The Stage At Xarma Jatetxea

For my previous blog posts about my experience at Xarma Jatetxea, please check the following links!

The ‘Charm’ in Xarma Jatetxea

The Toys at Xarma Jatetxea

So what is it like being a Basque Stage here in one of the culinary capitols of the world? It’s unlike anything I could have imagined. With working under chefs that have worked for some of the most renowned chefs in Europe from Juan and Elena Arzak to Michel Bras, I could tell that I was in for a learning experience like no other. So this is a blog post about my time working under chef Xabier and Aizpea at Xarma Jatetxea.

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I was actually pretty surprised at what they had me doing on my first day on the job. I was expecting to do typical ‘intern’ tasks like picking parsley or peeling onions or something simple like that just to start out, but it was the opposite. Just on my first day, I made 3 types of spheres using the infamous methodology and chemicals that Ferran Adria of El Bulli Fame has introduced to the culinary world. I had prepped out and made a very ingenious Tomato and Apple carpaccio. And when it came to service, I was appointed to plating a majority of their first courses and appetizers.

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“No tengas mideo!” Aizpea told me.

Of course all I could respond with was, “……… no entiendo! LOS SIENTO!!!”

“Don’t be afraid!” She responded back to me.

And from then on, I tried to my hands in every single thing I could.

I found myself doing more and more and getting a whole lot of hands on experience as the days came by. By the end of my first week, I had cleaned a case of beef cheeks, seared of the cheeks along with some oxtail, and braised them until they reached ultimate tenderness. I had cleaned and prepped up over 2 dozen squabs. And I have made basically all of the sauces that we use for all of the menus. By the end of the second week, I was appointed to prepping out and being in charge of two of the tasting menus that they offered and also was took control of all things pastry. I, for one, never thought myself of ever wanting to be a pastry chef as it is a whole different world, but I was quite excited to actually learn this side of the culinary world.

Beef Cheek Prep

Beef Cheek Prep

It amazes me of all the things I have got to do and have learned when I look back at these past 3 months. I wish that I could go more into detail to all of the things that I have seen and learned to here at Xarma as Sammic’s Basque Stage, but this post would be very long and rather tiring to read! So instead, I will post a bunch of pictures of my time here in the kitchen of Xarma Jatetxea.

Apple Dessert Prep

Apple Dessert Prep

Tomato Carpaccio Prep

Tomato Carpaccio Prep

Squab Prep

Squab Prep

Calamari Prep

Calamari Prep

Chicken Roulade Prep

Chicken Roulade Prep

Foie Bombon Prep

Foie Bombon Prep

Ham Croquetta Prep

Ham Croquetta Prep

 

 

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