Many compare Serrano ham to Italian prosciutto, but its flavor is sweeter and nuttier and,
as a rule, it is sliced thicker than prosciutto. In Spain some of the best hams, including
Jamones Ibericos and Jamones de Jabugo, come from pigs fed on acorns. La Espanola cannot obtain acorn-fed pork. But their hams, made with lean,
domestic pork and cured 18 months are very good.
The deli carries the ham sliced in 4-ounce
packages, but it is preferable to slice your own from the whole hams.
For tapas, cubes of the ham are customarily
speared on a wooden toothpick or hand-cut for pan con tomate y jamon (known in northeastern
Spain, where it is a focus of local patriotism, as pa amb tomàquet): crisp bread rubbed
with tomato, drizzled with olive oil and topped with the ham. In the
the ham is an essential part of piperade; a dish composed of fresh-roasted sweet green
peppers, onions and tomatoes cooked slowly together until they are meltingly sweet
then swirled with beaten eggs to make a Basque-style tortilla.
Serrano ham hocks:
La Española also sells serrano ham hocks that add their robust flavor to
"cocido madrileno," a sort of pot-au-feu
dinner served in courses or with lentil and bean dishes. Faraone uses the
ham hocks in her
Once the cheese
of sheep herders in the region of La Mancha on the Castilian plateau, Manchego's sharp,
complex, buttery flavor is due in part to the Manchego sheep's milk from which it is
produced. Manchego will always carry a "denominacion de origen" label, assuring that only
cheese made in the region may bear that name.
The youngest cheeses are cured
60 days; La Española sells the three-month aged cheeses that are still semi-soft and
considered young enough for eating. Manchego is typically offered with fresh fruit or
quince paste, membrillo, and a chilled fine Sherry. Older Manchego makes an excellent
grating and cooking cheese and is made by simply keeping the wheels of cheese in a cool
dark place, or even in the refrigerator.
Pimenton: Sometimes called
Spanish paprika, this is not the same as Hungarian paprika although it does come from a
related sweet pepper. Pimenton is indispensable for most Spanish cooking.
stocks one-gram jars of true Spanish saffron. Its threads are of a
dee-red variety with
only a little yellow, an indication of good quality. Toast the saffron threads in a dry
skillet very briefly just before you use it.
this cured pork loin "the Cadillac of the house." Fresh eye of loin meticulously
trimmed of fat is hand-rubbed with a mixture of white wine and spices.
The meat marinates
in a cooler for about eight days, which draws off some of the moisture and allows the
seasoning to penetrate. After being packed in a natural casing it hangs in the curing room
at 63 degrees for three to nine months, depending on the size of the loin.
The lomo is
somewhat like a ham but not as salty and is best eaten as simply as possible.
La Española produces fully cured sausage (similar
to salami) as well as semi-cured and uncured, or "fresh" sausage.
SEMI-CURED SAUSAGES are dried
only a few days, and must be lightly cooked. The light curing intensifies their flavor but
the sausages remain juicy enough to impart a meaty, well-seasoned taste to beans, lentils
or rice casseroles. Even with lengthy simmering, semi-cured sausages won't dry out.
The Basque region,
known for some of Spain's finest cooking, not surprisingly produces the country's most
flavorful sausages. Chistorra, long, skinny pork links that mingle a deep smokiness with
plenty of garlic, really pack a flavor punch. Basques eat these for breakfast with eggs or
simply with sturdy country bread. Like all the semi-cured sausages, Chistorra
excellent flavoring for cooked dishes.
Chorizo de Bilbao:
Spain's most popular cooking chorizos, this is another sausage originally from the Basque
provinces and around Pamplona. Its pungent, slightly firm meat is seasoned with the usual
Spanish trinity of garlic, pimenton and pepper, but it's also laced with cumin and
oregano. Similar to but more robust than uncured chorizo fresco,
chorizo de Bilbao stores well in the
refrigerator and keeps for a longer periods than the fresh sausages.
Stuffed into small
sheep casings and tied at 1-inch intervals, all-pork Cantimpalitos are the size of a
single finger digit. They are garlicky, rosy with pimenton, and have a light, smoky
flavor. In bean or rice dishes or sautéed with vegetables, Cantimpalitos make plump,
bite-sized meaty nuggets. Be sure to pierce each Cantimpalito a few times with the tines
of a fork before heating it through.
chorizo de Bilbao, this is eaten throughout Spain and makes a wonderful cooking sausage.
Because it isn't cured, chorizo fresco exudes more of its fat- which isn't actually very
much. (La Española makes both its chorizo de Bilbao and chorizo fresco with less than 20% fat.)
fat there is becomes the perfect medium for sautéing onions, garlic and tomato to make
one style of sofrito, the all-purpose flavoring base used for hundreds of Spanish dishes.
Chubby, white and
mildly flavored, these Catalonian style sausage, from around Barcelona, are the leanest of
La Española's line. They are reminiscent of Weisswurst but with a firmer texture.
true of many Catalan sausages, the familiar pimenton in the seasoning is absent.
Instead, the delicate flavor of butifarritas comes from a mixture of white pepper, garlic, and nutmeg.
Catalonians love them in bean dishes, turned over charcoal or cooked with turnips or
cabbage. These sausages are cooked at the factory and need only be heated through.
simply a larger version of butifarrita that is often sliced and sautéed to serve with
white beans or used in sandwiches. The wide sausages are stuffed in
rather than the natural casing that encloses butifarritas. It should be peeled away.
light-colored sausages with just a touch of pimenton seem a close relative of Italian
sausage; their flavor, however, is quite different. Longanizas make good cooking sausages
but more often they appear as an entrée with vegetables and potatoes as an
Of course, they make wonderful tapas and fillings for omelets.
two Spanish blood sausages. Their morcilla con arroz (with rice) is seasoned in the manner
of blood sausages from the Levente region around Valencia, with garlic and cinnamon.
Morcilla con cebolla (with onions), a style favored in the North around Oviedo in
Asturias, has a light sprinkling of cloves and black pepper. Both sausages contain 60% lean
pork-more meat than the morcillas served on Argentine restaurant parilladas- those are
more like a soft blood pudding. Since the morcillas are precooked, they need only be warmed,
sliced, and accompanied with bread for tapas or lightly grilled and served alongside
other grilled meats with a good bottle of Rioja wine.
Mexican-style chorizos: These are similar to
Spanish chorizos fresco but less lean and much spicier with hot pepper and oregano.
In general, the cured sausages are eaten as a cold
cut and only occasionally used in cooking.
Soria or Spanish Girl sausage:
originated in Old Castille around Soria and Logroño. Although actually a sausage, it
resembles a gently seasoned, lean pork loin with a concentrated meaty taste.
The meat is
diced by hand, seasoned, and cured overnight to reduce its moisture. The mixture is then
tightly packed into natural, Portuguese net-like casings and air-dried for three months.
Simply eat it sliced and in sandwiches.
Pamplona style: The snap of
garlic mellowed by a hint of pimenton makes this a good eating sausage.
It is similar to
salami. To get the right texture, the pork for these sausages is ground twice with a
24-hour rest period between grindings. "The meat should look like a small grain of
rice," says Faraone. A Pamplona-style sausage is cured three to six months, depending
on its dimension.
Like the Pamplona
style, Cantimpalo is similar to a salami but is the thickness of a broom handle.
sausage is more highly seasoned with black pepper and cumin, and the beef and pork for its
filling are ground separately, each to a different coarseness, giving the sausage its
characteristic double texture. Cantimpalo originated in the regions that
Salamanca, Segovia and Valladolid. Some cooks there like to include it in cooked dishes,
but it must only be heated through to prevent drying out.
Sobrasada: Sobrasada's deep-wine
color comes from the large quantities of pimenton and black pepper used in flavoring it.
it is whole, this Majorcan sausage resembles a salami, but its texture is soft and almost
spreadable. Spaniards liken Sobrasada to patè, though I find it a bit firmer, and
recommend putting slices of it on crackers or bread and warming it under the
broiler. Sobrasada's strong, earthy flavor goes a long way to enhance vegetables:
recommends it in cabbage and cauliflower dishes. Her advice: "The
sobrasada should be cut up and
only barely warmed to melting before adding the vegetables. Cook the cauliflower, with a
lid on the pan, removing it to stir the vegetables periodically until it is tender."
Many cooks like to add small bits of sobrasada to their tortilla española,
potato omelet eaten at room temperature.
Fuet: The name means
"whip" in the Catalan language, and as you'd expect, it is long and skinny.
is a very garlicky, dry-cured, all-pork sausage originating in the
Catalonian region and
contains no pimenton; but it is also lightly flavored with pepper, and nutmeg.
Fuet is loved as a
snacking sausage or sliced thinly and sprinkled on salads.
Salchichon del Vic: Similar to
Italian Genoa salami, this is another cured sausage made without pimenton.
Salchichon de Vic is
deliciously rich, fatty and freckled with crunchy bits of black pepper and garlic, dusted
with cinnamon and nutmeg. It is a favorite in Madrid for tapas.
ADDITIONAL IMPORTED SPANISH FOODS
without bones: "It might seem strange," writes author Colman Andrews in "Catalan
Cuisine," "that a preserved fish should have become so popular in a land where
fish of the fresh sort is so obviously plentiful." Bacalao, like ham and bacon,
remain a favorite food long after practical keeping qualities were its main attraction.
When properly desalinated and sauced, bacalao produces some of the world's best dishes.
La Española carries quality boneless salt
some can be as dry as a board, like as an old packing crate. Theirs is slightly moist,
pliable and cut from the thick center of the fish. It is creamy white rather than dusty
gray. Salt cod must be soaked at least two days in fresh water with a change of water
several times a day. Longer soakings up to four days are even better.
Valencian Rice: Round-grained and slightly sticky,
Valencian rice is grown in the farm regions of Cullera and Sueca. Rice, first introduced to
Valencia by the Moors, is basic to its Middle Eastern-influenced cooking.
Just as you need Arborio rice to make a
successful risotto, so a good paella requires Valencia rice. Apart from
region's hundreds of other rice dishes are traditionally cooked in an earthenware cazuela,
glazed only on the inside. Just about anything can go into a rice
cazuela, from Valencia
orange juice with almonds and raisins to an assortment of cockles and periwinkles.
Spanish olive oil:
world's leading producer of olive oil, Spain markets many fine, quality extra-virgin olive
oils. Of these, Ybarra and Carbonell are two of Spain's esteemed dealers.
carries both brands along with several others.
Turron: Another specialty with
Moorish roots, turron is a chewy, crunchy nougat of honey and egg whites barely
holding whole roasted almonds
together. At Christmas time, stores and shops throughout Spain are
filled with many varieties of turron. (The people of the Lavante region, who claim it as
their own, say it is good any time of the year except after a visit to the dentist.)
The same dessert comes in a round form sandwiched between paper-thin waffle cookies.
animal-shaped almond-paste figurines look like three dimensional cookies in that they have
been oven-toasted. According to Faraone, the 1890 brand sold in the deli is the best known
and, some say, the finest in Spain.