a large stew pot. Brown the pieces of shank on both sides, 5 minutes, and remove them. Add the onions, carrots and bell pepper to the oil and sauté until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pimentón and red pepper flakes, if using. Add the tomato and continue cooking until tomato begins to fry in the oil, 5 minutes. Add the Sherry and brandy and cook 3 minutes. Add the meat stock.

Return the pieces of shank to the stew pot. Add the bay leaves and salt to taste. (Amount of salt depends on how salty the stock already is. Remember, as cooking liquid reduces, salt will intensify.) Scrape any remaining garlic-spice rub into the pot.

Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the pot and turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook the shanks 2 hours, stirring the pot occasionally. Meat should be tender enough that it can be pulled apart easily with two forks. If not, cook another 45 minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes and cook until vegetables are tender, 30 minutes.

If desired, the gelatinous rim on the pieces of meat can be removed before serving. Serve hot garnished with additional parsley or cool and refrigerate up to 3 days. 

Beef shank also goes into Madrid Style Boiled Dinner (Cocido).

An overcast February day puts me in the mood for slow cooking. The silvery line on the horizon is the Mediterranean Sea. Not so blue today.

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Not paella! A rice dish with chicken and sausages, topped with egg.
Jaime Oliver, the “Naked Chef,” caused a Twitter frenzy a while back, when he posted a recipe for Spanish paella with chicken thighs and chorizo sausage. Spaniards, Valencianos, in particular, were outraged! Paella never, ever, has sausage. Not chorizo, not “Italian” sausage. No! “This is an insult to our culture!” “WTF???” “Remove the chorizo. We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” (Read more comments here.)

Indeed, I am puzzled as to why American and British food writers invariably call for sausage in paella recipes. In Spain, this is heresy.

Now, I’m not a stickler for authenticity. I’ve been criticized for calling for “yellow coloring” in place of real saffron in a paella recipe. Not to sound too defensive, but I know that not everybody—including Spanish home cooks—can afford real saffron.  I like using boneless chicken thighs instead of hacked-up chicken with bone splinters. And, since I don’t cook paella outdoors on a wood fire, I’ve switched from a traditional rolled steel pan to a no-stick paella pan that fits on the stove top. (Lamentably, giving up the socorrat, the crunchy rice on the bottom.)

Still, chorizo or other sausage just seems so wrong.

Authentic paella as made in Valencia, where the rice is grown and the dish was born, doesn’t include sausage nor even seafood! Nope, no shrimp, no clams, no mussels, certainly no lobster!

Paella (named for the wide, flat pan in which it cooks) was born in the wetlands of the Albufera, not far from the city of Valencia. The Albufera is a lake separated from the sea by sand and silt. It is a region rich in wildlife—ducks, mallards, herons, eels, frogs—and it is where rice has been cultivated since the epoch of the Moors.

The people of the Albufera traditionally lived by hunting, fishing and rice growing. The original paella was a dish cooked by the rice reapers, who made their midday meal from the foods that were hunted, fished, foraged and grown—rice, eels, wild duck, wild rabbit, snails, frogs’ legs—cooked over a wood fire in a shallow, flat-bottomed pan called a “paella.”

Valencia paella has big butter beans, flat green beans, chicken and/or rabbit and/or duck, and snails. Snails! No sausage.

But, Valencia has hundreds of other rice dishes. Some of those do contain sausage! Just don’t call them paella!

This one comes from Orihuela and Elche in the adjoining province of Alicante, where rice is also grown. It’s called arroz con costra, rice with a “crust,” because it’s finished in the oven with a topping of beaten eggs. It can contain two or more types of sausage. More appropriate for Lent, a vegetarian version without the sausage is called arroz con perdiz, rice with “partridge,” with a whole head of garlic standing in for the fowl.

Under the crust of cooked egg--rice with chicken and sausages.

This rice dish with a touch of saffron has chickpeas as well as chicken and vegetables.

Sausage! But, don't call it paella!

A whole head of garlic--the "partridge"--cooks in the center of the rice. Separate the cloves and mash them into the serving of rice.

Traditionally, this rice dish was made with leftover chickpeas and caldo, broth, from the cocido, boiled dinner. It was cooked over a wood fire and finished, not in the oven, but by setting a brazier of hot coals on top of the cazuela to set the eggs.

Rice with Sausages and Egg Topping
Arroz con Costra

Use an earthenware cazuela, a paella pan or a wide, shallow metal pan that is oven-safe to cook the rice. 

White and black butifarra are cooked sausages that finish on top of the rice when it goes in the oven. But longaniza or salchicha is raw. It gets fried first, releasing some of its fat, then cooks with the rice.

At the top are black and white butifarra, cooked sausages. Below are two kinds of salchicha or longaniza, raw pork link sausages. These cook with the rice. Like chorizo, the red one is seasoned with pimentón (paprika) and garlic.
If preparing a vegetarian version, double the amount of oil and add 1 teaspoon of pimentón (paprika) to the rice. Use water or vegetable stock.

Serves 4-6.

Use "round" Spanish paella rice, a medium-short grain, for this rice dish. Shown here are both cut-up rabbit and chicken and the sliced sausages. This dish has cooked chickpeas and vegetables, such as squash.

2 pounds chicken and/or rabbit, cut into 2 ½ -inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces pork link sausage
3 ounces red pork link sausage
3 ounces white butifarra sausage, sliced
3 ounces black butifarra or morcilla (blood sausage), sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 head garlic
½ cup grated tomato pulp
2 cups rice
½ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed (optional)
4 cups hot chicken stock or water
Sprig of fresh rosemary
8 ounces pumpkin or squash, cut in cubes
1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
4 eggs
2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and bring them to room temperature.

Cut the pork link sausages in 1-inch pieces. Slice the white and black butifarra sausages.

Heat the oil in a cazuela or oven-safe wide pan. Fry the pieces of link sausage until browned and remove them. Add the chicken pieces to the oil and fry them on medium heat until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. It should be partially cooked in this time. Remove the chicken pieces.

Remove papery outer skin of garlic. Trim the root end. Cut off the top, exposing the cloves of garlic. Brown the head of garlic in the oil. Add the tomato pulp and fry it on medium-high heat 3 minutes. Add the rice and sauté it 2 minutes. Return the pieces of link sausage and the chicken to the pan.

Add the crushed saffron, if using, to the hot stock. Pour the stock into the pan and distribute the sausage and chicken pieces evenly. Add the cubes of pumpkin. Place the head of garlic, cut-side up, in the center. Add the sprig of rosemary to the pan. Taste for salt. If using water rather than seasoned stock, be sure to add salt to taste. 

When rice is partially cooked, sliced sausages and chickpeas are placed on top.

Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and let the rice bubble 5 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Scatter the chickpeas over the top. Arrange the sliced white butifarra and black sausage on top. Cook 5 minutes more. Rice will not be completely cooked and some liquid should remain.

While rice is cooking, preheat oven to 425ªF/ 220ºC.

Before rice is cooked, pour beaten eggs over the top of the rice and place in the oven to finish cooking.

Beat the eggs with ½ teaspoon salt and the parsley. Pour the eggs over the top of the rice. Carefully place the cazuela or pan in the oven. Bake until eggs are set and slightly browned, 8-10 minutes.

Allow the rice to set 10 minutes before serving. Alternatively, let the rice cool to room temperature. Slice it into wedges to serve. 

Once cooled, the rice can be sliced into wedges and served room temperature.

More rice dishes:

And, a rice-less paella:

Saturday, February 10, 2018


Tortas de aceite are the “little black dress” of cookies, because you can dress them up or down. Wear your pearls, sip cava and heap the crisp crackers with caviar. Or, get cozy in your jammies and spread them with peanut butter and jelly. Serve them for breakfast with coffee or tea, for dessert with cheese and fruit compotes, or, accompanied by a mellow muscatel wine, on a rainy afternoon with classical guitar music playing.

These tortas can be sweet or savory. Serve them with fruit, cheese, nuts and a mellow, medium-dry muscatel wine or sweet Sherry.

Tortas de aceite are round, olive oil flat breads/cookies/crackers. There are actually two versions, one a soft, sweet bun, another a crispy, wafer-like cookie. The crispy ones have attained gourmet status, tortas de aceite Ines Rosales® from Sevilla. The “legítimas y acreditadas” tortas are slightly sweet and contain both sesame and aniseed. (They are available in the US at specialty food stores and on-line from La Tienda.

Packaged tortas, the famous Tortas de Aceite Ines Rosales ®

But, for $15.95 for 12 tortas (in the US), you may want to make your own. They’re easy and fun.

Golden and crispy, olive oil tortas go with everything.

Tortas are studded with sesame and aniseed. This version has toasted almonds too.

Serve tortas alongside fruit compote (this is apple-raisin-cinnamon). Or heap the fruit right on the torta for a quickie "pie." Go ahead and add a dollop of ice cream. The tortas are equally good with springtime strawberries.

Goat cheese and crispy tortas, a perfect pairing.

Crispy Olive Oil Cookies/Crackers
Tortas de Aceite

Use bread flour or all-purpose flour for the dough. You will not need to flour the board for kneading this dough or for rolling out the tortas, as the oil keeps the dough from sticking. 

Almond blossom time in southern Spain. Add chopped almonds to the torta dough, if you like.
To celebrate almond-blossom time, I’ve added finely chopped almonds to the basic dough. If you prefer the tortas without almonds, add about ¼ cup additional flour.

The cookies are not overly sweet, with only a coating of sugar on the top. Make them sweeter with a honey glaze, made by boiling 1/3 cup honey with 2 tablespoons water for 6 minutes, then brushing it on the tortas when they come out of the oven. For savory crackers, omit the sugar and top the rolled tortas with flaky salt.

The olive oil is “infused” with lemon zest, aniseed and sesame. Heat the oil on a low fire—don’t allow the seeds to fry. Discard the lemon zest. Let the oil cool slightly before adding the yeast to it. The water for dissolving the yeast should be very warm, not hot (105ºF/ 40ºC).

Makes 12 (4-inch) cookies.

Warm water (105ºF/ 40ºC), ¼  + ¼ cups
1 envelope active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-inch strip of lemon zest
1 tablespoon aniseed
2 tablespoons sesame seed
2 cups bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup finely chopped toasted almonds
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
Salt flakes (optional)

Place ¼ cup very warm water in a small bowl. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir to combine. Allow the yeast to proof 10 minutes, until it expands.

Place the oil in a small pan with the lemon zest, aniseed and sesame seed. Heat on low heat for 4 minutes. Cool slightly. Skim out and discard the strip of lemon zest.

Place the warm oil and seeds in a bowl. Add ¼ cup of warm water and the yeast mixture.

Combine the flour, salt and almonds. Beat them into the oil-yeast mixture in the bowl. When the dough is too stiff to mix, turn it out on a board. Knead the dough until very smooth and stretchy, 5 minutes. Gather the dough into a ball.

Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat both sides. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450ºF/ 230ºC. Line two or more baking sheets with baking parchment.

Roll balls of dough out very thinly. No flour needed on the board, as oil keeps the dough from sticking.

Sprinkle with sugar.
Punch down the dough and gather it into a ball. Divide the dough into 12 golf ball-size balls (about 1 ¼ ounce each). Roll out the balls as thinly as possible into 4-inch (approx.) circles. Place them on baking sheets.

For sweet cookies, sprinkle the tops of the tortas with 2 tablespoons sugar, pressing it lightly into the dough. For savory crackers, omit sugar and sprinkle tops with salt flakes.

Bake the tortas (in two or three batches) until they are browned on the edges, about 8 minutes. Cool them on a rack.

Store the tortas in a tightly covered container. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018


Less than a week into my January no-carb, no wine, diet, I got side-tracked. Once, twice, thrice and again. It started when I invited friends to Sunday lunch, to help me eat up a potaje of chickpeas and shrimp. Also, I wanted to introduce them to a wine made right in my village. 

Next, ladies in my aerobics class asked if I could do a paella cooking class with a visiting family member. I had to scurry about to clean up my kitchen, sharpen the knives, and make a shopping list. The paella was a grand success. (If you’re going to eat carbs, saffron rice with shrimp is a good way to go.)

Adrienne Ross serves paella prepared at a cooking class in my kitchen. Yep, we're drinking red wine with the paella!

At the end of the week I had a visit from an old friend, Lars Kronmark, professor of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA. Chef Lars comes to southern Spain once or twice a year to visit his mother who lives here. We usually get together for culinary explorations or just to have lunch. This time we lunched at a local restaurant, Mesón Tamisa. We ordered migas, an old-fashioned country dish of fried breadcrumbs, pork and sausages, topped with fried eggs, followed by roast leg of baby goat. That locally made red wine paired beautifully with the meal.

Francisco Javier González, proprietor of Mesón Tamisa, serves migas, a dish of fried breadcrumbs with sausage, peppers and eggs.

Chef Lars scoops up the migas. Note the wine is named "Viña Tamisa." Tamisa was the Roman name for the town of Mijas. Therefore, the restaurant, the local wine as well as a street all use the name.

Migas: stale bread is broken into crumbs, fried with pork fat as well as olive oil. Good for breakfast, as a starter on a winter's day, or supper.

Leg of chivo lechal malagueño, baby goat from Málaga, cooked sous vide with olive oil, rosemary and pine nuts, as served at Mesón Tamisa in Mijas. The kid is accompanied by patatas panaderas, sliced potatoes baked with tomatoes, onions and peppers. This easily serves three persons--if they have started with migas or another substantial dish.

Once the diet was well and truly sabotaged, I decided I might as well finish the week with a flourish. I invited my neighbors for Sunday lunch, pairing the lovely local red wine with pork tenderloin, roasted sweet potatoes and the first broccoli from the garden.

Sliced pork tenderloin on a bed of mixed mushrooms, with roasted sweet potatoes and onions--a dish to pair with my "house" red wine, Viña Tamisa.

My neighbor, Linda Voice, raises her glass.

Rob Voice enjoys Viña Tamisa with lunch.

The theme connecting the week's culinary events: Viña Tamisa blend of Tempranillo-Petit Verdot-Syrah, from Bodegas Hermanas López Lavado in Mijas (Málaga).

If there was a theme that tied all of these meals together, it was that red wine with hometown terroir: Viña Tamisa, a coupage of Tempranillo-Petit Verdot-Syrah, accompanied them all.

Pork Tenderloin with Mushrooms
Solomillo de Cerdo con Setas

I had this in Aracena (Huelva, Andalusia), prepared with ibérico tenderloin and wild mushrooms famous in the sierra of Aracena. But it’s just as good with regular pork and any type of mushroom. I used a mix of white mushrooms, oyster and portobellos. Pork seems especially good paired with the Tempranillo-Petit Verdot-Syrah wine. (Pairing, in Spanish, is maridaje, or “marriage.”) Be careful not to overcook the tenderloin.

Serves 4.

2 pork tenderloins (approx. 1 ¾ pounds)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 pound sliced mushrooms
½ cup fino Sherry or Montilla-Moriles
¼ cup water

Sprinkle tenderloins with salt, pepper, chopped rosemary and 1 clove of chopped garlic. Allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Brown the tenderloins on all sides and remove them. Add the shallot and 2 cloves of chopped garlic to the skillet and sauté them 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are sizzling in the oil (5 to 10 minutes, depending on variety). Add the fino, water and a sprig of rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and simmer the mushrooms for 10 minutes.

Return the pork to the pan and cook on medium heat until the meat is cooked through (140ºF if tested with instant-read thermometer), about 10 minutes, depending on how thick the tenderloins are. The meat should be a tiny bit pink in the center. Remove the meat to a cutting board.

Slice the tenderloins and serve with the mushrooms and pan juices.

Recipes for the other dishes mentioned in this post:

About the featured wine:

Mesón Tamisa bar and restaurant is at Avda. Méjico,21; Mijas (Málaga). (34) 627 457 571. Specialties are baby goat and ibérico pork. If you want migas (fried bread crumbs), order it a day in advance. The wine list includes Viña Tamisa, both the Tempranillo coupage and an all Syrah.