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Rioja & Food

Recipes: José Andrés

The following recipes are from José Andrés, protégé of Ferrán Adriá of El Bulli in Spain, is the chef-owner of seven restaurants in the Washington DC area. He was named Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic region in 2003 by the James Beard Foundation, and has been profiled in Gourmet, Saveur, Bon Apétit, Food & Wine, Wine Spectator, the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, and other publications. José travels widely as a guest chef, teacher, and fundraiser at charity events, and is the host of a television cooking show that airs in Spain.

Gran Reserva is considered the greatest of Rioja designations and is made only in exceptional vintages. It is an amazingly deep wine, with a complex texture and bouquet meant to be savored by all the senses. Gran Reserva is known for its hints of cedar, cigar box and wild berries. These wines are a perfect companion for all the recipes below.

Coca de cebolla con pimientos, anchoas y queso Manchego
(Traditional Catalan flatbread with caramelized onions, roasted peppers, anchovies, and Manchego cheese)

Bread with a roasted topping seems to be a registered trademark of the Italian kitchen. But this is also a very traditional and popular way of cooking in Catalonia. Instead of pizza, we have coca -- hundreds of varieties of sweet and savory cocas. What distinguishes cocas from their Italian cousins is the almost complete absence of cheese and tomato. This version uses Spanish ingredients that are easily found in supermarkets across the United States.

Serves 4

For the onions
1/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

For the flatbread
1/2 ounce (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
1/2 teaspoon salt

20 black olives, pitted and cut into small pieces
one 13-ounce jar piquillo peppers (Spanish wood-roasted sweet peppers), cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
16 anchovy fillets (oil-packed)
6 ounces Manchego cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Prepare the onions: Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and brown (caramelized), around 30 minutes. If the onions start to get too dark, add 1/2 tablespoon of water to keep them cooking evenly without burning. Set them aside.

Make the flatbread: In a small bowl, stir the yeast into the milk. Place the flour and salt in a food processor, add the yeast mixture, and process for 60 seconds, until you have a well-mixed dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the dough to rise.

Meanwhile, heat the owen to 350 degrees.

Take out the dough and knead it for 5 minutes. Then cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface and roll a ball of dough out to form a very thin long strip, around 10 inches long and 2 inches wide. Prick the strip with a fork. Repeat seven more times, creating 8 strips of dough.

Cover the strips of dough with the caramelized onions and the olives. Place on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, leaving it on.

Cover the cocas with a layer of piquillo pepper strips. Add 2 anchovies on top of each, and sprinke with the grated cheese. Return to the oven for 2 minutes.

Drizzle the cocas with olive oil, add sea salt to taste, and sprinkle with the chopped chives. Serve hot.

Escalivada Catalana
(Roasted eggplant, pepper, onion, and tomatoes, Catalan-style)

Escalivada comes from the Catalan verb escalivar, which means to cook slowly, very close to the embers of a fire. The smokiness of the charcoal enriches the food and gives it an earthy quality. This recipe is for oven-roasting, but its soul comes from the open fire. It's a great dish on its own, but it's also perfect alongside any grilled meat.

Serves 4

1 medium eggplant (about 1/2 pound)
1 large Spanish onion
1 red bell pepper
3 large ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating the vegetables
1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
salt to taste
white pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Take all the vegetebles, and using a brush, coat them with a thin film of olive oil. Place them in a baking dish or in a terra-cotta casserole, and roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the eggplant, pepper, and tomatoes and set them aside. Leave the onion in the over for another 20 minutes, until it too is soft. Remove and set aside.

The skins of the roasted vegetables will be soft and loose. When they are cool enough to handle, peel the vegetables. Seed the pepper and remove the top. Remove the top of the tomatoes and the eggplant wih a knife.

Using your hands, tear the pepper into strips and each tomato into 3 or 4 pieces. Do the same to the eggplant. Using a knife, slice the onion into rings. Mix the vegetables together and place them in a serving dish. Cover then with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the sherry vinegar. Sprinke with salt and pepper, and serve.

Pollo al ajillo
(Chicken with garlic)

Chicken may seem fairly ordinary, but until recently it was an expensive item in Spain. Not so long ago, this dish was a combination of poor man's ingredient (garlic) and a rich man's ingredient (chicken). It's now a classic tapa. The sauce you're left with -- an emulsified mixture of the olive oil, the natural juices of the chicken, and the sherry -- is perfect for dipping bread.

Serves 4

10 garlic cloves
1/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
12 chicken wings cut in ahalf at the joint
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup Spanish Manzanilla sherry
1/4 cup chicken stock
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

Split open the garlic cloves by placing them on a chopping board and pressing down hard with the base of your hand or with the flat side of a knife. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium flame, add the garlic, and sauté until it is lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the chicken wings, and sauté until browned on all sides, 5 minutes. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and sherry. Stir the mixture well so the oil and sherry emulsify, and simmer for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and cook for 1 more minute. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Costillas de cordero con allioli de miel
(Rack of lamb with honey allioli)

Allioli is the national sauce of Catalonia -- it accompanies practically any grilled meat. Catalans also have a sweet tooth, which you find in traditionall recipes like codfish with honey, or meats cooked with fruits. Honey allioli is a traditional combination that goes perfectly with lamb. Even with its garlic flavor, you'll find this dish is popular with kids, too.

Serves 4

1 rack of lamb (about 1 pound)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the meat
1/2 cup Allioli (see recipe below)
2 tablespoons lavender honey (or any other honey you like)
salt to taste

Heat the oven to 250 degrees.

Using a sharp knife, remove the fat from the rack of lamb so the bones are clean but still attached to the loin.

Place the lamb, with the bones facing down, on a roasting rack or directly in a roasting pan. Break the sprig of rosemary into a few pieces and sprinkle them over the lamb. Brush the lamb with a little olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the interior of the meat reaches 130 degrees. While it is cooking, baste the meat once or twice with a little oil from the pan.

Meanwhile, combine the allioli and the honey in a bowl. Use a fork to mix them together thoroughly.

Remove the lamb from the oven and allow it to rest for 3 or 4 minutes.

Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan over a high flame. Place the whole rack of lamb in the pan and sear for 10 seconds on each side to brown it.

Cut the rack into pieces along the bones. Place a spoonfull of honey allioli on each plate, and top with a piece of lamb. Sprinkle with salt to taste, and serve.

Allioli a la moderna
Modern garlic and oil sauce

Makes 1 cup

1 small egg
1 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar or fresh lemon juice
salt to taste

Break the egg into a small mixing bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the garlic clove, and the vinegar or lemon juice.

Using a hand-held mixer, mix at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste. Then, little by little, add the remaining olive oil as you continue blending at high speed. If the mixture appears too thick when you begin adding the oil, add 1 teaspoon water to loosen the sauce. Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli. The sauce will be a lovely yellow color. Add salt to taste.

Arroz con leche como hacen en Mieres
(Rice and milk, Mieres-style)

Arroz con leche is the dessert that best reflects Asturian cooking. Asturias doesn't produce rice, but it's undoubtedly one of the best milk-producing regions in Europe, with its green pastures and mountains.

Serves 4

10 cups whole milk
1 strip lemon zest
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup Spanish Bomba or Calasparra rice, or Arborio rice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar

Combine the milk, lemon zest, and cinnamon stick in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once the mixture boils, remove the cinnamon stick and the lemon zest.

Stir in the rice, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon to make sure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pot.

Add the butter and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add the sugar and mix vigorously. Remove the pot from the heat and spread the rice on a platter. Leave it to rest. As it cools, the milk will develop a thin skin on the top of the rice; fold this into the rice before serving. The pudding will be ready when it reaches room temperature, in 3 to 4 hours. You can also serve it cold from the refrigerator the next day.

Recipes reprinted with permission.

We'd love to receive your favorite recipes to go with a vibrant Rioja and, with your permission, we may even publish them on the Vibrant Rioja website. You can simply send your recipes, comments or questions to rioja@vibrantrioja.com. We'd love to hear from you!

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