A Love Letter to Mr. Andrés
There are few things I love more than Spanish food. And for at-home Spanish cooking that is both beautiful and ridiculously easy, there is no better guide than José Andrés. I’ve been slowly making my way through his Tapas book, and so far everything has been beyond excellent.
At my bougie birthday/cocktail party last month (the first I’ve hosted in our new digs!), one of the night’s biggest hits was a small bowl of conservas featuring oyster mushrooms and lots of garlic:
What is beautiful about this tapas is that, since the mushrooms are kept in the highly flavorful oil blend with herbs and garlic, you can keep it nearly indefinitely. Such a fantastic dish, however, will quickly go that same night, or, in our case, can be repurposed as part of a pasta sauce or other mushroom preparation to great effect:
(a vodka sauce over spaghetti I made out of leftovers from the cocktail party.)
Oh, but back to Mr. Andrés. I know his star’s risen considerably since he’s been appearing all over TV land– as host of Made in Spain, and appearing everywhere from Top Chef to (just this week) Bourdain’s No Reservations. And I hate to be a fan girl, but damn if the man doesn’t deserve it. I love that despite his great success as a DC-based chef and restauranteur, that his food writing is still accessible for the average home cook. I’m quite tired of picking up a ‘celebrity chef’ cookbook and having it be nothing but foie gras, truffle oil, razor clams, and the like– you know, things that are nearly impossible to get a hold of unless you live in New York, or that are just out of the price range of the average broke grad student (aka, me).
My favorite of his recipes yet are the dishes that the Mister and I made last night for our Valentine’s Day dinner. The first was a lovely paella made with chicken, chorizo, and shrimp that we modified from an Andrés recipe featured in Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World.
(cooking in our new stainless steel paella pan- love this thing!)
I love this variation because it’s loaded with pimenton and has this beautiful dark red color, a little different than the bright yellow most associate with paella. My big paella tip would be to definitely use Arborio rice as it adds this great, almost creamy texture not too dissimilar from when you use it for risotto.
I had been planning on making two tapas to serve as side dishes for the paella, but since I had gorged myself snacking on olives, Zamorano cheese, and membrillo while waiting for the paella to finish, only could muster making one. But, oh, what a dish it was!
Again, this spinach dish was adapted from Andrés’ Tapas book, with the only thing missing from his recipe being apple cubes since the Mister is allergic to it.
This dish is so incredibly quick, easy, and delicious I can’t not share the recipe with you. Here it is!
Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins, adapted from a recipe by José Andrés
1. Heat 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil in medium sauce pan until very hot.
2. Add 1/4 lb. (or less) of fresh pine nuts to pan, and continually stir until golden. (You *must* move the nuts constantly or they will burn!)
3. Add 1/4 lb (or less) of seedless raisins and salt to taste, stir together well.
4. Immediately after, add 10 oz (or 1 prepackaged bag) of baby spinach to pan. Stir well together until spinach starts to wilt. Turn off heat and continue to stir- spinach will continue wilting from heat. When spinach completely wilted, serve immediately.
See what I mean about ridiculously easy?!
So, yes. If you’re not an Andrés convert by now, you are really missing out. If you’re in DC, get out to one of his restaurants and send me an immediate reportback- it’s been years since I’ve been there, and sadly haven’t had the chance to sample his cooking firsthand. If you’re like me and stuck outside of the José Andrés orbit, get thee one of his cookbooks and start playing. His recipes are great fun and (here I go again) SO EASY.
On this day after Valentine’s Day, I have but one love letter to send (sorry, Mister!).
Dear Chef Andrés,
Thank you for making it easy to have a taste of Spain every night of the week, you kind, wonderful, funnily accented man.
Words and Steel