Distinct Cuisine

Spanish food consists of freshly prepared dishes made with locally produced and fresh ingredients such as extra virgin olive oils (EVOO), wines, cheeses, chick peas, rice almonds, garlic, saffron, and fresh fruit. Add to these more olive oil and wine, very fresh fish, seafood, game, cured hams, sausages like chorizo, chicken and fresh breads and you get a whole list of popular Spanish foods, mildly spiced yet full of flavors.

Spain has a rich and diverse cuisine, reflecting its extensive history and culture. It is a country where each of the 17 Autonomous Communities, valleys, and villages has a distinct cuisine of its own and takes pride in its way of preparing simple dishes that can provide you with the unique experience of consuming Mediterranean food.

The Paella’s, Tortilla Espanola de Patatas and Gazpacho’s dishes are Spain’s national food which is infused sometime with Chorizo (Spanish Pork Sausage).

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Paella de Marisco (Paella Seafood)  Originated in Valencia, where villagers mixed rice with snails or game and vegetables and cooked it in a large pot over an open fire. Today Paella is Spain’s most well-known national food, where shellfish, seafood, meats and vegetables may be used.

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Tortilla Espanola de Patatas (Spanish omelet) Here is no doubt about it, the Tortilla Espanola or Spanish Omelet of potatoes and onions is the most commonly served dish in Spain and it is served as a breakfast, a “tapas or appetizer or dinner in ever café, diner and Spanish home.

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Gazpacho (Cold Soup) This refreshing cold soup originated in the region of Andalucía, but is popular all over Spain, especially in summer.

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Chorizo (Spanish Pork Sausage) Spanish chorizo is a red, pork sausage seasoned with paprika and garlic. It is a staple of the Spanish diet and considered a Spanish national food. It comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from fresh and “soft” to semi-cured and even dry and cured.

…” I remembered as a child growing up in Hoboken, Carmen, my oldest sister had a friend from Spain who came to family outings once in a while.  I remembered her only dishes she would bring were Octopus Pies and Cochinillo Asado (roasted baby pig).  My tastes buds were not developed yet and I must confess to you all out there I threw away my share when no one else was looking.  I thought to myself, oh God how can anyone eat this poor little animal?  My sister pleaded with me to eat and enjoy the food. I think to myself now how I made a fool of myself by crying to avoid eating it all together.

Moving forward twenty years later I met someone who came from Spain to attended NYU; I was invited to one of her dinner parties; I had no idea what would be served, I thought maybe cheese, wine, fruits or lamb. I brought over a bottle of red wine and an empty stomach.  Her place was old, small and over crowed.  Yet, her table setting was elegant and food presentation, perfect.   I must say, the aroma was out of this world and the food tasted so good.  Two hours and four bottles of wine later I was told Octopus Pie and Cochinillo Asado was the main course. Go figure! Cochinillo Asado is one of the most typical dishes in the cuisine of Castilla, especially the city of Segovia. It is roast baby pig. Its fatty outside is crisp and perfect for those who like pork rind, while its meat is tender and juicy”…

Let’s make this happen…

  • 6 lb. suckling pig
  • 1/2 cup EVOO, 1/2 cup butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 medium carrots; 1 yellow onion

Preparation:  Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

1)  Season the piglet with salt and pepper, inside and out. Wrap the ear with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. Then, place the piglet in a large, open roasting pan. Baste with EVOO and dab with butter all over.

2)  Place in oven and roast, basting often with the pan drippings for about 2 1/2 hours.

3)  While the piglet is roasting, peel the carrots and the onion. Slice the carrots into 4 pieces each. Coarsely chop the onion. About 10 minutes before removing the piglet from the oven, place the carrots and onion in the pan with the piglet.

4)  Remove the piglet from oven when it is fully cooked. (Check meat and make sure that the juice is clear and not bloody.) Remove the aluminum foil from ears and place on a serving dish. Keep warm in a warming drawer or under heat lamps.

5)  Pour juices from roasting pan into a sauce pan with the vegetables and heat over medium heat on stove. When the juices start to sizzle, skim fat off top. Add 2 cups of water. Increase heat to high and boil rapidly to thicken. Strain through a strainer or cheesecloth.

6)  Serve the piglet on a large platter with the warm gravy on the side, roast or fried potatoes and a simple green salad.

Octopus Pie Recipe – Ingredients for Pastry

  • 2 eggs
  • 7 tablespoons EVOO
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted lard
  • 7 tablespoons milk
  • 12 ounces flour

Mix together in a large bowl eggs, salt, milk, olive oil and lard.   Add the flour, little by little, so as to form soft dough.  You will know when it is right because the dough will no longer stick to your fingers, although it will still be quite moist. Knead the dough very little. Let it rest, rolled out, while you cook the octopus and prepare the rest of the pie filling (see below).

Making and baking the pie:

Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound cleaned octopus, chopped
  • Salt
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 large peeled tomatoes (or 2 tomatoes and 1 tablespoon tomato puree)
  • 1/2 to 1 mild red pepper, seeded and chopped

Have a casserole with boiling water and 2 bay leaves in it.   Take a cleaned octopus by one end and lower it 3 or 4 times successively into the water, which must continue to boil hard, until the octopus curls. It will curled, leave it in the water to continue cooking for about half an hour. Towards the end of the cooking, add a little salt.

Remove the octopus, let it cool, and then cut it into small pieces. Meanwhile, chop onions and fry them very gently, covered, taking care that they do not brown. Add tomatoes and let them cook too. Add mild red pepper and the pieces of cooked octopus, and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes more.

Note: Let the mixture cool.

Divide the pastry dough into two.   Take a wide and shallow baking tin (round 11-12 inches) diameter or a rectangular one 9 X 13 inches. Roll out half the dough so that it will cover the bottom of the chosen tin.   Lightly oil the tin. Cover the bottom of it with the pastry dough, so that the dough comes up the sides and overlaps the edges.

Spread the filling over this. Roll out the rest of the dough to make the top of the pie, and put this in place, rolling the edges over and crimping them to make a tight seal all the way round.

Cook the pie in a moderate oven 350° for approximately 30 minutes, until it is a light golden-brown.

Chef EdieM

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