Here are some specific suggestions for Holiday menus but don’t forget about Paella! Paella has become a huge holiday favorite of our customers, served, for example on Christmas Eve or the day after Thanksgiving using turkey stock made from the carcass and including some scraps of left-over turkey meat.
Blood oranges arrive in the markets along with winter weather. Their juice is often so red that when we encountered it sold on the streets of southern Europe on our travels, at first we thought it was tomato juice.
1 cup Water
½ cup Sugar
1 pound Whole Cranberries
3 Blood oranges, sliced
1 bottle White Wine, chilled (750 ml)
1 can 12 oz Lemon-Lime Soda, chilled
Put water, sugar and cranberries in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a pitcher with 1½ liter capacity. Add orange slices and muddle gently with a wooden pestle to release juices. Add white wine and soda and serve over ice cubes.
CLEMENTINE ORANGE SALAD
Boxes of little Clementine oranges from Spain appear in our markets around Thanksgiving. They are easy to peel and after the segments are dressed with a drizzle of saffron syrup and topped with toasted almond slices, they can be served as a festive salad or as a dessert, the sweetness adjusted accordingly.
8 Spanish Clementine Oranges
1 tablespoon PX Sherry Vinegar
1 teaspoon Orange blossom honey
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Sliced almonds, toasted
Gently toss the segments in the dressing then top with almond slices.
MACEDONIA OF FRESH FRUIT
Here is another salad of fruits available in the midst of winter. In Spanish, pomegranate is granada, from the arabic.
2 Firm winter pears, one green, one red skinned
2 Oranges, preferably Spanish Clementines
2 tablespoons Quince Membrillo
1 tablespoon Pine Nuts, toasted
Core and cut the pears into chunks. Remove orange skins, slice crosswise and separate into segments, saving juice. Separate seeds from pomegranate (a Granada in Spain). Use orange juice to dilute the Membrillo, adding squeeze of lime juice to taste. Toss with fruit and sprinkle pine nuts on top.
Introduce a touch of Barcelona to your traditional Thanksgiving dinner with this Iberian take on roast turkey.
2 tablespoons Course sea salt
½ teaspoon Saffron threads
8 cloves Garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
1 Large orange, quartered
1 Lemon, quartered
½ cup Amontillado sherry
2 cups Chopped onions
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup Raisins, re-hydrated
1 bunch Spinach, chopped
4 cups Stale bread, cubed
Turkey: Pre heat oven to 450º. Put the salt and saffron in a mortar and use pestle to grind them together. Add garlic, mash to paste and slowly add olive oil. Using a brush, paint the turkey with this mixture. Quarter the orange and lemon and slip them into the bird’s cavity. Put the turkey in a very large cazuela and pour sherry over it. Roast in a hot oven (450º), basting every twenty to thirty minutes with the juices which collect in the bottom of the cazuela. When done, remove the turkey from the pan and set it aside to rest. While turkey is resting, pour off the drippings and separate off the fat from the juices, reserving some fat if you intend to make gravy. De-glaze the roasting pan with ½ cup water, then add it to the de-fatted juices.
Stuffing: Put the raisins in a bowl and cover with some of the turkey juice to re-hydrate them. Cook the onions in the de-glazed cazuela. Toss with the other stuffing ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add enough of the juices from roasting pan to dampen the stuffing. Any extra juice can be used if you make gravy. Put stuffing in a cazuela and bake in hot oven, until heated through and surface is crisp. After turkey has rested, carve and serve with stuffing.
CHESTNUT AND CHORIZO FIDEUÁ
If you have made turkey stock from the Thanksgiving carcass, here is a chance to use it. The chorizo will provide enough fat for this dish so you might avoid adding more. Fresh chestnuts are available in markets only briefly here but are sold in jars year-round.
4 Spanish cooking chorizo (or Linguiça)
1 jar Spanish chestnuts (24 nuts), sliced (they will tend to crumble)
½ pound Fideo noodles
2 quarts Chicken or turkey stock, de-fatted
Heat chorizo slowly in a 12 inch or larger paella pan until it releases some fat then increase the heat and brown the sausage in its own fat. When chorizo is crisped, add pasta and cook until the noodles are toasted, stirring once or twice. Stir in chestnut slices. Add stock and bring to boil. Simmer for 11-15 minutes until stock absorbed and pasta is cooked.
These mussels feel like Christmas because the vinaigrette is flecked with bits of red and green vegetables. They are simple and can be prepared in advance. The result is colorful. The mussels rest in their gleaming, blue-black shell with the minced peppers providing the touch of seasonal color. And they are finger food, easily eaten. As each mussel is a portion, buy as many as you need. Let’s say a kilo, or roughly 2 pounds.
Prepare mussels by steaming them briefly until they open. Then remove the meat from the shells. Half the shells get tossed. Rinse the other half and put them in a bag in the refrigerator. Make the marinade:
1 tablespoon Sweet onion, very finely diced
1 tablespoon Red bell pepper, very finely diced
1 tablespoon Green bell pepper, very finely diced
1 tablespoon Small capers
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup White wine vinegar
Put the mussel meat in a jar with a tight fitting lid and add the marinade. Shake them up to coat. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
If you think of it, give them a shake during this period to keep everything distributed nicely.
When it is time to serve them, place a mussel in each shell and spoon some of the marinade and diced vegetables over them. Serve them on a chilled platter. If it is to be a long party, place the platter on a bed of ice.
SPANISH SAUCE FOR CHRISTMAS HAM
This red wine and raisin sauce compliments the richness of the meat and elevates it to a special occasion dish.
¼ cup Yellow Raisins
8 Pitted prunes, chopped
1 cup Red Wine
1 Orange, zest and juice
¼ teaspoon Nutmeg
¼ teaspoon Ground clove
1 ½ Candied Lemon peel
2 tablespoons Corn starch
2 tablespoons Spanish Brandy
Chop the raisins and steep in the red wine for 30 minutes until fruits are plumped. Drain and de-glaze the ham roasting pan with the wine. Add raisins, prunes, orange juice, orange zest, nutmeg and clove. Bring to boil and reduce by half. Mix the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of brandy and whisk the resulting paste into the pan until fully incorporated. Add candied lemon peel. Cook until it thickens into a light gravy.
MIGAS WITH PUMPKIN AND BRANDY
In Salamanca, they sometimes slip a little pumpkin into the migas. Adding either pumpkin or squash cubes makes this a seasonal and festive dish. Serves 8
2 tablespoons Spanish Brandy
1 pinch Saffron
1 cup Chicken stock
1 pound Pumpkin or squash meat, cubed
¼ cup Olive Oil
½ cup Jamón trimmings, the fattier the better, diced
½ cup Chorizo, diced
1 Onion, chopped
4 cups Stale bread, cubed
Preheat oven to 350º. Put saffron in a medium saucepan with brandy and heat just to a boil. Add chicken stock and let simmer.
Heat the oil in a 10 inch cazuela con tapa. Sauté the pumpkin cubes slowly in olive oil until they soften or, alternatively, put them in the microwave and cook for a couple minutes until they pierce easily with a fork but are still firm. Add the jamón and cook until fat is rendered. Add the chorizo. When chorizo is sizzling hot, add onion and cook until translucent. Add bread cubes and toss to distribute ingredients evenly. Press the bread down to form an even surface. Pour hot saffron-brandy-chicken stock over the bread mix.
Cover (if using a regular cazuela without a top, cover with foil) and bake in oven for ten minutes. Remove and bake uncovered an additional ten minutes.
GALICIAN RUSTIC RAISIN BREAD
Most of the year, in the era of cocina pobre, bread was rustic and plain. However, during the holidays, it was elaborated with frutos secos, walnuts and raisins. This is not a sweet bread, just a humble bread that has been tarted up for a special occasion. Since you are making bread, you will want to be working in a warm room. Makes a 2 ½ pound loaf of medium-dense bread.
For the sponge:
1 package Dry yeast
½ cup Warm water
½ cup Unbleached flour
1 tablespoon Chestnut honey
For the dough:
1 cup Raisins
½ cup Tawny Port
1/8 c cup Chestnut Honey
1 cup Chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon Salt
1/8 c cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ cup Beer, room temperature
½ cup Milk, room temperature
4 cups Unbleached flour
In a large, warm bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients, stirring them to form a batter. Cover and let proof in a warm, but not hot, place until the surface is broken by a myriad of bubbles and the batter has turned into a light and spongy mass. This should take half an hour and you should have about twice the mass you started with.
Meanwhile, soak the raisins in the tawny port to re-hydrate them. When the sponge is ready, add all the other ingredients to it except the flour. Now stir in 3 cups of flour, half cup at a time. By the time you are done you should have a stiff but finger-friendly dough.
Turn it out onto a floured board and knead it for 5 to 10 minutes until you feel it become elastic. It will be sticky so keep dusting your hands and the dough with the reserved cup of flour as needed. When the dough has responded to your prodding, shape it into a ball.
Rinse and dry the bowl. Pour a little olive oil in it and put the ball of dough in the bowl and turn it over, oiled side up. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour. Turn the ball out, punch down, knead for another five minutes, dusting again with reserved flour, then return it to the re-oiled bowl for a second rise.
When it has re-doubled in bulk, punch and knead it another five minutes and form it into any shaped loaf you like and cover it with waxed paper to keep it cozy and warm.
While the dough is rising for the third time, preheat the oven to 500º. If you use a baking stone, place it on the center rack. Place a pan in the bottom of oven for water.
When risen, place loaf on a baking sheet dusted with corn meal to prevent sticking. Now you can slash the top if when baking, you are a slasher like me.
Slide it in the oven and carefully add water to the hot pan to make lots of steam. Bake 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 400º adding more water to the pan. Bake another 25 minutes until the crust is dark brown and it sounds hollow when you knock-knock on it.
TURRÓN AND CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING
This is a great Christmas Day dessert using the leftovers from the Christmas Eve dessert buffet. Serves 10
½ cup Raisins
½ cup Cream Sherry
7 oz bar Turrón blando (Jijona)
6 oz bar 70% cocoa chocolate
2 cups Milk
1 tablespoon Vanilla extract (I buy mine in Mexico)
1 Zest of Orange, finely diced
¼ teaspoon Fine sea salt
8 cups Stale bread, cubed. Left over holiday sweet breads work great.
Pour the sherry over the raisins and set aside. Chop up the turrón bar and the chocolate.
Heat milk to scalding (I use the microwave) and pour over chopped candies. Stir to dissolve.
Add vanilla, candied orange zest and salt. Beat eggs and whisk them into the mix.
Pour over bread cubes and let sit for an hour while bread absorbs moisture. Heat oven to 350º
Put the mix in a ten inch cazuela or in individual 4 inch cazuelas and bake pudding until it browns on top. It should be firm but still wiggly. This will take 30 to 45 minutes depending on which pan size you elect to use and your oven.
PEARS POACHED IN CREAM SHERRY
Ripe autumn pears combined with the unique scent and flavor of Jerez is a perfect end to the meal. Each pear makes two desserts. This recipe is even better if the pears are poached in advance and left in the refrigerator to marinate in the poaching liquid for a day or two. Choose ripe pears. It is usually better to buy them in advance and let them ripen in your kitchen. Serves 6
6 Ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut in half.
1 bottle Cream Sherry, 750 ml
12 tablespoon Spanish Orange Blossom Honey
1 cup Whipped Cream for topping
Cover the pear halves with Cream Sherry and add two tablespoons of honey per pear. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 50 minutes, or until pears soften. Remove pears from poaching liquid. Bring the liquid to a brisk boil and reduce it to one-third of its original volume. Pour a large spoonful of the liquid over each pear half and top with whipped cream.
Wine: Serving a chilled sweet wine like Moscatel adds another dimension of flavors as your guests relax after dinner.
I am drawn to nut pastries and bought a slice of Musician’s tart in a bakery in Barcelona’s old quarter in 1986. When I returned home, Marimar Torres had just published her cookbook The Spanish Table which had a recipe from which this one was adapted, evolving over the years.
1 Pie crust, blind baked
2½ cups Mixed dried fruits: Figs, dates, raisins, prunes and/or apricots all pitted.
1½ cups Sidra (Apple cider or juice)
2 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon Flour
½ cup Orange blossom honey
1 cup Milk
2 Egg yolks
½ cup PX Sherry
¼ cup Lemon juice (less if fruit mixture included apricots)
1 ½ cups Mixed nuts: Negreta hazelnuts, Marcona almonds, walnuts and/or pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350º. Blind bake the pie crust in a ten inch tart pan with a removable rim. While the empty crust is baking, put the dried fruit in a small saucepan with the apple juice and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool.
Melt butter in medium saucepan then whisk in flour. Then add the honey, then the milk, whisking it all together. Beat together the PX and egg yolks and whisk them in.
Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens to form a custard. Puree dried fruit in a food processor and add to custard. Taste and add lemon juice to balance sweetness.
Fill the baked pie crust with the custard mix and then the nuts, pressing them down into the mix.
Bake for 45 minutes.