- Carissa Remitz
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
San Francisco Chronicle
Anya von Bremzen, consummate traveler and food writer, experienced Spain's culinary revolution over two decades, and "The New Spanish Table" is a beautiful testament to her travels.
Von Bremzen offers a comprehensive showcase of the bold flavors of Spain with both traditional and contemporary recipes, paying homage to all areas of Spanish cuisine and their histories.
In addition to recipes, the book includes simple ideas for ways to change them to make them your own. It's a clever way of inspiring readers to use their imagination and go beyond what they read to create original dishes.
Modern Spanish cuisine owes a great deal to Chef Ferran Adria. His restaurant, El Bulli, is world renowned for its innovative dishes and list of kitchen alumni. However, with more than 15 long mentions in "The New Spanish Table," one wonders if the book could reference Adria a little less.
Von Bremzen doesn't attempt to re-create restaurant recipes or classics. Instead, she creates her own based on traditional and modern methods. Often, she focuses on a particular chef, ingredient or technique in the sidebar or introduction to a recipe, then explains how the recipe was adapted.
The rare photograph of a finished dish saves on space, but with some of the more challenging dishes, a picture could give the reader a better idea of what to expect.
The recipes range from extremely simple, such as the Salt-Cooked Shrimp with only two required ingredients, to the very complicated Valencian Paella, a recipe with 16 ingredients and three separate, though not full, pages of text.
Recipes occasionally call for hard-to-find ingredients, such as piquillo peppers and squid ink. Thankfully, "The New Spanish Table" has a helpful section listing online and mail-order sources for these ingredients.
Von Bremzen focuses on using ingredients unique to Spanish cuisine, like the spice pimenton, a smoky Spanish paprika. Pimenton oil tops the velvety and rich Garbanzo Cream with Ham Cracklings, along with crispy pieces of pancetta and parsley oil. The recipe is deceptively simple -- the outcome tastes extremely complex with multiple layers of flavor and texture.
In the recipe for Salt-Baked Pork in Adobo, von Bremzen mentions that traditional pork in adobo is fried in lard. However, her variation using a salt crust leaves the pork succulent, flavorful and devoid of grease.
With more than 300 recipes, "The New Spanish Table" offers cooks an opportunity to explore every angle of Spanish cuisine, and their own imaginations.
"The New Spanish Table," by Anya von Bremzen (Workman Publishing; 478 pages; $22.95).
Salt-Baked Pork in Adobo
The salt crust acts as a pressure cooker, and seals in the flavor and moisture of the pork and the adobo marinade.
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon hot paprika or cayenne
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
3 tablespoons best-quality white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pork loin (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
3 cups kosher salt
5 large egg whites, beaten
Put garlic, parsley, oregano, sweet and hot paprikas, peppercorns, vinegar and olive oil in a mini food processor. Process to a coarse paste. Put pork in a glass bowl; rub spice paste all over it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours. Let come to room temperature before baking.
Preheat oven to 375°. Put salt and egg whites in a large bowl; stir until evenly moistened. The paste should just hold together. If it doesn't, sprinkle in a little water. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and put pork on it. Coat pork completely with salt paste. Bake pork until cooked through, about 35 minutes. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer through the crust and into the center of the loin; it should register 155°. If it's not quite there yet, bake pork 7 to 10 minutes longer.
Transfer pork to a cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, tap salt crust to crack it and lift it off in large pieces. Using a paper towel, gently wipe off any excess salt from meat before slicing.
The calories, sodium and other nutrients absorbed from the paste and salt crust vary and are difficult to estimate. Therefore, this recipe contains no analysis.
Carissa Remitz is a student at the California Culinary Academy. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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