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This is my version of my mother’s partridge stuffing / meatloaf / capón stuffing. Yes, she really uses this recipe for all those things, with very small variations. It’s that good.

Lots of stuff for this one

Lots of stuff for this one

As you can see, a lot of things are needed. So this is not a dish you can whip up at a moments notice (unless you have a fabulously well stocked kitchen), it requires some planning. Let me stress this again: it’s worth it!

The list of ingredients I have (that my mother sent me) is for the stuffing of a capón, which is a huge bird which ends up looking like a vulture when stuffed. As far as I know, there is no such chicken this side of the ocean – and I can’t say I’m really that sorry, as the way they make / raise them seems quite cruel. Anyway, the amounts I had are too much to make meatloaf or stuff a bird – they’re about right for doing both these thins though. So I will give the amounts I used this time that fit the meatloaf like pan perfectly. If you are using it to stuff something, modify accordingly, and you’ll need less for a chicken.

  • 0.5 lb ground beef
  • 0.5 ground turkey or chicken
  • 1/3 of a packet of bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, very finely chopped or grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 or 2 dl cream
  • 50 g pine nuts, lightly roasted
  • Between 5 and 10 dried prunes, you can either coarsely chop them up or leave them whole, whatever you want (I chop ’em)
  • 1 truffle, very fineley chopped – my mother says this is optional, but I think that if you’re going to make such a complex meatloaf you might as well go for it and get the truffle
  • Salt and oil
  • Spices: white pepper, ground nutmeg, a little bit of ground cinnamon and ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup oporto or sweet sherry
  • If you’re using this as stuffing: foie gras. you’ll slide in a couple of pieces with the stuffing, on top of it, close to the breastbone.

The preparation can be summed up as: MIX EVERYTHING. But I can give a few more details.

If you remember, this first step should be done the day before. I didn’t and it came out perfectly fine.

Mix in a bowl the ground meats, bacon, prunes, truffle, spices, salt, liquor, eggs (mix them before). Also slightly saute the onion and garlic till translucent, let cool, and add to said bowl. Refrigerate till the following day, when you need to take it out of the fridge a couple of hours before making the meatloaf so that the mixture can come up to room temperature.

The day before mixure that wasnt

The "day before" mixture that wasn't

If you forgot to roast the pine nuts, now would be a good time to do it.

Almost there

Almost there

Into the bowl they go. My mother says to mix everything by hand as that’s the best way to make sure everything mixes thoroughly. I used a spoonula and it worked fine.

On day #2 you add the missing ingredients: cream and pine nuts. Mix everything well, untill it has an almost doughy consistency.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

And now you bake. At 350. No idea for how long, but I think mine needed about 40 minutes. Put a bigger dish underneath, because there’s a high chance that liquid will over flow. If you play it by eye, use the usual knife-comes-out-clean technique and you should be fine.

If this looks good, you should have smelled it!

If this looks good, you should have smelled it!

Let rest for about 15 minutes so that it can reabsorb some of the liquid you’ll see down the sides.

If you’re making stuffing, my mother suggest making a sauce with white wine, port, chicken stock, squirt of lemon juice, sal and pepper, and a little bit of truffle if you have leftover. Baste the bird with it.

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

This meatloaf is something else. I don’t think it even plays in the same league as most meatloafs. In fact, it deserves some sort of posh, French sounding name, so that it is no longer associated with a vulgar meatloaf. It can be eaten warm or room temperature (good in sandwiches with a little bit of mild mustard and mayo).

Another photo, I can’t have enough of it!

Meatloaf

Meatloaf

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To go with the meatloaf (yes, the recipe and photos will come at some point – I’m just lazy about writing it up) I made what my mother recommended: caramelized shallots.

Ingredients

Ingredients

I’m not really sure about how to give measurements for these ingredients. Because the recipe called for a lot more shallots than I had, so I just eyeballed the rest of the stuff. Also, I think the shallots my mother buys are much smaller than these. So I’ll give her measurements, but feel free to eyeball it a little.

  • 18 shallots (ha! this is a side dish, so 2 per person, plus a couple extras just in case)
  • 1/2 glass of chicken or vegetable stock (I use store bought because I’ve never made it myself – well, I did try to make vegetable stock once, but it ended up being more like vegetable soup)
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 glass of Pedro Ximenez, or oporto, or another dessert wine (I decided to use Marsala as I’d just bought it out of curiosity and have never been able to find either of those two in this side of the pond)

Now this can be made with any type of onion. But if you’re going to use normal onions you might want to julienne them instead of using them whole like I did for the shallots. If you are using shallots, peel them trying to keep them as whole as possible.

Shallots

Shallots

These gave enough for 3 or 4 people. Alex and I each had two with the meatloaf that night, and we froze a small container with the rest to have whenever we unfreeze our beef Bourguignonne leftovers. Yes, they freeze well. Or at least my mother says so, and everyone knows mothers are always right.

Onto the fire

Onto the fire

Put everything but the wine and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil for about 10 – 15 minutes. Then add the wine and sugar. Mix in and cook uncovered over high heat, moving it frequently.

Keep a close eye on it, because if the sugar starts to burn you’ll have to turn the heat down.

Once most of the liquid is gone, they are ready.

Caramelized shallots

Caramelized shallots

They’re delicious. If you’re cooking them whole like this there will be a really nice contrast between the slight crunchiness of the inside and the sweetness of the outside. If you have julienned them (do it thinly!) they go great with foie gras mi-cuit – specially on thin toast with some other kind of sweet reduction (the aforementioned Pedro Ximenez, or maybe try some raspberry red wine combination).

Ingredients

Ingredients

This one is taken from a different blog: Under the High Chair. I’d already made it before and knew the results would be very good. It was a challenge finding a rice pudding recipe that did not involve cinnamon (as the classic Spanish rice pudding does), as Alex doesn’t like it. And making a dessert just for myself feels too piggish.

Also a big plus was using rose water. I’d bought it out of curiosity, but didn’t know what to use it for. Orange essence (agua de azahar) – which I bought at the same time – I knew went great in cakes and other spongy bakery stuff, but this? No idea. Though be warned, this particular brand of rose water (and same with the orange water) is quite weak, so you might want to be very generous with how much you use.

And the goat milk in the photo? I was curious about it when I saw it at the grocery store (it’s normally out of stock) and decided to try it. I didn’t like it. At all. But in this dish it was fine. I normally have milk in my coffe, and the warm milk meant that I was smelling it not only before drinking but also as it went down my throat. Lets just say that it smells like goat. As far as I’m concerned that’s not a good smell.

Begin by bringing to a boil

Begin by bringing to a boil

It’s actually a pretty simple recipe to make and does not take as long as the recipe says. I would say it takes around 30 – 45 minutes. If I let it simmer for 2 hours all I would have at the end is burn mushy rice!

Let it boil, and then add the rest of the stuff. I also added lemon zest. Just because.

Throw them all in

Throw them all in

What? I just like lemons!

And then let it simmer till it reaches the consistency you want. Spanish rice pudding is quite liquid, but I decided to let this one get more dense, like in the recipe’s photos.

Done!

Done!

The weird thing is that this time I turned the heat off when it was more liquid than that other time I made it, and yet when I went to eat it (once it cooled down) it was more dry than before! Crazy. Also the rice texture was different this time, more firm. Not hard enough to make it bad, ust different. The first time I made it I also improvised and used coconut water (sold as coconut juice) instead of plain old water, but you couldn’t taste it in the finished product, and I didn’t want to waste that watery goodness this time. Maybe I’ll try adding some coconut milk next time I make it…

Cardamom and rose water rice pudding

Cardamom and rose water rice pudding

The result? Yum! Subtle flavours and chewy rice goodness. More filling than you would think (that bowl up there, for example, is too big a portion).

Baba ganoush

It tastes much better than it looks

It tastes much better than it looks

Sorry for the crappy photo, but it was the best out of all I too. I’ve been making this every week for the last month or so, since eggplants started showing up in our CSA box (don’t ask, I know it’s not in season here yet; it’s not something I’m very happy about but I certainly enjoy eating something other than kale and potatoes).

Great solution to not knowing what to do with an eggplant, easy and fast – well, if you don’t take into account the 45 mins the thing has to bake in the oven, but it’s not as if you have to babysit it through that.

Eggplants confuse me. I really love them but I don’t know how to make them. Either I end up using a lot of oil to cook them, or they end up in a pot as part of a vegetable stew a make which is a mixture between French ratatouille and Spanish pisto. This is much better! Unless you were already thinking of using the eggplant for something else…

Last year I tried making hummus. It’s supposed to be easy, doesn’t require cooking (if you go the canned chickpeas way), and would be really cool for when my friends came over as appetizer. It was a disaster. Disgusting. Vomit inducing. Had to be thrown out. I think I just HATE tahini. Which is weird because I normally like the hummus I eat in restaurants and so on, but I could not stand the tahini flavour, which dominated anything else that might have been going on in that repulsive concoction.

I was reading Fat Free Vegan Kitchen’s post on her baba ganoush, not really paying much attention, just enjoying the pretty pictures when I came across this: When I first started making it, I used 3 tablespoons of tahini, but I’ve managed to work my way down to using only about a tablespoon.” Mh, interesting. A recipe that has had the tahini scaled back to 1/3 of what it originally was. Sounds promising. Specially as I remember that what I had tried to do involve tahini in amounts of fractions of a CUP. Using eggplant instead of chickpeas was another big plus – I’ve never liked chickpeas to begin with (how I like hummus is a mystery to me).

I think that making this every single time I have gotten my hands on an eggplant should speak volumes as to how it came out.

Oh, I forgot: 1 Tbsp of freshly ground cumin. The rest of the stuff in the same amounts she gives (though I use one heaping teaspoon of garlic paste instead of fresh cloves because its easier and I like me some garlic stuff – there be no vampire kissing in this house).

Yum!

Yum!

Scrambled eggs with zucchini.

Slice one or two zucchinis as thin as you possibly can (hint: a mandolin works well, or a grater with big horizontal grating holes – just make sure you don’t grate or slice your fingers, I don’t think the blood would complement the rest of the ingredients). Sautee in a little bit of oil till tender. It will take a while. I also added some garlic paste, so I guess a finely chopped up clove should do the trick.

While that is cooking, pop into a 400 F oven a tray with asparagus drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper – shaken all around so that they are completely covered by the liquids.

Once the zucchini is done, turn off the heat from under that skillet. We’re going to wait for the asparagus to be just about done before adding the eggs so that everything can be served together and warm. But you can beat up the eggs meanwhile if you want to.

The asparagus will be done when they are done. Which is to say, play it by eye. They should at the very least have turned golden on the tops, or brown but not black yet. When that happens, turn the heat back on and add the eggs (2 or 1 per person, depends on how hungry you are) and scramble all around till done.

If you’re a cheesaholic like me, serve with a slice of Manchego cheese.

I couldn’t resist taking and posting this photo as it turned so pretty. And the eggs! Oh the eggs! Just look at them! Changed “brand” of eggs to buy and I think I finally found what I wanted: much more flavourful, intensely colored yolks, differently colored on the outside, not chemically washed.

And there was even dessert that night! Estamos que lo tiramos, señora.

Refreshingly fruity

Refreshingly fruity

Strawberries, fresh orange juice, little bit of sugar. It’s always good. The strawberries were not very ripe (duh) but a nice end to the meal.

  • A really simple dinner that was yummy and turned out very photogenic
  • Baba ganoush
  • Rose water and cardamom rice pudding
  • Caramelized onions (shallots)
  • Salmon canapés
  • Meatloaf my way (well, my mother’s way, as it’s her recipe)

Photos are edited and uploaded (though not visible yet, unless I’ve got you marked as F&F in flickr). I’ll slowly be writing these up throughout the week.

Except that I did not use lemon juice. But that’s how it’s called.

Fish and other stuff

Fish and other stuff

I would like to think that we eat a lot of fish, but we really don’t. It’s hard to find appetizing fish over here. Don’t misunderstand me – there is tons of fish around, and it’s probably good, but I just don’t feel drawn to it. And it’s not a matter of not liking fish, I love it! The problem is that almost all the fish you find at the supermarket is in fillets – which means it was likely fished far away and frozen; nothing wrong with that, but a real shame considering we live almost by the sea. It also limits preparation ways quite a bit: if it is to be baked, you gotta take extra precautions so that it won’t dry out. Plus the sizes of fish are weird – if you cannot get sole (or similar) whole you can’t really grill it, the fillets will fall apart, you can’t bake it because it will cook in no time, and I’m not a big fan of fish swimming in sauce. It basically sucks.

Opting for bigger fish fillets doesn’t offer a solution. Much as I like a tuna or swordfish steak – slightly rare at the middle with lots of salt – it’s not something anyone should eat very often. Mercury, top of the food chain, all that stuff.

Going to the market should be the solution. Specially living in a city whose biggest attraction is a market. The time we tried we did not have a god experience. We didn’t go to the guys that throw fish around, as that place looks mostly touristic and basically sells crab, salmon, and other big fish. We just found another stall that had fish that look good, and a decent sized bass that looked fresh. First of all the guy hardly paid any attention to what we were saying when asking him what other fish was fresh and stuff like that – hello, can stupid can o be to ignore your customers when they actually want to buy MORE? Also he did not de-scale or clean the fish properly. And that’s just not professional. If I buy fish and ask that it be de-scaled and cleaned – I expect it to be! Not to have to redo both things once I get home. The fact that I’m kind of shy in these situations and not willing to kick up a fuss and get the guy to do it properly (come on, there was no way that fish was going to be properly cleaned in the little time it took him to do it), doesn’t exactly help my case.

So anyways, we find it kind of hard to buy fish. There’s also the fact that there are not that many fish over here that can also be found in Spain or that we know other than the obvious ones.

Its Spanish name is related to horses - this does not look like a horse to me

It's Spanish name is related to horses - this does not look like a horse to me

There are too reasons I still go to Whole Foods (otherwise veggies come from a CSA and everything else from a food coop in our neighbourhood): meat and fish. Meat for the variety, hamburgers, and good service – though it still irks me that the one time I asked the guy to debone a chicken that was going to be stuffed he could not manage to not cut all the way through the breast meat, Y-incision like, and that he didn’t ask if I wanted the bones (and I forgot about them, assuming they were in the package as I’d obviously paid for them). Fish because they have a (very limited) selection of whole fish that look fresh (and you can always ask when they got them). Plus I know that if I buy fish and it’s not cleaned properly, and I complain they will actually listen to me.

So until I find a better way to buy fish, this is my only option. BTW, anyone know where to buy shrimp and scallops near Seattle from the people that actually fish them? I want shrimp with heads, and I’ve got a question about scallops because in Spain you always get more (edible stuff) than just the white round part of the scallop – I would like to ask why this isn’t so here.

Back to this dish. Fresh wild mackerel. I had to get it.

I have a weird relationship with mackerel. I’ve fished it with my family in the Summer for years, yet we always return it to the sea. Only once did my mother make it that I can remember, and that was only because I insisted. While I totally get my mother’s reasons for not wanting to cook it – blue fish, greasy and smells when cooked, not wanting to gut and clean and de-scale fish, troublesome to de-bone if you’re going to make an empanada or something like that – I still think it’s strange that the fish we’ve caught most of is the only that has hardly gone through our kitchen. And yet, it is my favourite fish to eat raw when I go to a Japanese restaurant (I think they marinate it in vinegar or something, but I’m not sure). I always ask for a saba nigiri and save it for my last bite.

So I had no idea how to prepare this. I knew that anything fried or grilled was going to be good, and that it probably would be a little heavy and greasy. And that there was a good change my apartment would stink of fried fish for a few days. Browsed through the mackerel recipes in 1080 and finally decided on the one that did not require excessive sauces, or anything that would take away, hide, or modify the fish’s flavour. If I’m eating mackerel, I want to taste mackerel.

Choosing a simple recipe also means that there’s a pretty good chance that I would already have all the ingredients I need with me at home, which I day. That’s just an added benefit.

I told you they were simple ingredients

I told you they were simple ingredients

Other than a little flour and oil, this was all that I needed.

The first thing was to lightly coat the fish with a little bit of flour and fry it in a thin layer of oil.

Get it crunchy

Get it crunchy

Both sides till golden and slightly crunchy. Looking through the hole, the fish wasn’t totally done on the inside, which is good considering we’re going to take it out of there, make the sauce, pour it over the mackerel, and pop it in the oven for a mere 5 minutes to rewarm and finish cooking.

Simple simple simple sauce

Simple simple simple sauce

The same simple ingredients up there are all that makes the sauce. And a little water right before re-adding the fish to the pan and coating it with it. Lemon juice was also supposed to go in there, but since I used a lot more lemon slices than the recipe called for I thought I could not use it.

Lets sit down and eat

Lets sit down and eat

It was really good and simple and fast to prepare. 30 minutes from beginning to end. That includes making a salad and fake oven roasted potatoes as side dishes.

How to make those potatoes? Simple. Get a pyrex (or similar) container with lid. Fill with a mixture of potatoes cut into rough dice and julienned onions – whatever amount and proportion you want. Salt and drizzle with oil (no more than a Tbsp) and add one or two Tbsps of water. Cover and nuke in the potato setting until the top potatoes and onions start to brown. Either let sit with lid on for 5 minutes, or take the lid out and pop for 5-10 minutes in a preheated oven till the tops are golden delicious and slightly crunchy (I normally don’t, because I’m lazy).

Back to the fish. This is no white fish, it has it’s own flavour. And with the sight touch of lemon, and that  something the bay leaf gives, it came through beautifully.

While not a fish I would eat every day (and yes, I could easily eat fish every day – at my parent’s we spent a whole year with no beef, just chicken and fish, when the whole mad cow thing came up), mackerel will certainly be making encore appearances in my kitchen. And probably in this same guise.

These were our leftovers

These were our "leftovers"

Had to include that photo. Alex even tried to get as much meat as possible from the head. Which was disgusting to watch. Specially when he started playing with the with the sole purpose of grossing me out. He succeeded.

Mackerel with garlic sauce and lemon juice

Mackerel with garlic sauce and lemon juice