We ate well in Spain, but then, we always do.
Our friend may live in a remote village in the mountains, with access much more geared to goats than cars, but there is never a shortage of good food.
That could be the reason, of course. One must be prepared to be snowed in… For years….
Like me, he is a bit non-traditional in his tastes.
Mon mari likes toast and cereal for breakfast.
I was delighted to be able to indulge in my favorite: Tomato Bread
This is so simple, I always wonder why I don’t do it at home.
As soon as I cross the border into Catalonia I start to crave it.
It’s simple to make – and don’t let the new, trendy Spanish cooking gurus steer you wrong.
This is how it’s done:
Toast some hearty country bread or a stale baguette. Let it cool. Vigorously rub the bread with a cut clove of garlic. (Some Catalans then eat the garlic, but that’s optional). Then rub the bread with half of a ripe tomato. (There are actually ‘bread’ tomatoes in the shops). Sprinkle with a bit of salt if you like, then drizzle with olive oil. Eat. It’s wonderful with a hearty red wine, but that’s a bit much for even me in the morning.
I was able to indulge in my favorite lunch as well: chunky, country pates, smooth liver mousses, stinky cheeses and more tomato bread. It’s very versatile.
Our friend did the cooking for two nights: Braised Rabbit with Leeks the first night and Wild Boar Stew the second. Recipes to follow – as soon as I find a boar (I can buy rabbit). We saw one the other night, driving home…
I made Christmas dinner: Stuffed Capon in Port Sauce.
He doesn’t do ‘oven’ cooking. His extensive cooking repertoire includes lots of Thai, Indian, and Indonesian dishes, as well as game, but all stir-fried or braised.
Fortunately that gave me gave me a hint that he might not have a meat thermometer, which I brought with me. I won’t list the rest of the things that he didn’t have… We managed.
The biggest challenge was the ovens.
Many kitchens have two ovens. He has two complete stoves.
One has three burners, none of which get very hot, which he uses for simmering and braising. The other has four burners that get very hot which he uses for stir-frying. When I made the stock for the gravy I started it on one stove to bring it to a boil; then moved it to the other to simmer it.
Neither oven had temperature settings. They were three choices: low, medium, high.
We used Bic lighters to light the burners and long matches to light the ovens.
It’s not difficult cooking without precise temperature setting; one just has to be flexible on serving times.
All things considered, I think it turned out rather well:
Roast Capon with Port Sauce and Sage Stuffing, Potatoes and Parsnips
1 capon, 6 – 8 lbs
3 tbs soft butter
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1 – 2 cups chicken stock
1 cup Tawny Port
1/4 cup regular coffee or 1/4 tsp instant granules
2 – 4 tbs cornstarch dissolved in 2 – 4 tbs chicken stock
Mix 2 tbs of the butter, the herbs and the mustard. Loosen skin across top of bird by pinching gently. Work your hand under the skin on the breast. With your finger tips rub butter mixture over the breast under the skin, covering as much of the surface as you can. Rub the remaining 1 tbs of butter over the outside of the skin. Spoon some stuffing inside the cavity loosely, about 3/4 full, and tie legs together. Put capon on a rack in a roasting pan (if you have one) and into a 450F (230C) degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325F (165C) and roast until temperature in thickest part of thigh reaches 180F (82.2C) or 170F (76.6C) in breast, or until juices run clear when pierced with a knife. For a 6 lb bird this should take about 2 1/4 hours; an 8 lb bird, 3 hours.
To baste: Combine the coffee and 1 cup stock. Baste the bird every 15 minutes or so alternating between stock and port.
Stock if you have the neck and giblets, add them to the stock, along with 2 cups of water.
Heat 4 cups of chicken stock. Add some celery tops, an onion, cut in half, a carrot cut into chunks. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for an hour. Strain the stock into a bowl and use in both stuffing and turkey basting.
Sage and Celery Stuffing
12 slices white bread, dried lay it out the night before to let it dry
1 – 2 cups chicken stock
1 large onion
4 ribs celery
3oz (90gr) Prosciutto or bacon
1 tbs sage
1 tsp thyme
2 tbs butter
Chop the onion and celery. Heat the butter in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onions, celery, and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Chop the Prosciutto and add to the onions. Sauté another 5 minutes. Set aside. Tear bread into small chunks and put into a large bowl. Add sage and thyme and mix well. Add celery/onions and mix well. Now comes the hard part: I can’t tell you how much stock to use. It depends on how dry your bread is, how moist the celery and onions are, etc. Start with 1/2 cup and drizzle over the top of the bread chunks. Mix well. Continue adding 1/4 cup at a time and mixing well. Mixture should just start to cling together, not all of it but most of it, and none of the bread cubes should be totally dry nor should they be mushy. Got it? At this stage stop adding stock. In small bowl lightly whisk egg. Fold into stuffing mixture and combine thoroughly. Stuff bird. Refrigerate the remaining stuffing until ready to bake. Put the stuffing (now considered dressing) into the oven when you take the bird out and bake for 30 minutes
Remove the capon and put on a platter. Cover with a foil ‘tent’ and let rest for 30 minutes. Return vegetables to oven if roasting.
When ready to make gravy: Pour juices from the roasting pan into a saucepan, adding stock to roasting pan to help scrape up the bits on the bottom if necessary. Skim off as much fat as you can (butter?). Add any remaining stock and/or Port and bring to a boil over medium heat. Taste – need anything? Give cornstarch mix a stir and slowly whisk into the stock, stirring until thickened to your liking – more or less cornstarch as needed. Keep the gravy warm while you carve the capon. Remove stuffing from capon and combine with baked stuffing. Carve capon, serve with stuffing, roasted vegetables and gravy on the side.
Potatoes and Parsnips
Cut potatoes and parsnips into large chunks and arrange around capon for the last 30 minutes or so of roasting. When you take the capon out, stir the vegetables and return them to the oven for another 30 minutes.
Cooking potatoes and parsnips with the bird is not something I’ve done before. I think it’s a British thing.
I’ll definitely do it again. So easy – and delicious.