Saturday, November 20, 2021

GETTING COZY WITH THE OVEN

Using the oven is a weekend thing for me. That’s when electricity costs are lowest, so turning on the electric appliance is least costly. I like to pack the oven to capacity to best use the energy.


I was accustomed to using the settings and temperatures for a conventional oven.  But with pans and oven dishes on two racks, I found I needed to punch up the convection, using the fan function. Although I switched five years ago from a gas stove to electric, I had hardly used the fan option. It takes some getting used to. (A fan oven is also called a “convection” oven.)

Because the fan provides circulation of the heat, foods cook quicker and more evenly. Fan cooking is slightly more energy-efficient. 

Using the fan, the oven temperature should be set 25ºF-40ºF lower than for conventional heating. My Spanish oven recommends lowering the temperature 20ºC-40ºC for fan cooking. (To convert a Spanish oven’s centigrade thermostat temps to more familiar Fahrenheit, see below). I’ve found that, with the fan, I need to cover a roasting chicken part-way through, so the skin doesn’t brown too rapidly.   

Last weekend I baked a tray of chicken legs; a zucchini timbale (which can be served as a side dish or a vegetarian main); and a casserole of potatoes with chorizo. 

The potatoes with chorizo are an adaptation of a famous dish from La Rioja. Besides wine, La Rioja is known for its chorizo and for its peppers, such as dried choriceros. The dish is usually cooked in a pot on top of the stove. It is a plato de cuchara, served soupy, with all the savory juices. But, if you use a slotted spoon to lift the potatoes out of the remaining liquid, it makes a fine side dish with the chicken, the timbale, with roast salmon, baked pork chops or almost any other oven-baked main.

Oven version of Potatoes la Rioja Style, with chunks of chorizo sausage. I'm serving the potatoes with a Rioja Tempranillo wine.


Traditionally, a "plato de cuchara," humble "spoon food." But the potatoes can also be served as a side dish.




Oven-Cooked Potatoes with Chorizo
Patatas a la Riojana al Horno


Dry-cured ibérico chorizo.

Use any kind of chorizo for this recipe—the dry-cured, hard, slicing sort or soft, cooking chorizo. Ibérico chorizo is the best, but not essential. Slice or cut the chorizo into cubes. 

In Spain, you can buy small jars of choricero pepper paste. If not available, use pimentón (paprika), smoked or not smoked, mixed with a little water to make a paste. Add chile or red pepper flakes to taste.

For the traditional version of this dish, the potatoes are “cachado,” “broken” into 2-inch chunks. For this, you cut part way into the potato with a knife, then snap off the chunk, leaving an uneven surface that releases potato starch, which helps to thicken the sauce. For the oven version, I chose to slice the potatoes, but gave each slice a final snap.  

Serves 4 as a side.

1 ½ pounds potatoes (such as russets)
½ cup finely chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup chopped green pepper
Minced chile or red pepper flakes, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 ounces chorizo sausage
1 bay leaf
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon pimentón (paprika)
1 tablespoon water
1 cup boiling water
Chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 350ºF with fan (convection) or 375ºF without.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into ½-inch slices. Combine in a bowl with the onions, garlic, green pepper, chile and oil. Remove sausage casing (skin) from the chorizo and cut it into ¾-inch dice. Add to the potatoes. Break the bay leaf into 3 or 4 pieces and add them to the potatoes with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Mix the pimentón with 1 tablespoon of water to make a paste and mix it with the potatoes.

Spread the potatoes, onions and chorizo in a baking dish. Carefully pour over the boiling water. Place the dish in the oven. Bake until the potatoes are very tender, about 45 minutes. Allow them to stand 10 minutes before serving.

Garnish the potatoes with chopped parsley. 

Ladle the potatoes and their juices into individual dishes or, If serving as a side dish, use a slotted spoon to serve them without the liquid. 

Instead of stewing, the potatoes are cooked in the oven.

I won't be roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving this year, so I have yet to try the oven fan for the big bird. 

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Oven temperature conversions, Fahrenheit to Celsius (approximate)
200ºF 95ºC
225ºF 110ºC
250ºF 120ºC
300ºF 150ºC
325ºF 160ºC
350ºF 180ºC 
375ºF 190ºC
400ºF 205ºC
425ºF 220ºF
450ºF 230ºC
500ºF 260ºC
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More recipes for the oven;



4 comments:

  1. I've never made those before - hey are great comfort food for cooler weather!

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    1. Mad Dog: On sampling patatas a la riojana at an occasion in La Rioja, Paul Bocuse supposedly said this rustic dish was better than what he was going to serve (sopa de trufas).

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  2. Hello Janet,
    I am making these right now in Montana. I think I could use this recipe on Thanksgiving Day. So sorry to hear about the dramatic increase in electricity prices. Stay warm. All my best best, Heather

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather: Absolutely, a great dish to pop in the oven with the turkey. You keep warm too! I was trying to be energy-efficient, right up until the weather turned chilly. Can't wait to turn on the heat only on weekends.

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