Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cuisines of Spain

empanada in progress
Two nights ago I started cooking from The Cuisines of Spain by Teresa Barrenechea, which I chose because . . .  because I was spending too much time thinking about which Spanish cookbook to use and just had to pick one. Plus Cuisines has to go back to the library soon. It's a large, handsome hardcover with lots of Saveur-style photographs and a library warning on the cover that says "Do not check in until checked for damage" which means I can't use it as a cutting board.

Sunday I made Barrenechea's marmitako, a Basque tuna soup. Have you bought a pound of fresh tuna lately? I won't be doing that again any time soon. The expensive soup that resulted from the tuna, green peppers and tablespoon of paprika managed to be both watery and oily. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't exactly good. Did I do something wrong? Is this the nature of marmitako? Or is this the nature of Barrenachea's marmitako? It would help if I had eaten marmitako before.

I'm very excited about all the Spanish custard desserts in Barrenechea's book, because this spring we are being crushed beneath an avalanche of backyard eggs and drowned in a river of goat's milk. (Alright, it's a slight exaggeration about the goat's milk, but not the eggs.) The first eggy dessert I tried: crema catalana, which is just like creme brulee, except in Spain they use milk rather than cream, and they cook the custard on the stovetop rather than baking it in a water bath. 
Thank you hens, thank you Natalie.
Flavored with cinnamon and lemon, this was lovely and a very bright yellow, but it wasn't as silky as creme brulee. Possible reasons:

a. cooking custard on the stove results in a less silky product than baking
b. milk yields a less silky product than cream
c. goat's milk yields a less silky product than cow's milk
d. Barrenechea's recipe is off in some way

I think the answer is b, but would be able to assess better if I had ever eaten crema catalana before.
Thanks again for the torch, Dad.
What I have eaten before is empanada. We ate lots and lots of empanada on our trip to Galicia and I can say with confidence that Barrenechea's scallop empanada, which I made last night, is a very correct empanada. Delicious!

There wasn't enough dough for decorations.
On another subject, we have a new milking stand.

It's a huge improvement, although I wish it had a metal floor instead of rug-like matting, which collects leaves and clumps of filth like lint. We moved the milking operations away from the other goats, which has made the process easier, but the stand is now in full view of the street and you feel like you're milking on a stage.
You can see why we needed a new one.


  1. I am going to bet that the answer is B. It is also possible that you over-cooked the custard on the stove? Did the recipe have you heat the milk and sugar, then temper it into the egg yolks, then returned it to the stove, stirring constantly until it thickened ("to the rose")? Or did the recipe use some of the egg whites, too? Or another thickener like cornstarch? A quick fix for a less-than-smooth stovetop custard is to use the immersion blender on it while it is still hot. But then it will lose a little of its body and be slightly thinner. I'm curious about the recipe!

  2. Kristin -- Yes, there is a fifth option, that the problem was in the execution! The eggs weren't curdled, but they might have been in the early stages of curdling. Pre-curdling. The method of making the custard was very unusual. No tempering. She instructs you to stir constantly and bring "just" to a boil, then remove from heat for 1 minute. Repeat. I didn't do that because I was too worried about boiling (and curdling.) I just cooked slowly and gradually until thick. Recipe does contain cornstarch. It was good, just not as ethereal and satiny as creme brulee.

  3. Ha! You do too look fancy when you milk. Maybe you ought to start writing a book about mindful living.

  4. The trick about this cookbook is to folow her instructions to the letter, as weird as they sound. Have you seen her churro recipe? Terrifying, but it works. You shoud try it with the drinking chocolate. Yum!

    Crema Catalana is typically a little thinner than creme brulee. Sounds like you might have cooked it too hard.

    Ooh, you should also try a coca. The crust should be thin and lightly crisp. Her recipes work really well.

    Her tortilla is much more authentic than anything you'll eat in the Bay Area (& therefore more delicious) but it's also about 1000 calories a bite.

  5. Kudos on the empanada. Looks delicious!! I hope you can make it in Marion some day...

  6. Priceless picture of Owen in his cape! My son just turned 18 and while I love this age also, I miss the 8-12 year range every day. Be sure to rub his smooth baby cheeks every chance he'll permit - once those first beard hairs start poking through nothing will ever be the same.