Exploring Catalonia

My friend Chris is off to Barcelona in August. He’s never been to Spain before and he’ll be travelling with his wife and kids. He wrote to me and asked for suggestions on where to go, where to eat and anything else I could think of.

Stay tuned Chris. I’m working on a raft of suggestions and travel tips for you. You’re going to have a great time. Coming soon!

In the meantime, does anybody know where the above photo was taken?

Photo ©Mike Randolph

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Approaching Maximum Density

Officials in Pamplona say that the crowds during the Fiesta de San Fermín reach maximum density when there are five people for every square meter. The crowd in this image of the opening day celebration looks as though it’s just about there. Photo ©Mike Randolph

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The Bullfighter’s Tailor

A while back I was commissioned to do a short video on a tailor who specializes in making suits for bullfighters. Daniel Roqueta has been making trajes de luces, or suits of lights, for more than 25 years. I followed the process over several weeks, starting with the selection of materials and colors by bullfighter Carlos Gallego, the making of the suit, right up to the day Carlos wore it for the first time in the ring.

 

Music: “Nerva” performed by Soria 9 Sevilla
Special thanks to Daniel Roqueta, his team, and Carlos Gallego.

 

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Two Continents, One Image

I’ve been trying to get this image for a number of years now. But every time I’ve driven along the twisting mountain highway at the southern tip of Spain, it’s been either overcast or too hazy. Finally, however, I got lucky with a very clear day. I was also lucky that a Guardia Civil did not witness the, um, creative driving and parking that was involved in getting the shot.

The Strait of Gibraltar, separating Africa from Europe, is less than 15 kilometers across at its narrowest point. The mountain seen in the distance is one of the Pillars of Hercules; the other one is the Rock of Gibraltar. It was here that the Berber general Jabal Tarik, who gave the Strait and the Rock his name, crossed from Africa to invade the Iberian Peninsula, starting nearly eight centuries of Muslim rule in Spain. Today, many Africans still attempt the crossing in small boats, seeking new lives, but the treacherous currents make for an extremely dangerous voyage.

Photo ©Mike Randolph

 

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Pollo (chicken) al Chilindrón

Healthy. basic ingredients.When my mother found out I was making Pollo al Chilindrón with green peppers, she put her foot down. Sort of.

“Well you can put in whatever you want, but then it’s not Chilindrón.”

“Yeah but I have a bunch of different recipes from respectable authors who all say to use both red and green peppers,” I told her.

“That’s because they don’t know the authentic chilindrón,” she said.

Pollo al Chilindrón is a classic Spanish recipe for chicken. It originated in Aragón or Navarra or the País Vasco, depending on whether you ask, as I did, people from Aragón, Navarra and the País Vasco. I’m going to have to go with Aragón, because that’s where my mother is from and I lived there myself long enough that it felt like home. So make of it what you will, but Chilindrón is definitely from Aragón.

It’s a simple recipe, but still there was the matter of pepper choice to consider. “Call uncle Michael,” my mother said. “He’s got a recipe book from abuela Andréa.”

Abuela Andréa was my great grandmother. She was born in Morata de Jalón, about 70 kilometers south of Zaragoza, and legend has it she was a great cook. While my uncle went to look for the book, he passed the phone to my aunt. Ilse is also a great cook and she said that Andréa always used just red pepper. By this time my uncle had returned with the book–sadly there was no recipe for chilindrón in it–and I could hear him in the background voicing objections to the red-pepper-only approach and then suddenly he had the phone.

Abuela Andréa made it all three ways. With just green pepper, a mix of green and red, and just red pepper. The green peppers came in earlier in the season. She just used what she had.”

That seemed pretty sensible to me so I used what I had too, and it so happens I had them both. If that’s the way my great grandmother made it at the turn of the last century, well that’s authentic enough for me. Click on photos for written steps.

Pollo al Chilindrón is a great recipe for a number of reasons. First, it’s surprisingly delicious. Second, it’s easy. And third, it’s a healthy mix of vegetables and chicken and a little olive oil, which also makes it economical. Not only is it a complete meal, but it can be made ahead of time, re-warmed the next day and it’s just as good if not better. Chilindrón refers to the sauce; abuela Andréa also made Cordero al Chilindrón, which substitutes lamb for chicken.

 

Pollo al Chilindrón

Serves 4 to 6

Notes: If you don’t have any jamón, that is truly unfortunate, but you can get by with other dry-cured hams such as prosciutto or even bacon, though you might want to fry it a little first. I prefer quarters of chicken leg and thigh, but some people use boneless breast instead. Just make sure it doesn’t overcook and dry out.

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 onion

4 cloves of garlic

2 green peppers

2 red peppers

4 tomatoes

100 grams of Jamón Serrano

1 cup white wine

4 chicken quarters, cut into small pieces

In a saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients, pour in a few good glugs of olive oil and sauté the chopped onions until glassy, about five minutes. Add the garlic and peppers, both chopped, and cook for another ten minutes or so. Add the tomatoes, de-skinned and chopped, a little salt, the jamón (preferably diced, but strips work fine too) and then the white wine. (My abuela didn’t use wine but I think it adds a lot.)

Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, brown the chicken pieces in abundant olive oil. When the chicken is nice and toasty, add it to the pepper mixture and cook for another 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened.

Traditionally served with French fries or rice.

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