Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Not exactly a day of rest

so much reaching! what happened to "passing?" 
Sunday family dinner, cooked from Teresa Barrenechea's Cuisines of Spain, was intended to consist of:

coca with onions and honey
leg of lamb with honey and orange syrup
patatas bravas
flao (an intriguing minty cheesecake from the Balearic Islands with an anise-scented crust)

I prepared most of the meal in the morning, which was fortuitous because it meant that I knew in the morning that almost everything was bad and could then spend the afternoon cooking a whole different meal.
cousine cousine
What went wrong?

Everything. Everything went wrong on Sunday, except the patatas bravas, which were spicy and perfect. The Cuisines of Spain let me down at almost every turn.

makes me sad


-coca with onions and honey. This was my second attempt at coca, the savory open-faced pizza-like pie from the Balearic Islands. Based on reading Barrenechea's recipe for coca de cebolla con miel, I envisioned flatbread topped with a golden tangle of honeyed onions studded with plump raisins and toasty pine nuts. I took the coca out of the oven at about 11 a.m., let it cool, cut myself a 1-inch square,  and realized that I could not serve this dish. The crust was gummy and sodden with honey, the onions were simultaneously crunchy and slimy, and the the raisins were burnt.  To replace it I made: tuna empanada from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen. The fantastic recipe is printed below.
excellent cold the next day, and the day after that, for lunch
-leg of lamb with honey and orange. I tried to make the caramelized orange syrup ahead of time, but it crystallized into a solid, craggy mass of rock sugar that I could not subsequently melt. To replace it I made: plain roast lamb with neither honey nor orange.

-flao. Mixed exactly as directed, the dough for the flao crust had the consistency of milkshake. I added twice the quantity of flour that Barrenechea calls for to render the dough rollable. After it baked, I broke off a shard of crust and it was like chalk. I then took a microscopic taste of the cheese filling and found it insufficiently sweet. I could serve this flao, but not with pride.  To replace it I made: yogurt cake from Chocolate and Zucchini, which is reliable, springy, pretty, and very, very easy. I added strawberries to the batter. Last time I added rhubarb. It's that kind of cake.

I hadn't wanted to, but I ended up cooking all day. It was hot and I was tired and felt defeated and grumpy and was drinking a negroni by the time the family arrived. I thought it would be fun to bring the baby goats up to the deck to entertain Stella and Ben, and so we did, but the human children just wanted to go up to Owen's room and play with his Transformers. While I was trying to fry potatoes and carve lamb, the baby goats ate the potted geraniums and then ran into the house, depositing manure on the kitchen floor. Finally, we got the goats down, food on the table, and I dumped all the silverware and papertowels in a pile and let people set their own places. In the end, the dinner was convivial and the food good, but there went Sunday.
cake and flao and my mom's pottery
So here's the recipe for Galician tuna empanada with melting onions, barely adapted from Anya von Bremzen's New Spanish Table. I omitted the saffron. The dish is probably better with saffron, but no one will miss it if you don't use it and saffron is very expensive. Make the filling first so it has time to cool.


1/3 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large onions (she calls for white, I used yellow), quartered and thinly sliced
3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 large ripe tomato, cut in half and grated on a box grater, skin discarded
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
(1 small pinch saffron threads, pulverized in a mortar and steeped in 2 tablespoons very hot water; optional)
18 ounces imported olive oil-packed tuna (I used 15 ounces, the contents of 3 cans), drained and flaked 3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
(I added a big handful of dark raisins; optional)
kosher salt
black pepper
3/4 cup thinly sliced manzanilla olives (I used mixed olives from Whole Foods olive bar)

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute.

2. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook until they begin to soften, 7 to 8 minutes, adding a little olive oil if the skillet looks dry. Lower the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are very soft.

3.  Add the tomato, paprika, and optional saffron. Cover the skillet and simmer over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are reduced to a jam-like consistency, about 15 minutes. Cool completely. Stir in the tuna, parsley, and optional raisins. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve the olives for when you assemble the empanada.


1 teaspoon active dry yeast (I used instant)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup lukewarm water
4 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large egg, beaten
(1 large pinch saffron, toasted, pulverized in a mortar, and steeped in 3 tablespoons hot water; optional)
2 scant teaspoons kosher salt
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour.

1. Mix the yeast, sugar, and water in a large bowl and let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk in the butter, oil, egg, optional saffron, and salt. Mix well. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time.

2. Knead the dough -- on the counter or in your mixer -- until it's smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. If it's still sticky, add a bit more flour. As von Bremzen writes: "The dough will be oily and pliable." Divide the dough in two portions, one very slightly bigger than the other. Shape in balls, cover loosely, and let rest for 20 minutes. This dough will not visibly rise.


flour for dusting the work surface
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons milk

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a 17- by 11-inch cookie sheet.

2. Lightly flour a work surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the larger pastry ball to a roughly 19- by 12-inch rectangle. Carefully transfer this dough to the baking sheet; one of these is immensely helpful. The dough will overhang the edges of the cookie sheet slightly.

3. Roll out the remaining pastry to form a rectangle, slightly smaller than the first. Spread the filling evenly over the pastry on the cookie sheet. Scatter with olives. Cover with the second rectangle of dough. You seal the two crusts by folding the edges of the bottom crust over the top and crimping decoratively.

3. Whisk together the egg yolk and milk and brush evenly over the top of the empanada. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top of the empanada to let out steam.

4. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Makes enough for 12.

I hope you like this as much as we did.

On another subject entirely, per Babacapra's recommendation, I ordered an emasculatone today. Our emasculatone only cost $30, so if you're in the market, shop around.

As you can see, we need one.
not cute


  1. Really glad you were able to save the leg of lamb before anything went wrong with the leg itself. I'm always afraid to leg of lamb recipes, because it could be such an expensive mistake, and the normal garlic, mint, and rosemary crust that my husband does is soooo good. I have a hard time bringing myself to mess with it.

    I'm really glad you reviewed this book. It was on my Amazon wishlist. Now it's not.

  2. Try Trader Joe's for saffron.

  3. glad you could order the emasculatone on-line because I cannot imagine walking into a farm supply store and asking for one with a straight face...I am so sorry that you had to make two Sunday dinners, but I am happy to have that tuna empanada recipe. I am not sure how I feel about minty and anise flavors in one dish....

  4. People who find the too-toothy grin of the nutcracker man disturbing may want to use the Burdizzo...that may be the funniest link you have ever posted! To think that "do it youself neutering" exists is not something I imagined.

    Thank you for a very funny post!

  5. Looking forward to the post after your shiny new Emasculatone comes in the mail. I'm pretty sure that would end up in the "hire someone" column for household jobs around here.

    Wanted to let you know that upon your recommendation I made the lemon curd for the coconut cake and it was easy and delicious! I was surprised there wasn't any lemon zest in the ingredients so I added some. People asked at the party and I was proud to be able to say I made it. Thank you!

  6. One more thing! The new issue of MSLiving has an article about a restaurant in Echo Park, California called "Cookbook" that features recipes from a different cookbook each week and classes to match. It sounded to me like something you would do. :)

  7. I feel inordinately pleased that you've adopted that yogurt cake recipe into your repertoire! ^_^

  8. That's the recipe I go for when doing empanada gallega; the yeasted crust with saffron is great. She has very good ideas for cocas.


  9. My assistant at Forage moonlights at Cookbook. I still haven't been by yet, which is insane, since it is practically around the corner. In addition to holding classes, they sell cheeses and breads and cool stuff, I think. And I agree that Trader Joe's is the best place to buy saffron, if you ever need it. Trader Joe's is usually the best place to buy almost anything ;)

  10. Oh, I'm sorry for your Sunday, but haven't you learned not to make untried recipes for company? Me, neither! And, I almost always have a failure.
    The picture is not cute, but the emasculatone sounds like something from the Inquisition. YIKES! I assume your husband will not be using this!?

  11. Bahaha, I love that picture of your goats! Animals are so horrifying. Earthy, indeed.

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