When Jenn proposed today’s top-five list—“foods you need to shove down your gullet before leaving”—I thought it would be easy. Then I rattled off more than 20 dishes in the same number of seconds that would vie for only five slots.
To narrow it down, I’m including only things with ingredients that aren’t readily available back home or things that would be difficult for a novice cook to replicate in his kitchen. I’m also leaving off the half dozen body parts of the pig that would have a made my top 20. I’m guessing Jenn, who generally stays away from food that once were body parts, had the opposite problem as she assessed her favorites from this meat-loving country.
In the meantime, we're left with a lot of things to eat in the span of a week. We’re starting right now as we head off to get tapas and hopefully end Jenn’s moratorium on drinking.
1. Queso de Cabra Gratinado. Never—never, I tell you! —has cheese been so mmmmmmm inducing. I'm normally not the biggest rosemary fan, but I'll deal when there's ridiculously soft goat cheese and sweet honey involved.
2. Bacalao. The Spanish cod is delicious when fried. (But then again, what isn't?) Plus, "bacalao" is fun to say in a faux-gangsta-rapper voice. El Rinconcillo's bacalao are a particular stand out, as they seem to be swathed in some sort of funnel-cake-like batter.
3. Croquettas. This may be a shock coming from me, I know, but during our time here we quickly discovered non-ham versions of this tiny treat, like fish, pesto, cauliflower and spinach. Though it must be said that jamón croquettas are the best, especially the ones from Bar Europa.
4. Pisto. Sometimes the food in Spain is so obvious you wonder, "Why haven't I ever thought to do this before?" That's just the delicious simplicity of Spanish cooking, and pisto in particular: Nothing more than zucchini, eggplant, onion and green and red peppers in tomato sauce, topped with an egg. Of course, the tomato sauce makes or breaks the dish.
5. Salmorejo. Blend tomatoes, olive oil, day-old bread, garlic and sherry vinegar; chill—both the soup and yourself, that is, because this is clearly a very exhausting dish to prepare. You could also add chopped bacon or scallions, but you most certainly will want to have a hearty, grainy bread on hand for dipping.
1. Queso de Cabra Gratinado. I knew Jenn would lead her list with this, but enough praise can’t be lavished on this one. It’s also been a favorite of nearly all our visitors.
2. Jamón Serrano. Cured ham, hand-sliced thin right from the leg. This stuff makes even the best prosciutto seem like Oscar Meyer baloney. Quite the delicacy, it retails for more than $100 a pound in the U.S. I’m going to miss it.
3. Carrillada. This is pork cheek. I’ve had it prepared a few different ways and every time it’s more tender than the best pulled pork sandwiches I’ve had.
4. Boquerones (at right). These are fresh anchovies, sans the head, deep-fried and served with a little wedge of lemon. I’ve never been a huge fan of anchovies—associating them with those salty gray little bastards you find in the jar. Fresh and fried: It’s a whole different story.
5. Flamenquines. This is cheese. Wrapped in ham. Wrapped in pork loin. Deep-fried. Elaborating is unnecessary.