Going to Philadelphia, there was only one place on my list that I knew I had to make sure to eat at. I saw a dish on The Best Thing I Ever Ate that I absolutely wanted to try, and I figured that the last night in town would be the perfect night to make it happen (plus, I spent a couple days talking others into going with me). The restaurant was Amada, and the dish was the whole suckling pig. Unfortunately, the story takes a little turn here. Once I’d rounded up enough people to order the suckling pig (the minimum is four diners) on Sunday afternoon, I called to make a Tuesday evening reservation and was told that my options were 6:45 or 9:15 in the bar, and I wouldn’t be able to get the pig because they needed to have three days advanced notice. I told the hostess I would call back after consulting with my colleagues. After a little deliberation, I decided to go ahead and make the reservation, figuring any restaurant by Iron Chef Jose Garces, would still be pretty darn good.
Amada, like many of the other restaurants I’ve been to in Philadelphia, is located in an area that feels a little run down. In fact, the building next door is abandoned, with broken glass and boarded up windows. Not what you would necessarily expect only two blocks away from Independence Mall and the Liberty Bell. The restaurant itself retained some of the charm of the older building that housed it, with the wood floors and brick walls. The bar was packed when we walked in, and had cured meats hanging from the ceiling as well as a meat slicer on the counter. Our table was right in the front, by one of the big picture windows looking out to the street. The whole place buzzed with an upbeat energy.
After ordering a round of drinks, we all started looking over the menu and the variety of items available. It only took us a few minutes to notice that everything looked good and interesting, and we were going to have a hard time picking things out. Fortunately, we soon realized we wouldn’t have to, as Amada offers a chef’s tapas menu at three price points. We opted for the $55 per person menu, and then got back to our conversation. Within five minutes, the first plate of food arrived. An hour and a half later, the final one left our table.
With the chef’s menu we were treated to a little of everything. It started with salads and cured meats followed by more of an appetizer course. About halfway through, our plates were cleared away and replaced while our drinks were refilled. Then, a variety of vegetables and entrée dishes were brought out. Finally, we ended the meal with some delicious desserts. At final count, we ended up with 16 different courses (including the desserts). We had lamb and scallops and shrimp, asparagus, fava beans, ice cream, and cake. Each dish was different than the previous, and all of them were delicious.
While we were a little disappointed that we were not able to try the suckling pig, we were in no way disappointed in the meal. The comments at the end of the night ranged from “The best tapas I’ve ever had!” to “The best meal I’ve had in quite some time.” I ended up buying chef Garces’ cookbook in the hopes that I could capture some of his flavors. It was without a doubt the perfect way to end a great conference for our team and what turned out being a great dining week for me. The food, the service, the environment; everything was top notch, and it was obvious why he's an Iron Chef.
Patatas Bravas With Aioli Recipe
Patatas Bravas are to tapas bars what chicken wings are to sports bars. Every single one has got them, but other than a few basic similarities, they can vary wildly from spot to spot.
Though many feature a spicy, dark red sauce, my favorite version consists of crisply fried cubes of potatoes served with a garlic-laden allioli with a dusting of hot smoked paprika taking the bravas sauce's place. Like with perfect French fries, a quick par-boil in vinegar-spiked water will cook the potatoes through without allowing them to break down.
A traditional Catalan allioli doesn't contain any egg, but most modern recipes do. I almost always include it, which technically makes the sauce an aïoli, the Provençal accompaniment to seafood (amongst other things) which is also one of the most misapplied words in the history of menu-writing. 99% of the time you see it on a menu, the chef really means "mayonnaise". In fact, next time you see "aioli" printed on a menu, ask yourself these two questions:
1) Am I at a Spanish restaurant? 2) Am I in Spain?
If the answer to both of those is no, then that's mayonnaise you're eating.
None of this really matters, of course, and here's the only thing that does: allioli (or aïoli) is delicious. I highly recommend making it from scratch. With a food processor it's really easy, and with a steady bowl and a whisk, it's not that much harder. I find that using 100% extra virgin olive oil can become a little overpowering, so I cut it with some neutral canola oil (it's also cheaper that way). You may notice that I whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil by hand. This is because the rapidly whipping blade of a food processor exposes much more of the volatile aromatics in the oil to harmful oxygen, producing a number of unpleasant, bitter compounds.
If you don't believe me, try it for yourself—taste olive oil allioli made partially by hand versus that made completely in a machine and tell me which one you'd rather eat. If you'd rather eat the processed version, then I politely decline your invitation to dinner, thank you very much.
Note: You can make a passable simple version of the allioli starting with homemade mayonnaise. In a large bowl , whisk together 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, and 3 cloves of garlic grated on a microplane. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Fallout 76 players made their own post-apocalyptic Iron Chef
Fallout 76 is host to tons of wild player-run events, like the wasteland’s first official cooking competition. The Clawed Cooking Challenge is a fun concept that’s equally domestic and post-apocalyptic. Think Iron Chef or Chopped, except in the middle of the episode you have to watch the contestant wrestle a radioactive bear or sneak through a dangerous swamp.
The gameplay of Fallout 76 allows players to either eat pre-made items they scrounge off store shelves, or they can collect recipes and cook their own fare. Some recipes are much rarer, and harder to make than others.
Clawed Cooking Challenge’s organizers, the El Gato Pub, have created a ranking list of each recipe in Fallout 76. At the top are full meals, like a Deathclaw Wellington, with rare ingredients. (Deathclaws are infamously difficult encounters in the Fallout universe, so making a recipe out of its body parts means dodging and weaving its massive claws and gnashing jaws.) A vegetable soup or tasty cake scores fewer points, because usually you don’t have to stab any monsters to make it. Players can see the recipes and their points ranking ahead of time, and plan accordingly.
Then, in an Iron Chef-style twist, competitors are given a secret ingredient, like a big slab of monster meat or a particular kind of fruit. They have to set out into the wasteland, carrying nothing but their weapons and their secret ingredient, to see if they can make an appropriately tasty dish.
A competitor could make a straightforward stew, but its simplicity means it’s a low-tier recipe, so there’s little risk but also a low reward. Or, the chefs could try to delve into the most dangerous dungeons in West Virginia and scrounge up extra spices and side dishes. With some work, the contestants could impress the judges with a Yao Guai bear roast or a succulent smoked Mirelurk fillet. These are the toughest enemies in the game Yao Guai are fast, and Mirelurks are are giant tanks full of health.
In order to add a little spice to the cooking challenge, the El Gato Pub judges assume a judging style akin to Gordon Ramsay. If a player served up an unappetizing or uninspired dish, they’ll be raked over the coals by the judges.
One round of the Clawed Cooking Challenge involved a secret ingredient called aster, an edible flower. Both players put tons of work into their meals to make something tasty and high-ranking, but one participant put so much work into his meal that he forgot to include aster at all.
The judge lightly roasted the player, saying he could have used aster in the tea instead of carrot, and noted that “excuses are like assholes — everyone’s got one, and they all smell like shit.” The other player, meanwhile, put together a package with not just food, but an extra set of ingredients: a teapot, a crystal liquor decanter, and tea cups. She won extra points for presentation, even though the judges joked that the extra effort made her look a little like an ass-kisser. It was straight out of a Hell’s Kitchen special challenge.
The first challenge finished this weekend, with more to come in the future. El Gato Pub also runs Fight Nights, a talk show, and a host of other themed events and competitions for the public. Fallout 76’s most endearing moments don’t come from its open-world aspects or daily missions, but player-made encounters that are somewhere in between a heated esports match and a relaxing round of Animal Crossing.
While this particular challenge is a little deadlier (and meaner) than most, it’s just one part of the vibrant scene that Fallout 76 role-players have built.
Spanish Tapas Recipes
From garlicky razor clams to patatas bravas, Spain’s famous little plates pack lots of flavor. Serve a few tapas as pre-dinner snacks, or offer a slew of them as a whole meal. With crusty bread, a good olive oil, and a selection of Spanish cured meats, they make for a perfectly elegant, relaxed evening.
Sometimes the best dish is the simplest. Pan con tomate fits that bill by taking just a few high quality ingredients and treating them well. To make this snack, which is equally comfortable in a tapas spread or at the breakfast table, first toast a baguette with extra virgin olive oil and rub it with garlic. From there, all you need to do is top it with grated tomato and sea salt.
Seafood is very popular in Spain. Small and satisfying, clams make for great tapas. Try cooking littleneck clams in a sherry and white wine sauce spiked with garlic and chilies. You’ll want good crusty bread (or maybe just a spoon) to get every last drop of the sauce. Without the sherry, a similar sauce is wonderful with razor clams. Pair them with cava, a sparkling wine from Spain.
Fried potatoes are the ultimate drinking food. Crispy, salty, and hearty, they’re exactly what we want after a few drinks. Patatas bravas is a classic tapas recipe at bars, featuring small waxy potatoes that are quartered, fried until crispy, and smothered in mayonnaise and a thick spicy tomato sauce.
Give your next cocktail party a taste of Spain with these tapas recipes.
Patatas BravasIn Spain, the stopgap to late-night dinners is bar snacks like patatas bravas, crisp potatoes blanketed in mayonnaise and a thick spicy tomato sauce. Get the recipe for Patatas Bravas »
Spanish-Style Toast with Tomato (Pan Con Tomate)All you need for this simple Spanish snack is good-quality olive oil, bread, garlic, a ripe tomato, and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Shrimp Fritters (Tortillitas de Camarones)
Clams in Sherry SauceThis classic Andalusian seafood dish is traditionally served with lots of crusty bread, to soak up the piquant broth.
Razor Clams with Chiles and Garlic (Navajas al Ajillo)Razor clams cook quick but look especially impressive, especially in this popular Spanish-style tapas preparation.
Pan-Fried Salt Cod Chips (Fritas de Bacalhau)A thin batter of salt cod, garlic, and onions is shallow-fried to make fine, crisp chips.
Chile-Garlic Shrimp (Gambas Al Ajillo)
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In the lead-up to their first culinary collab, Natasha Pickowicz and Doris Hồ-Kane sit down to talk about staying scrappy.
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- ½ pound dry garbanzo beans
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 4 red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 9 ounces Spanish-style chorizo, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 yellow onion, cut into large chunks
- 8 cloves garlic, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- ¼ cup dry sherry, or more to taste
Put garbanzo beans into a large container add enough cool water to cover by several inches. Soak beans 8 hours to overnight. Drain and rinse before using.
Set oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven's broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Halve both the red bell pepper and green bell pepper from top to bottom. Remove and discard the stem, seeds, and ribs. Arrange pepper halves with cut sides down onto the prepared baking sheet.
Roast peppers under the preheated broiler until their skins have blackened and blistered, 5 to 8 minutes transfer to a bowl and tightly seal bowl with plastic wrap to steam the peppers as they cool until the skins are loosened, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard skins. Slice peppers.
Heat canola oil in a pot over medium heat. Cook and stir potatoes in hot oil until browned, about 10 minutes add chorizo and continue to cook and stir until chorizo is hot, 3 to 5 minutes more. Stir peppers, onion, garlic cloves, paprika, and salt into the potato mixture cook, stirring infrequently, until the onion softens, about 10 minutes more.
Stir soaked garbanzo beans into the mixture. Pour sherry over everything. Bring the mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, place a cover on the pot, and cook at a simmer until the beans are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Tapas, Iron Chef-Style - Recipes
The summer season has been super busy for us here at Lajollacooksu. Not only have we hosted a variety of our signature cooking classes and team-building events, but we’re now offering Private Cooking Parties to our guests!
With these Private Cooking Parties, guests prepare and enjoy a variety of California cuisine while taking in the view at the our venue overlooking La Jolla. Every event is completely customized – down to the menu and budget – and groups can choose from a selection of popular cooking packages. Packages include Iron Chef-style competitions, pizza-making challenges, tacos and tequila contests, tapas cook-offs and more and offer guests an opportunity to collaborate, come together and have fun while using the freshest and most seasonal ingredients.
Delicious, engaging and fun, our Private Cookies Parties are ideal for birthdays, anniversaries, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, Girls’ Night Out, and a variety of other special occasions.
Croquetas de Jamón (Spanish Ham Croquettes)
Croquetas de jamón, or ham croquettes, are a staple on Spanish tapas menus, and you'll find them offered throughout the country. These small, lightly breaded and fried béchamel fritters include delicious Spanish cured ham, and they aren't hard to re-create at home. Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, they are a sure hit as an appetizer for your next party or as an afternoon snack with a glass of beer or wine.
In order to ensure the best outcome for your croquettes, make sure the ham is very finely minced so it can be mixed thoroughly with the dough. Once it's made, the batter needs to refrigerate for a minimum of three hours, but you can leave it in overnight if you want to make the croquettes the next day, as long as it's covered. You can even make the batter ahead of time, as long as it's covered and kept in the fridge, before frying the croquettes in olive oil.
If you don't like or don't eat ham, you can easily substitute 1/2 cup finely minced, cooked chicken for the ham.
- You can serve them as tapa meatballs in a small dish with some crusty fresh bread on the side. In this case, the recipe would serve 8 to 10 people.
- Or you can have them as a main dish over rice or noodles. Mashed potatoes would be great as well. As a main dish, the albondigas with sauce would be enough for 4 people.
Quick Tapas Recipes for Dinner
CRUNCH TIME The tomato toast alongside this garlic shrimp marries Spanish pan con tomate with a Southern-style tomato-mayo sandwich.
“I’M A GLUTTON,” said Matt Kelly, the chef and owner of four restaurants in Durham, N.C. “I just love delicious food.” Call it what you will, Mr. Kelly’s passion for an honest-to-goodness feast has shaped Durham’s culinary scene since he started cooking in the city almost 20 years ago. Certain cuisines have captured his heart, and he pays them homage by studying the fundamentals.
The first restaurant Mr. Kelly opened, Mateo Tapas, celebrates regional-Spanish cooking and North Carolinian appetites too. “It has a Spanish heart with a Southern soul,” he said. His first Slow Food Fast recipe, essentially a combo of two classic tapas—gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) and pan con tomate (tomato toast)—is classically prepared, to a point.
The shrimp, sweet and fresh, cook in mere minutes in olive oil perfumed with garlic and chile flakes. For the pan con tomate, Mr. Kelly brushes toasted bread with more olive oil and rubs it with a split garlic clove and the cut side of a juicy tomato. But then he breaks with Spanish tradition by slathering on a layer of mayonnaise (preferably Duke’s). “In the South, everyone loves a tomato, mayo and white bread sandwich,” he said. “I can’t believe we didn’t think of combining these two ideas sooner.”
It all makes for a fast dinner more than sumptuous enough to satisfy. But you can also use this as a building block for a more extravagant spread, filled out with cured ham, olives and a Spanish-style tortilla. Feel free to make it a feast.
Spicy Garlic Angulas
These spicy garlic angulas make a great appetizer or a snack! If you can get your hands on them, give them a go! If you are planning on visiting Spain, put them on your must-try list! Angulas are a traditional Basque dish but nowadays they can be enjoyed as tapas all over Spain.
Now I have to tell you a bit about angulas. Something I didn’t know before.
It all started in the Basque Country (Northern Spain) where local fishermen have been fishing for angulas for centuries. Originally it was a common fisherman’s dish up there. I guess if you were to eat this dish many years back, you would end up with a small terracotta dish (that’s how I imagine it) full of baby eels. Some of them call them elvers.
These days because of high demand and overfishing the price for angulas are amazingly high. Apparently in 2008 you would pay as much as 1100USD (1000EUR) for a kilo/2.2 lb!
I am guessing that it was then when someone came up with an alternative. Instead of angulas they call it gulas now which basically has nothing to do with baby eels anymore apart from the fact that they look similar.
The gulas that you find in any supermarket in Spain are made of surimi. Surimi is a Japanese word for minced fish. So no baby eels (or elvers) anymore, just minced fished shaped into tiny strips. Unless you go to a restaurant where they serve the real deal and are willing to pay about a hundred euros for a plate (my guess only, maybe the prices have come down a bit since).
Now forgive me for calling this dish angulas if the tiny fish spaghetti on my picture are gulas but the google search thinks I made a typo when I write gulas in the search. It thinks I want to write goulash – the very popular Hungarian dish that is also called gulas in some other countries.
When we bought gulas for the first time we had no idea what they were. There was little information on the packaging apart from the brand and some very simple cooking instructions. We prepared them following the instructions and we enjoyed them. I simply put them on a slice of toasted bread.
We like them and buy them from time to time, especially when we are after a fast dinner/snack/lunch. They have light fishy taste and smooth texture.
If you ever get to Spain I highly recommend you try them! I have no idea what the real deal taste like but this tapas dish is one of those you have to try! Have them on a slice of bread, on their own, with other fish or as a part of salad!
The way we make spicy garlic angulas it is pretty simple. Garlic, fresh chili pepper and little olive oil! Everything goes in a pan altogether with (an)gulas. Fry them for about 4 minutes if you are after crispier texture. If not, then 2-3 minutes is enough.
Toast the bread. Spread with butter. Top with pan-fried gulas. Enjoy while warm.
Spread salad leaves on a plate. Toast the bread. Spread with butter (optional). Slice the toast. Arrange on your plate. Top with gulas. Enjoy.