One post and two recipes- I must really be getting into the holiday spirit of giving, folks! It all went down like this: right about this time every year I get so steeped in festive cookies, eggnog, holiday muzak and mall madness that I simply need a break from it all lest I should find myself menacingly brandishing a meat cleaver at the next poor soul who steps into my kitchen.
At this moment, I begin to dream of the greatest Christmas I ever had, spent sunning myself on a Mauritian beach far far away from the hullabaloo of snow-drenched streets and plastic manger scenes. At the first inkling of burnout I head to the laptop and search out last-minute fares to somewhere, anywhere but here to escape to for the holidays, knowing full well that I will spend it here, because I’ve already decked the halls, wrapped the gifts, and planned the menu for the big day. I start to reason with myself, Linda, you hate to travel during the holidays, plus Bentley is too young to appreciate Caiphirina’s on the beach and mama in a bikini anyway.
So what’s the next best thing? How about an escape for just one evening in the form of a dinner that doesn’t have any dustings of powdered sugar, nonpareils, goose, ham or turkey in it. Then I get out the globe, spin it blindfolded, and point to a location. After three tries that landed me somewhere in the Indian Ocean and Antarctica, my index finger landed on bright, delightful Spain. Oh yeah, Viva España for the night! Immediately my mind goes to an appetizer I was fond of serving all summer long consisting of membrillo (quince paste), Marcona almonds and delectable Manchego cheese. In summer I serve it in all its uncooked glory, however given that the current temperature is hovering around freezing, cooking is in order.
I’m on a bit of a tart kick right now since after two years of toiling away in search of the very best tart crust I could make, I have wholly perfected it. It’s based on principles taken from a recipe for pasta frolla given to me by a friend, and a curious boiling butter tart dough I read about on David Lebovitz’ blog that turned into a gooey mess the first time I tried it. I tweaked versions of this dough a number of times until I was satisfied, and in the process altered it so much I can safely call it mine, all mine!
Plus, quinces are out in full force this time of year and I’ve been itching to boil them down into a sweet mess, so perfect timing. If you’ve never worked with quince before, go out and get some. A remarkably fragrant fruit, their true sweet essence is not unlocked until you cook them a bit to break down the sugars in the flesh, creating one of the greatest taste explosions ever to exist in a solitary state. Manchego cheese and marcona almonds are the natural accompaniments in my mind, and boy do they all work incredibly well baked into a savory tart.
As a partner dish I thought I’d do something with the red lentils I had on hand, so Lentejas con Arroz y Chorizo was an easy leap. The ultimate in comfort food, rice lentils, aged chorizo and smokey Spanish paprika will clear your head and fortify your heart for the impending holidays in two seconds flat. You have to be careful though, if you serve this to guests you’re bound to get a silent meal, since everyone is so typically caught up eating bite after bite there is little room in the mouth to form words for conversation. This recipe is also my own take on the classic, spruced up here and there with what I think is essential to the success of the dish. Without further ado I present you with the two holiday-saving recipes that will get you through to 2010 no problem.
Quince Marcona Manchego Tart
For the crust:
- 150 grams all purpose flour
- 1 tsp sugar
- 100 grams butter, softened
- Pinch of salt
- 2 egg yolks (preferably duck)
Process all of the ingredients in a food processor until a mass forms. Shape into a 5” disc with your -fingers, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for at least one hour. This all purpose tart dough is best not prebaked, but rather right along with the tart filling. If your filling is taking exceptionally long to set, simply use a pie crust shield to keep the crust from excessive browning. This tart shell is best baked at 375° with convection on for 30 minutes.
For the filling:
- 3 quince fruits, peeled and cored (this will take awhile, they’re tough little suckers to core)
- ½ c water
- ¼ c sugar
- 1/3 c Marcona Almonds
- 10 oz Manchego cheese, shredded
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ c cream
- ¼ c sour cream or crème fraiche
- ½ tsp salt
Slice the quince fruits into ¼” slices and slowly boil them in the water and sugar until soft and sweet, about half an hour. Drain the slices and allow to cool until you can safely handle them. While the quinces are cooling, roll out the tart crust and put into a fluted 10” tart pan with removable bottom. Preheat the oven to 375°. Blend the egg, yolk, cream, sour cream and salt in a blender until smooth. Cover the bottom of the rolled out tart crust with slices of quince. Layer the manchego over the quince. Arrange a final layer of quince in a concentric pattern on top of the manchego layer. Symmetrically dot the quince layer with Marcona almonds. Pour the egg mixture over the top and bake for 25-30 minutes until filling is set and lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before you remove the fluted outer ring of the tart pan.
Lentejas con Arroz y Chorizo
- 1.5 c lentils
- 6 c chicken stock (preferably homemade)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 dry aged Spanish chorizo (about a pound)
- 1 chopped shallot
- 1 finely chopped carrot
- 3 chopped garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp quality Spanish smoked paprika ( I get the mild kind, but you could also get the hot, however be judicious if you do so. For the recipe to work, the paprika must be fresh, Spanish paprika)
- ¾ c rice
- Parsley to garnish
Slowly boil lentils in 4 c salted broth. Simmer for 15 minutes. Sauté chorizo, shallot and carrot in oil for 3 minutes. Add garlic and paprika and sauté, stirring constantly for two minutes to incorporate the paprika into the vegetables. Add the shallot mixture to the lentils along with the remaining cups of stock and the rice. Bring to boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30+ minutes on very low heat with the lid on. At 30 minutes, you can lift the lid, stir, and check the rice for doneness. Add water as necessary to keep the lentils and rice from sticking to the pan. Simmer as long as you need in order to cook the rice and marry the flavors. Serve with a parsley sprig for garnish.