Posts Tagged ‘piquillo peppers’

Club Kitty Spain – Part 2: The Prep

September 16, 2008

The one unifying ingredient that somewhat inspired this blog is the Romesco sauce. Let’s get that out of the way first. I’m using a recipe from the book: ”The Catalan Country Kitchen” by Marimar Torres. Here are the ingredients for Salbitxada (Romesco sauce for Grilled Seafood, Meats, and Vegetables):

1Tablespoon olive oil for frying
1 large (1/2-inch-thick) slice white bread (1 ounce)
½ Cup (2-1/2 ounces) whole almonds (toasted in a 350 degree oven until fragrant…about 10 minutes)
¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped (1 teaspoon)
2 medium red bell peppers (about 12 ounces total), cored, seeded, and cut up, or 4 ounces (1/2 Cup packed) whole roasted red bell peppers or pimientos from a jar, preferably fire-roasted ones from Spain.
½ pound ripe tomatoes
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
¼ Cup red wine vinegar
½ Cup extra virgin olive oil

Here is what I’m using for the peppers, beautiful fresh pimiento peppers from the market. They’re the cute little pumpkin-shaped peppers here:

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If you really want to replicate the fire-roasted flavor of a true Spanish Romesco sauce, then blacken the skins over an open flame and peel them off. I’m using my gas stove. You can also use a bbq grill, or even a blow-torch. Blackening the skins will enable them to peel off easily. These little guys are so tiny that they’re falling right through the grates:

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No worries…it’ll work. Blacken them all over by turning them around:

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Then, when they’re as black as you can get them, place them in a bag or a covered container for 20 minutes or so to steam off the skins and cool down.

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Now, to remove the skins, a lot of recipes will tell you to peel them under running water. Well, yes, that will work, but you’ll dilute all those incredible roasted pepper juices that you worked so hard to create. So, instead, peel them over the sink, with the water running but don’t hold the peppers under the water. Just use your fingers to rub the skins off and then rinse the tips of your fingers under the water when they get messy. You’ll save a lot of the flavor that way. Remove the stems, seeds and ribs of the peppers as you do this.

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Now, lets see how much I have. God bless this recipe, by the way, for having weight measurements as well. It’s far more accurate.

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Damn, I don’t have enough. See, I knew I should have bought more. That’s ok, I’ve got a jar of Piquillo Peppers in my pantry. I’ll fill in with those. You can also use regular red bell peppers, jarred, or roasted as the pimientos above.

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As for the bread that is used to thicken the sauce, I’m using bread I baked myself with the ”Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”
recipe that I found on
Angelnina’s blog. It’s quick, convenient, delicious and it grills amazingly…getting nice and crisp on the outside and tender inside. I drizzled thick slices with olive oil and gave it a little char on my cast-iron grill pan to add to the fire-roasted flavor.

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Once the bread is grilled, tear it up into little pieces. Grind the toasted almonds finely in a food processor, together with the bread, pepper flakes and garlic.

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Add red peppers, tomatoes (I’m using a few of the amazing heirlooms I picked up at the market), paprika, salt, and pepper: Purée to form a smooth paste.

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As for the paprika, I’m using Spanish smoked paprika, known as Pimenton. You can find it at Whole Paycheck,
Penzey’s and some other gourmet specialty stores. You can substitute Hungarian Sweet Paprika or Chipotle Chili Powder, if you can get your hands on that. Chipotle chili’s are jalapeños that are smoked, so I would mix it half and half with Hungarian Sweet Paprika so that it doesn’t get too spicy. The Pimenton will give you an authentic flavor. I adore the stuff. You’ll see it turning up all through this menu. Here are a few brands that I like:

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Add to the purée the ¼ Cup of good red wine vinegar:

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Then, with the motor running, add a good, fruity olive oil slowly, in a thin stream so that it emulsifies. Taste for seasoning….and that’s it…you’ve got Romesco sauce.

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Now for the dates: First, start to cook some bacon on the lowest flame possible like I explained in the BLT Blog. What you’re looking for is translucent but FLEXIBLE bacon. The reason I’m pre-cooking the bacon is this…I’ve had these stuffed dates at various times in my life and the bacon is invariably raw or burned or both. If you start to render out the fat ahead of time, then it only takes about 5-10 minutes to finish them off at the party so that you can serve them hot and perfectly cooked. Sure, you can wrap raw bacon around them and hope they cook properly…but, trust me…this works better and you can make it ahead so you have less to worry about at the party. It’ll take a while to get the bacon where you want it, so start the bacon first while you do the rest of the prep. It should look like this when it’s ready to drain….about 45 minutes on LOW for thicker bacon. You’re going to cut them in half or in thirds, depending on the size of your bacon, so cook however many pieces that you think you need.

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Ok…dates…you have to take the pits out. Not a big deal. You just make a little slit in the side with a sharp knife and remove it. I like to pit them all first…I’m doing about 45 dates for 8 people (which is plenty)..and lay them out on a sheet pan with some wax paper because they’re sticky sweet. Try not to rip them completely in half…just open them up slightly so there is a nice pocket.

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Next, we’re going to crumble up some Valdeón cheese, a cow and goat’s milk blue cheese from the Castile-Leon region of Northwestern Spain:

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I’m also using some almonds that I toasted in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until fragrant. (Don’t burn!)

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One by one, put a crumbled bit of the cheese into the pocket of the pitted dates…not too much…a little bit goes a long way and you don’t want it oozing out too much. Then, add the almonds to the dates, pressing down into the cheese. If you have to add more cheese on top, go ahead. Then close the date around the filling. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you’d think. Dates are kind of like Silly Putty. They’re very moldable.

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Then, once your bacon is done, cool and drained, cut into halves or thirds and wrap each piece around a stuffed date and secure with a toothpick.

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See, these are basically cooked and you can eat them now but they’ll taste even better roasted off at the party at about 375 degrees until golden but not burned. The bacon fat melts into the date and it’s just heavenly. After you get them all assembled, cover them with plastic and you’re done.

Ok, I need some bread for grilling at the party. I’m, once again, using the bread recipe I learned on Angelnina’s blog. Why? Because it’s easy, delicious and I have the dough already made. Alternately, you can just go buy a loaf of artisan bread of your choice. I won’t delve too deeply in the directions here. Check out her blog for instructions but here is what it looks like rising, when I make the slits in dough and then after baking:

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There’s a few more things I can do ahead. I can par-cook the potatoes.
I used russet (baking) potatoes..peeled…cut into eighths. I boiled them in a pot of salted water for about 10-15 minutes just until the outsides of the potatoes start to look a little floury. You don’t want to cook them too soft or they will fall apart too much later when you are frying them. Just drain them before they get there and spread them out on an oiled sheet pan to cool off. Once cool, cover with plastic and save for the party.

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The last thing I’m going to do before I leave is cut up the cocktail weenies. Now, these aren’t your Mom’s Lil’ Smokies. These are Spanish dry chorizo, Cantimpalitos, made into cocktail sausage lengths. But, it’s a little more quaint in that they’re all connected, so you have to cut them up first. These are for the mussels and I’m cutting them into thirds because they’re the ideal size to fit inside a mussel shell. Cut up a package of links into thirds and then save for later.

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Phew! Ok..done with prep….hello Sailor!

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The rest of the stuff is pretty last minute. I bought frozen, partially deboned quail…4 to a package..and defrosted it overnight in the fridge. The Merguez sausage, I bought freshly made at Whole Paycheck. All I need to do with that is remove the casing and fry it up. I’m going to pick up Santa Barbara Shrimp and the mussels on the way to the party as the shrimp (and mussels) are LIVE….yes, LIVE…so I want to keep them that way as long as possible. Oh, and for the record, one of those little bitches BIT me…or pinched me…or whatever it is that Santa Barbara shrimp do as I was placing it into the cooler. Bugger! I kept thinking of this old “Kids in the Hall” sketch as I was trying to force 5 pounds of live shrimp into their icy cell. “Let this one go…he has spirit!”

Ok Woggle…let’s get you bathed and ready to go. You smell funny.

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