Friday, December 16, 2016

Carrillada: Making My Favorite Spanish Tapa

     My apologies up front...I could not get a picture that gave this dish justice.  We made it Saturday night and were blown away.  We had the leftovers tonight and were blown away again.  It really is amazing and just the right dish to serve when it freezing outside and there is snow on the ground.     

     Our favorite restaurant in Sevilla is La Azotea.  Owned by a husband and wife team (he is Spanish, she is American), it is an amazing place to experience Spanish tapas.  On one visit to Sevilla, Cate and I visited their restaurants (they have three in the city) three times in a 30 hour period of time.  It is that good.  Why?  The food is inventive but authentically Spanish.  The wait staff is eager to help and the owners are super friendly.  I once arrived 30 minutes before the restaurant opened just to make sure that we would be seated (as there is always a line) and the owner came out and asked if I wanted to wait it would be more comfortable.

     We have never had a bad dish there.  The traditional tomato mozzarella salad is completely unique.  In the center of a salad bowl is a scoop of lemon sorbet.  Artfully placed around the sorbet are heirloom tomatoes, burrata and greens.  You might think that you are missing the basil but take a closer look...what you think might be candy are actually basil gummies...totally ingenious.  If you visit the Gran Poder location you might catch a glimpse of the owner, skillfully slicing the Iberico de Bellota and noshing on a few slices.  The kitchen is tiny and that is another amazing feat - that such great food could come out of such a small space.

     Whenever Jamie, Cate and I discuss going back to Europe (and we will go back), Sevilla is always on our list of places to visit.  No matter how many times we go there, I think we will always want to return.  It has an amazing vibe...even for us old folks.  And the food....we have tried many times to recreate the marvelous meals that we had there.  I must say that we have had many successes but making Carrillada took us over the top.

     Now, what is Carrillada?  I have intentionally not indicated what it is as I thought that you would skip over this entire post (the 10 or so people that actually read this).  Carrillada are...wait for really, wait for it......pork or beef cheeks.  In our case, of course, pork cheeks.  Surprisingly, itis a very lean cut of pork, that when braised, is utterly delicious...and cheap. At La Azotea, they serve this tapa with a slice of melted goat cheese on top.  As it was our main course, we served it atop a scoop of decadently creamy polenta.  On a blustery winter day and with a glass of red wine, it was the perfect weekend meal.

     The inspiration for this dish actually came from Lauren Aloise, an American who owns a food tour company in Madrid.  She also has her own website and frequently details Spanish recipes.  When Cate and I visited Madrid on our last trip before moving back to the States, we had the opportunity to take one of Lauren's food tours---led by her and it was one of the highlights of the trip...that... and the three La Azotea visits!

Carrillada:  Braised Pork Cheeks with Port Wine and Honey
Adapted from Lauren Aloise, owner of Devour Spain

Carrillada:  Braised Port Cheek with Port Wine and Honey


2 lbs pork cheeks
1 medium onion, diced
6 shallots, sliced
2 carrots, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups port wine
1 bay leaf
2T honey
1/2 t honey
1/2 t parsley
salt and pepper
2 T flour
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cups beef stock

1.  Smash the garlic in a mortar and pestle and add thyme, honey, parsley and 1T water.  Continue smashing until you have a nice paste.
2.  Pat the pork cheeks completely dry with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper and cover with the paste made in Step 1.  Place on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and marinate for three to four hours.
3.  Heat 1 to 2 T olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.  Dredge the pork in flour and brown on all sides for 2-3 minutes.  Remove pork to a bowl and continue with other pieces until completed.
4.  Lower heat and add a bit more oil to the pan.  Then add onion, shallots, carrots, red pepper and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
5.  Add pork cheeks, port wine and bay leaf.  Increase heat and reduce by half making sure to stir every few minutes.
6.  Add beef stock, bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours.  I actually cooked this for three hours over low heat...stirring occasionally.  After the first hour, I took the cover off the pan and let the sauce reduce.
7.  To serve:  You could serve this over mashed potatoes or spaetzle.  We made a creamy Parmesan polenta and it worked perfectly.  We devoured the leftovers three nights later...just as good and maybe even better!

I will let you in on a little secret...for those of you that actually read the entire blogpost...I woke up to snow on Sunday morning...never left the house...never changed out of my PJs!  What a glorious day!

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