My First Week Pt. 1

My oh my! So its been more than a full week since I’ve been here and there is so much that I want to share! I’ve found that it is pretty difficult to maintain this blog as I am a very busy person, so please bear with me as I try my hardest to keep all of you guys updated with all things Spain! And since I have so much to say, I’m breaking up this post into 2 parts so you all don’t have to feel like you are reading a novel!

So after my first day, I woke up around 4 PM. No surprise here. I woke up feeling like I got hit by a bus, confuse of what time it really was, and had known I slept alright by the amount of drool that was dried on my face. It wasn’t a pretty site, but I didn’t care because I WAS IN SPAIN!!!

What it looks like when I wake up.

What it looks like when I wake up.

I decided to venture out in Lasarte so that I could get more accustomed to where I will be living for the next 3 months. I found Lasarte to be a very cute and small town just about 6 miles from Donostia-San Sebastian. I ended up being able to walk around majority of the town within an hour or so. I stopped real quick at a pintxo bar called, Gure Etxea, to grab a quick bite to eat. Ended up getting 2 gildas, one with salt-cured anchovies and the other with vinegar-cured anchovies, a jamon bocadillo, and a Txakioli to wash it down. It was a pretty perfect snack to fuel me for the rest of the day.

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I decided to go walk around some more and ended up finding this crazy building that overlooked the interstate. It caught my eye because it was tagged from head to toe with really cool looking graffiti. So I ended up walking up the hill to get a closer look.

graffiti building

As I was exploring the unique building, I happen to hear some music coming from the building. This really surprised me because it had looked as if this building was uninhabited, but I guess I was wrong! I noticed this room that had 2 old Spaniards jamming out on bass and electric guitar. They noticed me and actually invited me in. I was a little hesitant first as I could clearly noticed that they didn’t speak a word of English but we were actually able to communicate pretty well through the use of my awesome hand gestures and my broken-ass Spanish. “Cervesa?” one of the men asked me? Usually I wouldn’t accept alcohol, drinks, or any other kind of food from a stranger, especially in a different country. But the can was sealed and I was parched from walking around town so I had to accept! They eventually asked if played instruments and then they handed me the guitar and I played a couple quick riffs. I could tell by their smiles from ear to ear that they were excited to find someone else who loved playing music. It was then that they unveiled something under a couple blankets, a drum set! They set it up and then handed me drum sticks. We then commenced in a good 2 hours of jamming and rocking until the sun went down and the room started growing darker.  I would add the video of us playing music, but in all reality, we really didn’t sound that great. Haha I proceeded to say my thank yous and good-byes then headed home.

My 'bandmates'!

My ‘bandmates’!Look at that Mullet!

The next day, I decided to figure out my commute to restaurant that I will be staging at, Xarma. I definitely want to be prepared and don’t want to look like an idiot and get lost on my first day! I also got a hold of a friend, Antton, who I met through Juan Carlos and Carolin from the Vine. He Spent a couple summers in Seattle and he resides on a farm here in San Sebastian, so it was nice to already have a connection with someone who lives here. I took a 7 minute train to the Lugaritz station and walked to my work. A whole lot easier than I expected, thank goodness!

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Antton met me in front of Xarma and then we were off to walk towards San Sebastian. San Sebastian is a 3 mile walk from my work and it happened to be a gorgeous day. We walked around La Concha towards Parte Vieja de San Sebastian, which is the old part of San Sebastian where all the pintxo bars are. Antton took me all around San Sebastian and to some of his favorite spots and he treated me to some pintxos! Thanks Antton!

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Out of the bars that he took me too, Bar Txepetxa and La Cuchara were probably my two favorite. Bar Txepetxa is a special little pintxo bar because they specialize in serving anchovies. We ordered Antxoas con creama de centolla, vinegar-cured anchovies with a creamy crab sauce. I could honestly eat 50 of these. This pintxo is still probably one of my favorite bites I’ve had ever since I’ve been in Spain. I’ve been back to Bar Txepetxa 3 times since then, so be ready for a review of this restaurant soon as I plan to eat my way through their whole menu.

bar txepetxa

La Cuchara De San Telmo is a little gem that was recommended by many people (thanks Mara!). This is the kind of restaurant that I wish America had. They serve amazing food, have a beautiful space, and crank out food as fast as you can order. We shared the veal cheeks, octopus, fist-sized scallops wrapped in iberico ham, and the foie gras. I have so much to say about their food and plan to return as much as I can so you all can expect a review from this place as well!

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Antton then directs me towards my bus home and we part ways. It was real nice to have someone show me around and tell me so much about this beautiful place. I am grateful for the people at work for connecting us and am excited to hang out with him while I am here! Eventually, I’m hoping to stop by his family farm and see all the great cheese and products that they produce.

To be continued……

There Is A Heaven. Believe Me, I’ve Seen It.

So after 3 connecting flights from Seattle through Chicago, Boston, and Madrid, I finally made it into San Sebastian. Surprising, my flying experience wasn’t as brutal as I thought it was going to be. Thank goodness!

I arrived at San Sebastian Airport and was instantly spotted by Andoni, one of the people who help out with the Basque Stage. I grab my luggage and then we were off to see San Sebastian for my first day as a Basque Stage Rising Star!

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There is a heaven. Believe me I’ve seen it.

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This place is unbelievable. That is basically the best way I can describe San Sebastian. Yeah, it’s been only about a week, but i’m still in disbelieve that I’m actually here. This is the one place I have been wanting to visit ever since I started working at the Vine. And now that i’m actually here, it’s like i’m getting to see this amazing country in High Definition. It’s all so real.

So upon my arrive in the Basque Country, I was ready to just see everything. Without any plan Andoni and I left the airport and made our way to where everything is happening.

I had a real great time with Andoni as he showed me around town. The first place he took me was to one of his favorite pintxo bars called, Borda Berri. He recently just had surgery so he had the pleasure of watching me scarf down couple plates of pintxos and a nice glass of txakoli. I was pretty excited that I was able to understand most of the menu. I surprisingly wasn’t too hungry from being jacked up after a 14 hour flight. So I only started with two pintxos. Andoni recommended the Kebab de Costilla de Cerdo, but they were sold out of the already unfortunately. But that’s alright. It gives me another reason to return and try it later! So I ordered the Pulpo a la plantxa con membrillo (Octopus seared on the plancha with quince paste) and Arroz Bomba con Txipiron-Maiden (Bomba Rice with Calamari). After I put in my order, I order a glass of txakoli while I wait. Andoni fills me in about San Sebastian and I express to him how excited I am to finally be out there. The food then comes and I start indulging into my first bites in Spain.

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Both dishes were really great. Seasoning was pretty spot on. The seafood was cooked perfectly. And a lot of surprises in each and every bite. I have never really seen pulpo paired with quince paste but it was delicious. The flavors were perfectly balanced between the creamy potatoes, pimenton oil, alioli, and ever so tender octopus. And each bite that had membrillo was just so new and refreshing that I really think that it is a matched in heaven. It is definitely the best octopus dish I’ve had so far in San Sebastian. The calamari dish was really delicious as well. After the first couple bites, I really felt like that the dish really could have benefited from a nice squeeze of alioli, but then I reached to the bottom of the bowl and there laid a pool of it! I was so happy because it really turned a good dish into a really amazing one.

We then headed out and walked down more streets of the old part of San Sebastian. We stopped in another pintxo bar for one more bite. This time a pintxo with a hake and monkfish mouse with alioli on top of toasted bread. This was extremely delicious as it had a very mild fishy flavor and had a super light and creamy texture. It was like eating a fish rillette cloud.

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Andoni then proceeded to show me the more of San Sebastian and took me to the docks that overlook all of La Concha. Luckily, it was a gorgeous day. Apparently, it had rain the majority of the past 3 months so it was nice to get to see everyone out and about. The view was gorgeous and it left me speechless.

Later we met up with my new roomie, Susy Santos, who is the Basque Stage Top Chef winner, as well has the previous Basque Stage Rising Star winner, Clifton Su. They have been here in the Basque Country for the last 3 months and I have been able to read their amazing experiences on their blogs. Sadly, Clifton flew back to his home in Cali the next day, but I was really glad to meet the guy behind the keyboard.

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We then headed back to Lasarte-Oria, my new home. We all hung around for a couple hours and then we went out to Lasarte, a bar that is close to our apartment. We all ordered a Calamares con Alioli. This was basically a deep fried calamari sandwhich that is slathered with the famous garlicky alioli. It was huge and so good. Lasarte is definitely a cool place and will be my go to bar whenever I need a quick trip out of my home. We all head home and then it was lights out since Clifton had to head to Bilbao at 4 to catch his flight at 6:30.

This was how my first day went in San Sebastian. It could’t have been more perfect as it was filled with good company, beautiful weather, and some great food and wine. I am ready for the Basque Country and all the adventures that it’ll bring. Til next time…..

-Justin

My Last Days….

I forgot how fast a whole week can fly by. It felt like yesterday that I worked my last shift at the Harvest Vine but it was actually a whole week ago.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better day of service before hanging up my apron and tie for the last time until July. it was a gorgeous day out, it happened to be one of the busiest days of brunch we’ve worked in a while, and best of all, I got to see so many familiar faces to say goodbye and farewell before I left.

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The next day, Monday, marked my last dinner service i’d work in Seattle. it was the last Monday of the month so that means it was time for another Irbille Edibles Pop-Up at Olivar! (Check out my post on Irbille Edibles and the Evolution of Filipino Food Here)

This was a pretty exciting night as it was the 1 year anniversary of Irbille Edibles Pop-Ups and we were fully booked. I’ve had the pleasure of being in the kitchen with Irbille since day 1 and I can’t thank him enough for letting me sit shotgun in this incredible ride we’ve been on as his sous chef. He is the Shawn Kemp to my Gary Payton. The Timbaland to my Justin Timberlake (this is probably the most accurate analogy I’ve made in my life). We just work really well together. I’m so excited for him and the IE crew to tear it up in the kitchen the next 3 months and especially excited for his new venture in Kraken Congee. You are doing some big things my Friend and I’m proud of all that you’ve accomplished.

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On Wednesday, my chef, Joey Serquinia, had told me to come in to eat at the Harvest Vine. It was National Paella Day and he wanted to make sure he sent me off right and cooked a Mega Paella. And with no surprise, the paella was perfect, as is all of his paellas. It was a special night as I got to be around everyone that I have spent the past 3 years of my life with. I had my beautiful family with me, my work family (there’s no such thing as ‘co-workers’ at the Vine), some of my favorite regulars, and some new and old friends that i have made while cooking at the Vine. The amount of love and support that I was surrounded was something can’t even describe. I am so grateful for everything that everyone has done for me. Especially Joey, Carolin Messier, and Jeffrey Watanabe. I couldn’t ask for better managers. Thank you for guiding me and taking care of me and my family. I love you guys and can’t thank you enough!

Photo Taken from Brandon Patoc!

Throughout the week, I also made sure to eat at some of m favorite places since I know i wont be able to enjoy them in Spain. So i was fat kid for the past week!

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Fast forward to Saturday. My last official day in the great North West. I had spent the whole day with he people most important to me, my family. All gazillion of them! it was the day before Easter and we were celebrating the 3rd birthday of my daughter, Tegan! It was another beautiful day that was filled with Easter egg hunting. filling up plates upon plates with food, passing around all the babies to different family members. This is all i wanted before leaving.

Easter

It was a very bittersweet moment for me as everyone congratulated me and expressed their excitement for me, but at the same time, it means that I was leaving one the biggest part of me behind, my family. This is the hardest thing i’ve ever had to do, but I know in the end that the outcome of this will be greater than anything I Can imagine and everything I do is for them.

As of right now, I’m sitting in the apartment that I will be occupying for the next 3 months with the current Basque Stage and my new roomie, Susy Santos, and the most recent Basque Stage Rising Star, Clifton Su, as he packs and leaves tomorrow at 4 in the morning. Good luck on that 17 hour flight home dude! It’s the end of my first day in San Sebastian and am looking forward to sharing all of my experiences in my next blogs!

What Do I Want To Get Out Of The Basque Stage?

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So it’s official….. I have less than a month from when I leave the great Pacific NorthWest to start my culinary adventures in San Sebastian, Spain, as the next Basque Stage Rising Star! It has been a crazy, busy, and overwhelming couple of weeks since I have received the scholarship and I can’t imagine the my last couple weeks being any less crazy, busy, and overwhelming as the ones previous.

I feel that a month seems like a long time, but I know that time will fly by and I will be sitting in a plane, heading too my new home for 3 months. There is so much to do in such little time!

One thing that has been on my mind ever since I found out that I will be the next Basque Stage is what I hope to get out of living in San Sebastian, working with a great company like Sammic and staging under some of the most talented chefs, Xabier Diez and Aizpea Oihaneder, over at Xarma.

So here is a list of some of the things I have came up with that I hope to achieve upon returning to my real home in Seattle after my time in the Basque Country.

1. Develop a greater understanding and knowledge of the Basque Life.

I have the Harvest Vine to thank for opening my eyes to all things Basque. I’ve had an amazing 3 years working for/with some of the greatest people that have taught me so much about the culture and the food that comes from the Basque Country. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from working under my chef, Joey Serquinia, is that it takes more than knowing flavors and ingredients to cook good Spanish food. It takes a lot of knowledge about understanding about the culture and history of how these dishes came about.

With living in San Sebastian, I will be able to experience all the things that I can’t from just picking up and read about from a book about the Basque Country. I will be able to see and experience first hand what it is like to live the ‘Basque Way’. From the people, to the food, to the farms, to the wineries, I am so ready to soak up everything. I’m just hoping that my brain and heart will be able to handle all of the greatness that the Basque Country has to offer!

2. Utilize and expand the resources and opportunities presented to me

Everyone working in the restaurant industry  or any industry actually, knows the importance of networking. With staging in Spain, I will be introduced to a whole new circle of chefs, wine makers, farmers, and companies that I just would never be able to meet here in the States. I hope to take advantage of this great opportunity and really utilize all these networks that I could really benefit from in my career as a chef.

Sammic Headquarters

One of the coolest aspects of the Basque Stage is that it is sponsored by a great company called Sammic that develops and manufactures commercialized kitchen equipment for restaurants, hotels, etc., etc. I am really excited to work with this company and get to see and work with the products that they develop and really hope to build a strong relationship because they could be a great asset for whenever/if-ever I plan to start a restaurant of my own. (Can we say Discount!? Just Joking. =P) But on a serious note, I am very appreciative of what they do and for sponsoring such a great scholarship.

3. Help spread the word about the Basque Stage

I have to admit it. I’ve been a total Basque Stage Whore (pardon my language) ever since I had found about them more than a year ago. I have been and avid follower of the blogs of the previous Basque Stage winners and I was addicted to applying. I told myself from day one that I was going to keep on applying until I get it because its honestly such a great opportunity for chefs of all kinds, whether or not you are a home cook or professional cook. Everyone at the Basque Stage and Sammic have both teamed up and created something that I feel so passionate about and proud to be part of and I feel that more people need to know about it.

I was ecstatic to hear that The Art Institute of Seattle, the culinary school I had graduated from, was interested in getting in contact with me to hear more about receiving this scholarship. This is a good step into the right direction to let other students to know about this great opportunity that is honestly so easy to apply for. Yeah, I must admit, that it was pretty crappy the past 2 times I’ve applied and gotten so close to getting it, but persistence really pays off. Keep trying. Keep applying. Keep believing in yourself. Because in the end, there is no harm in trying, especially when the outcome can be as spectacular as cooking in one of the culinary capitals in the world!  And I don’t plan on just spreading the word with just students, I want to help encourage anyone and everyone.

4. Re-open Txori

Oh, beloved Txori. Txori was the sister restaurant of The Harvest Vine that sadly closed down in 2010. It was the first restaurant that I had my first real bite of real Spanish food. This was the restaurant where I started my culinary career as an intern that eventually lead into landing a job at. Quite possibly one of the best jobs I have had in my life.  It was here I knew I wanted to pursue cooking Spanish food.

Txori, which means “bird” in Basque, was a bar that served the traditional Basque tapas known as “pintxos”. Pintxos are basically small bites of food that are usually served on a sliced piece of toasted bread or pricked with a skewer that have became popular in San Sebastian. I feel that these are the type of bars that America need to adopt more of. There is so much to love about the concept of eating small bites while sipping on a nice glass of cava or albarinio and conversing with fellow patrons.I am most looking forward to pintxo bar hopping and really get to see what a real pintxo bar feels/looks/smells/tastes like. I want to take these things back because I feel that people need to know the greatest of Pintxos!

Re-opening Txori has been something I’ve always wanted ever since the day their doors have closed. But I’m hoping that with this Stage that it will maybe cause a spark, an idea, even a small thought of maybe re-opening those doors to something that not only I, but so many others, have grown to love. And whenever the time comes, I will drop and stop everything I am doing because this is something I really want, no, need to part of. (*hint hint* Carolin ;] ).

5. Be able to share my experiences

So of course it’s going to be great to share my experiences with friends, family, all you following my blogs, and so on. But honestly, one person I’m really hoping to share this experience with is my daughter, Tegan. She is my world, my mini-me, my pride and joy. Its going to be the hardest thing I will ever had to do being apart from her but everything that I do, I do for her. I have always known that with working in this industry, I had to be willing to make a lot of sacrifices. It’s quite a big sacrifice I’ve had to make, but in the end, it’ll all be worth it. I’m going to gain so much out of it, but what I will be gaining the most is a story for her of how her dad has fulfilled one of his dreams and that if you work hard and keep trying, you will be capable of doing anything. I want her to know that someday, I hope she will be able to do something like this and be able to share her stories with me. No matter what, I will always be there for her and will support her in anything she wants to do.

Sorry for the lengthy post! I am just getting so excited and anxious and have so much on the mind right now that my brain kind of threw up all of my thoughts in form of this blog post. Haha

-Justin

My First Post As A Basque Stage!

Hi everyone!

This is my official first post as a Sammic and Basque Stage Rising Star!

For those who are unaware, the Basque Stage Rising Star Scholarship gives the opportunity to a lucky aspiring chef to the Basque Region of Spain to work with under some of the most prestiges chefs in Spain for 3 months.

It was merely a week ago when I had received an e-mail with the subject titled “*Important*”. Usually I overlook these e-mails and proceed to send them to the trash but this one was from Marti (check out her blog, Blank Palate, its super dope!), one of the coordinators of the Basque Stage, so I knew that the e-mail must have been pretty important. So I sat up and prepared myself to read what could be one of the most important e-mails in my life.

“I just wanted to let you know that the judges have selected you as the winner of the II Rising Stars scholarship!!!!! Which means, should you accept, you will be headed to San Sebastián on April 1 through June 30 to stage at Xarma.”

My heart dropped in disbelief. Still to this moment I have a hard time believing that I am the next Basque Stage Rising Star. The feeling is unreal. This must be what it feels like to be on the top of the world.

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Hey! That’s me!!!!

I am so excited to get to work under Chef Xabier Díez and Chef Aizpea Oihaneder at their little gem, Xarma, in San Sebastian. I know that I will have a lot to learn from these two chefs who have worked inunder some of the best chefs that include Martín Berasategui, Michel Bras, and of course, Juan Mari and Elena Arzak, where they both met. It is of highest honors to be chosen to work and learn under your team! I hope you guys are ready for me! =]

I have to thank my work family at The Harvest Vine. Working there the past 3 years have been so great and has filled me with so much love for all things Basque. I can’t wait to come back to show all you guys all that I have learned in the Basque Country!

A very special thank you to my girlfriend, Staci. I know it’s been really hard to watch me reach for something that involves me to be away from our beautiful family, but it means the world to me that you support everything that I do regardless of how selfish things may seem. It’s been a very stressful week figuring out what’s going to happen, but I can’t thank you enough for taking this crazy ride with me. You and Tegan mean the world to me and everything I do, I do for you two. I love you both so much.

Well it’s been a very overwhelming week and the next coming weeks are going to get crazier and crazier, but in the end,  it will all be worth it the moment I lay my first step in San Sebastian. Again, I would like to thank everybody at Sammic, the Basque Stage, and Xarma for this opportunity. I can’t wait to fully embrace the life in the Basque Region and be able to share my experience with the world!

-Justin

P.S. Please check out the current Stage’s, Susy Santos and Clifton Su, blogs. They are both very exciting reads and just get me even more excited for my turn in the Basque Region!

Basque Stage Candidate Post: Braised Pork Belly and Calamari with a Blood-Ink Sauce

This is a new recipe I’ve came up with for my application for the Basque Stage and Sammic Rising Star Scholarship.

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This is a dish that has come together after going to my family Christmas party. I am part of a huge Filipino family and on Christmas, instead of having an extravagant Christmas dinner with the usual suspects as roasted turkey and mashed potatoes, we enjoy a huge table spread of traditional Filipino food. One of my favorites being, Dinuguan. For those who are not familiar, Dinuguan is a stew made of pork (usually including intestines) cooked in its own blood with vinegar and peppers. It is also known as ‘chocolate rice’ or ‘black rice’ too make it sound a little more appetizing to the audience.

I wanted to put a twist on the traditional dish, so I have decided to combine it with a very traditional Spanish dish, calamares en su tinta, calamari in its own ink. With the huge Spanish influence in Filipino culture, these two dishes come together to make something that just makes sense.

My interpretation of this dish has pork belly that has been braised with sherry vinegar and stock. The sauce is then combined with the pork blood to make the infamous lip-puckering and savory sauce. I incorporate the squid ink into the sauce too help deepen the black color of a sauce and also to add another depth of flavor (umami) to the vinegary sauce. I then sautéed the calamari and toss it in a simple olive oil and garlic vinaigrette. The calamari adds a great textural contrast to the fatty and rich pork belly. Garnish it with a foam of garlicky alioli and have substitute piparras peppers instead of thai chilies to help balance with the richness of the sauce and the pork.

Braised Pork Belly and Calamari with a Blood-Ink Sauce, Piparras peppers, and Alioli Foam

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Mise en place!

Sear pork belly until brown on each side and add to pot with carrots, onions, garlic, sherry vinegar and stock. Braise at low temp until tender. Remove pork belly and strain liquid and reserve.

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Blend pork blood so it keeps from coagulating in the stew.

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Sauté Carrots and onions until tender and add squid ink. Cook for a minute and then add pork blood and cook for another minute. Add braising liquid and let sauce cook down for an hour to let flavors develop. Purée until smooth and then pass through a sieve.

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Clean calamari. Score the inside of each calamari. (A lot more disgusting then I was expecting!)

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Sear calamari on high heat, weighing it down with a pan pressed on top, until cooked through. Slice into smaller pieces and then toss in a marinade of olive oil, garlic, salt, and parsley.

Sear braised pork belly until crispy and warm through.

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Place steamed rice on plate with the blood-ink sauce. Place pork belly and Calamari over the sauce and garnish with aioli foam, pippara peppers, and parsley oil.

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This dish is a representation of my love for Spanish and Filipino cuisine. I am really happy with the outcome of this dish. The blood-ink sauce had all of the characteristics of the flavors of Dinuguan but with the added squid ink, it had brought another dimension to the sauce that just enhanced the sauce.  The pork belly had a vinegary kick to it that really balanced it out with the fattiness of the cut and paired perfectly with the tender squid. Overall, I think that this is a recipe that I will have to keep in my repertoire!

-Justin

All About Eggs!: Huevos a la Flamenca

For my next All About Eggs! post I decided to do it on Hevos a la Flamenca. This is a very traditional Spanish dish that varies from region to region, but it usually consists of eggs that are baked in a rich tomato sauce along with cured meats, vegetables, and paprika.

This is a dish that has been on our brunch menu at The Harvest Vine since we started over two years ago. If we were to take this dish off the menu, I swear that our customers would cause riots and chaos in the Madison Valley. It is definitely one of the most popular dishes in our repertoire and it is the one dish I always recommend to our first time brunch customers. I feel that it is basically everything that our restaurant stands for all wrapped up and baked in a cazuela. Our Huevos a la Flamenca consists of a base of tomato frito (a fried-tomato sauce), a scoop of béchamel, slices of cured chorizo, thinly sliced jamon serrano, some sort of vegetable depending on whats in season, and two farm-fresh organic eggs. It is Spain in a dish! It has the perfect balance of flavor from the smokiness of the paprika in the chorizo, the saltiness from the cured ham, the brightness from the fried tomato sauce, the added richness from the béchamel, and the fresh flavors of whatever vegetables are in season. All of this combined with a perfectly baked egg with its still-runny yolk and then being soaked up by a slice of a freshly baked baguette, its easy to see why it has all the rave for our customers.

This is another prepartion of eggs I was new too. This dish is actually quite easy to put together as all you do is assemble everything and then put it in the oven, but it is very easy to mess up. Within a minute, this dish can go from being perfectly cooked to horribly overcooked. There is a very small window of time that you must take out the baked eggs when the egg whites are still a little jiggly, but with carry over cooking, the eggs will be finish cooking through as you let it sit.

Huevos a la Flamenca

To assemble, put 3 oz of tomato frito sauce on the bottom of the cazuela. In the center, add a tablespoon of béchamel. In the 12 o clock position of the cazuela, add the broad beans. At the 9 o clock position add your slices of chorizo. In the rest of the open space, lay down your thinly sliced pieces of jamon serrano. I carefully position all of these ingredients because it creates a hole in the center that will help keep the egg yolks to stay in the center of the cazuela. If the egg yolks are both directly in the center, it will help cook the eggs more evenly.

When you have your Flamenca assembled, place on high heat until the tomato sauce starts to bubble. Crack two eggs into a bowl to make it easier to place eggs into the cazuela (plus it makes ensures that you don’t accidentally break the egg yolk if you were to crack the egg directly in). Using a spoon, create a little hole in the center of all the ingredients and then slide your eggs into the cazuela.

Place into a pan and then place in a hot oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes until the egg whites are pretty much cooked through but still jiggly. It may look a little undercooked as you pull it out, but all the residual heat from the tomato sauce will carry over cook the eggs to perfection.

Sprinkle with salt and chopped parsley then serve with couple slices of bread and then enjoy! There are two type of people who eat Huevos a la Flamenca in a certain way. Those who like to break the yolk and mix everything together and then those who like to individually fish out every ingredient. I prefer to pick out all of my ingredients because it’s like a eating a new dish with every bite!

Mussel Escabeche

We are in the midst of Seattle Restaurant Week and one of our dishes for our first course options is Mussel Escabeche with a garbanzo purée.

Escabeches are foods that have been cooked through steaming or frying and then marinated and stored in a mild pickling brine. This technique had been used for centuries as a way of preserving foods before the days of refrigeration. Escabeches work well with a variety of ingredients from poultry to seafood.

I have always been pretty fond of this preparation of mussels because it is a nice change up from the common bowl of steamed mussels you often find on menus. Usually served cold or at room temperature, these mussels take on a smoky flavor from the Spanish pimentón that compliment the mouth-puckering sensation from the vinegar. The liquid is so good that you can use it as a vinaigrette on some greens to brighten the dish. The garbanzo purée makes for the perfect foil to the escabeche as it adds some creaminess and subtle flavors to balance out the composed dish.

To make mussel escabeche, clean and debeard a couple pounds of mussels. Steam the mussels with some white wine and water and remove from pan right when the mussels start to open up. Discard any unopened mussels. Let mussels cool. Then remove mussels from their shell and discard shells.

In a pot, heat up olive oil with smashes garlic cloves over medium heat. When the oil starts to simmer and the garlic starts to brown, add aromatics (black peppercorns and bay leaves) and let flavors infuse for about 5 minutes. Drop the heat to low and then add pimentón and your vinegar very slowly (Equal parts vinegar to olive oil). It is important to let oil cool a little bit because the vinegar will cause the oil to spatter. When all of the vinegar is added , let marinade cook for another 5 minute then take off heat.

Add the steamed mussels and let marinade cool. The mussels and marinade can then be served cold or be brought up to room temperature. Serve on a toothpick as a small pintxo or use in a salad and enjoy!!

Basque Stage Candidate Post: Scallop and Pork Belly Bocadillo w/ Popcorn Revuelto

So this dish I decided to do was conceived last minute as I was actually planning on doing a completely different dish for the past week or so for my Basque Stage Candidate Post. It wasn’t unti Tuesday morning that l I picked up my copy of the latest Lucky Peach, David Chang’s, the face behind Momofuku, quarterly journal of food writing. He had this little section where there was a recipe for a little concoction called “popcorn grits”. This had caught my attention and just had my mind racing instantly. For some reason, one of the first thoughts that came into my mind was revuelto. Revuelto is a probably one of my favorite preparation of eggs that I had discovered at The Harvest Vine (expect an All About Eggs! post about revuelto in the near future!). Revuelto is essentially softly scrambled eggs. I thought that popcorn grits would make for a perfect combination to the rich and creamy eggs, texturally and flavor wise. Then it dawned on me that I softly scrambled eggs weren’t going to be enough. I needed something more. Did it need a seafood? Or a meat? Or maybe both!? Then I thought about a special dish that my chef does every once in a while for special guests. He does a little play off of ‘bocadillos’ (Spanish for sandwiches) where he sandwiches a seared piece of seared foie gras between a sliced seared scallop. I thought that the scallop would go perfect with my popcorn revuelto but the foie gras to be a little over the top… Enter the pork belly…. the pork belly would give the dish the meatiness that it needs so I decided to replace it instead of the foie (I know, crazy right?). And just for fun, I thought I’d reincorporate popcorn as a crunch garnish, so I flavored it with Spanish smoked paprika and Piment d’ espelette. Piment d’ espelette is probably once of my favorite spices as it adds a real nice kick to anything you add it too. So to get back on track, here is my Basque Stage Candidate Post!

Scallop and Pork Belly Bocadillo w/ Popcorn Revuelto

Ingredient

  • Olive Oil
  • Popcorn Kernals
  • Heavy Cream
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Scallops
  • Braised Pork Belly

             Garnish

  • Reserved Popped Popcorn
  • Piment  d’ espelette
  • Pimenton Dulce

Procedure

Combine the oil and popcorn kernals in a large pot and set over high heat. Once the oil starts sizzling, cover the pot and lower the heat to medium.

Once the kernals start popping, make sure to shake the pot vigorously to make sure none of the popcorn burns. Once the popping starts to slow down drastically, take off heat and leave cover on until the pops stop.

Reserve atleast a cup of popcorn for the garnish. For the Garnish, toss together melted butter, popcorn, Piment d’ espelette, and Pimenton Dulce until covered evenly.

Heat up the milk, cream, and butter in a pan over medium heat. Once the mixture comes up to a simmer, add 1/3 of the popcorn and cook for about a minute. strain the liquid through a medium-meshed strainer (it’s important not to use a fine mesh strainer because you want to be able to push through the popcorn)

Once the liquid is strained, scrap the popcorn against the strainer, pushing through a popcorn-like puree (the popcorn ‘grits’). Scrap off all popcorn from the bottom of the strainer and set it aside. Repeat these steps with the remaining 2/3 of  popcorn. After the last batch, save the popcorn-infused cream.

In a saute pan, reduce the popcorn-infused cream until the consistency is really tight and not to runny. Timing for this dish is crucial as you don’t want to under-reduce or over-reduce your cream because it is the biggest factor for keeping your eggs the right consistency. Add the egg and then remove the pan from the heat. The residual heat from the cream should be hot enough to cook the egg all the way through. With a spatula, mix the eggs and the cream until the eggs start to set. Mid-way, add your popcorn ‘grits’ and salt then continue to stir. The eggs will be done when they there is no longer any uncooked eggwhite and have gained some body to them. They should be creamy and hold some form, but you will definitely know if they are overcooked if any chunks of egg have formed.

In a separate pan, heat up oil on high until barely smoking. Add scallops and let sear until golden brown. Feel free to check the caramelization and move it to a hotter part of the pan if it needs more caramelizing. Right before you flip the scallops, add the sliced pork belly. Flip the scallop and then turn off the heat. Flip the pork belly and then finish with chopped parsley.

Place the popcorn revuelto on the plate. Slice scallops in half and place a slice of pork belly between each side of the scallop making a sandwhich. Place on top of popcorn revuelto and then garnish with the Espelette and Pimenton popcorn. Make pretty with parsley oil and some micro-greens then enjoy!

I am really happy with how this dish turned out. The flavor combinations all worked really work together and there were so many different textures that made this dish really fun to eat! Thanks for reading and hopefully you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed making it!

-Justin