As you read from Rachel’s post about her birthday dinner, I wanted to share with you some of the recipes used that night. This will also count towards my recipe goal of new recipes and knocking out another country. (since Rachel added the photos in another post, this will not include any pictures)
So, there is no real significance to Spain for Rachel. It was just one of those ideas that formed as I looked around at restaurant ideas. I have been to Spain before and loved it and I would love to go back with Rachel one day, but I just thought a lot of little plates, aka tapas, would be a good idea for something different.
We start with a pear and gorgonzola salad.
Nothing much here but I decided I wanted to do something fresh and light to start off the meal. I also realize that this is not Spanish food at all, but it just sounded good. You can find the recipe here, but the main thing about this is something I have never done and that is my own vinaigrette. It consisted of just a few ingredients, balsamic vinegar, salt and Dijon mustard. We don’t have a true food processor, so this was a little difficult to do when I had to pour in a little bit of olive oil and start the emulsification process. All we have is a stick blender that has a small food chopper attachment. So I had to keep opening up the little bowl and it made it very difficult to emulsify. But we got it done and it tasted pretty good once it was all done. Just added the pepper and shallots and that added some really good flavor. I added just a little bit more balsamic to make it just a touch sweeter. Once done with the vinaigrette, Rachel put it with the arugula, some crumbled gorgonzola which is fantastic and a fresh diced Bartlett pear. We also added some candied walnuts, which was simply melting sugar and walnuts in a pan. We both love candied nuts and this added a wonderful crunch and added to the sweetness. It was a very interesting salad full of different flavor notes, from the strong taste of the cheese to the subtle sweetness of the dressing and walnuts.
Next we have Quince Paste and Manchego.
I cannot count this toward my recipes because I helped a friend make these before, but these are fantastic bite size bites of sweet but not overly sweet. If you are looking for a recipe, you can find one here by a fantastic chef Tyler Florence. Very few ingredients here, just Quince paste (like a firm jelly), almonds, manchego cheese and watercress. Quince is found mainly in Europe but there are a few places in the northeast US that grows it. It is like a pear and is in same family as a pomegranate. It is used a lot in wine because of the acidity.
Anyways, enough with science, this is typically put together on a skewer, but since I couldn’t find them, I just layered them on a plate. First, I took a small scoop of quince out of the jar and “rolled” it in the roasted chopped almonds (I used the food processor to chop them up). Cut up the manchego cheese into fairly equal amounts, then place a piece (or couple of pieces of watercress) on next, then add the quince with almonds. This is a real simple and quick tapas recipe that is a great snack or after dinner treats. We used it as a progression of courses to change the taste on the palette.
I know you are probably thinking this sounds weird but it really works. I really wanted to use the Spanish bacon called Serrano jamon, but I couldn’t find it at whole foods. So I just used what we had. This turned out to be a really fantastic recipe and quite simple. Take the dates (try to find good plump ones, the smaller ones make it a touch difficult) and slice them down the middle to remove the pit. Don’t cut the whole date completely in half; just enough to pull out the date and open it up like a taco. Then, cut up the manchego in an appropriate size to fit into the date. After that, just wrap it in bacon. We actually cut the strip of bacon in half to try to make the most of the ingredients we have. We didn’t stick a toothpick through this, but if it doesn’t want to stay together, it would definitely help.
Then, just stick these in a 475 degree oven for 12 minutes. Halfway through you will want to rotate them to make sure an even cooking. The end result was a fantastic bite full of different flavors. It had a mix of saltiness from the bacon, a sweet and nutty flavor from the cheese and a fruity, nutty taste from the date. The cheese melted perfectly inside the date to make a creamy finish as well.
To finish the meal, we saved the best for last (also the heaviest). I actually found something similar to this on a Spanish restaurant menu so I knew I wanted to try it. I actually found this recipe from the popular “pioneer Woman” website which I have never been to. The recipe ended up really working and being fantastic. We both loved the sauce and created a wonderful addition to a great steak.
First I did a rough chop on an onion and through it into a hot skillet that had melted butter in it. Oh yeah by the way, if you don’t like butter, this is not the recipe for you. Be prepared to eat a lot of butter and dairy. Let it cook for about 5 minutes and as the onions get caramelized, you are left with a wonderful smell. After they get caramelized, I added the cream and let it reduce. It didn’t reduce as much as the recipe states for me, but it was still fantastic. Add the blue cheese and you are left with a strong, wonderful cream. The blue cheese didn’t completely melt, but it was close. The sauce ended up being fairly thick and full of wonderful blue cheese flavor but with a slight sweetness from the caramelized onion.
While this is going on, we pulled out our trusty grill pan and put in the butter and let it get warm. I seasoned the meat with salt and pepper and let it sit there while we made the other stuff to try and get some of that flavor into the meat. Cooking the ribeye on the grill pan in the butter worked fantastic as the fat in the meat would get hot, the meat was able to cook in that juice and mix well with the butter. This also created a nice crust on the steak and after about 6 minutes or so on each side we had a wonderful medium-rare steak (praise the Lord for that!).
After letting the meat rest for about 5 minutes or so, just put the onion-blue cheese sauce on the plate first to create a bed for the steak and then put the steak on top. The two combined worked so well. The strong flavor from the blue cheese worked so well with the steak. One downside was that after a while, it got heavy very quickly and coated the palette very easy. But this was a fantastic recipe and we really liked it.
This one is simple but hard to do well. I got a decent bottle of Spanish red wine from world market which was rated an 88 but only $7. There is no need for us to spend a lot on wine when most of the flavor for us is going to get muddled. Rachel cut up a pear, an apple and an orange and put those in the wine which we poured into a big jug. Add about half a cup of orange juice, some rasberries, some sugar (maybe a quarter cup or so) and half a cup of grand marnier or something like that. We didn’t have any so I substituted some crown. We put it in the fridge while we cooked and when we were ready to eat, put in a can of lemon-lime soda. This was a wonderful accompaniment to the meal. It wasn’t overly sweet but had enough taste to enrich the steak taste and bacon dates.
Like Rachel said in an earlier post, the fruit in the wine ended up being a wonderful dessert.
So, overall I got 3 recipes out of this meal and knocked Spain (at least the Andalucía part) of the countries list. Hope you enjoy. Best of all, I had a fantastic sous chef in Rachel helping me out and making this meal really good.