BECOOK and Panko Eggs

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Our favorite meal in León, Spain. This restaurant is so good that it deserves its own post. A true true gem that you must check out if you are staying in León of just passing through.

Update: this restaurant has recently been added to the Guía Michelin in the “Bib Gourmand” category recognizing the excellent correlation of quality to price. Congrats BeCook!

I am a fan of restaurants with short menus. This means that the food they are serving has been well thought out and typically will be the best it can be. Becook is a short menu place.

Everything came to the table in a unique and exciting way. Impeccable presentation.  First we started with some slow cooked eggs fried in panko bread crumbs with a spicy Sriracha like ketchup dip. These eggs were served to us from a woven basket where we were instructed to each take an egg in the hand and eat it carefully with the dip. AMAZING. This is something I’d love to try at home using David Chang’s slow poaching technique and the panko breadcrumbs I’ve brought home from California.

Next we had the gambón majado. This was completely prepared in front of us at the table. This consisted of a shrimp base that had been marinated in kimchi and then mixed with a raw egg. It was presented with several sauces and fish eggs. My favorite dish of the meal.

Then we had a tataki of atun that was off of the menu. Perfectly “marcada” as the Spaniards would say.

We finished with a steak tartar that was presented with a top that when lifted, out flew a cloud of smoke. Finishing our dinner with a bang. Everything was so impressive and magical that I couldn’t find it in me to have my phone out taking pictures the whole time. It was one of those restaurant moments that I just had to cherish.

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This is one of those places that I will miss not being able to eat at whenever I please. I hope one day soon they will open a restaurant in Madrid.

Although León is a smaller city, at this restaurant with only ten tables it’s important to make a reservation.

I was inspired by the panko egg dish and tried my own version at home. This is how it went!

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I N G R E D I E N T S

7 eggs

1 tbsp white vinegar

pinch of salt

freshly ground pepper

flour

panko bread crumbs

2 tbsp flat leafed parsley, chopped

sunflower seed oil (for frying)

Sriracha

ketchup

 

M E T H O D

Poach six eggs. Heat water until just bubbling but not boiling. Mix in vinegar and salt. Add one egg with shell to hot water and remove after 10 seconds. Crack egg into a small bowl. With a spoon create a whirlpool and carefully add egg. Cook 3 minutes and transfer to an ice bath with slotted spoon. Repeat with 5 more eggs.

Mix panko with parsley. Add pinch of salt and pepper. Dredge poached eggs in flour, then egg  and last in panko mix. Fry in 2 inches of hot oil for about 30 seconds or until golden brown. Place on paper towel covered plate to cool. Serve with ketchup mixed with Sriracha sauce, amount depending on how spicy you like.

Becook

Calle Cantareros 2, León

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León

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León, Spain is a paradise for tapas lovers. Josemi and I went in late October and all we did was ate. Thats what vacation is for right? León makes our list of top Spanish towns for tapas.

León is a small city in the northwest of Spain with a gorgeous cathedral. In true Spanish style, the city is lively with people and the bars are full at all hours.

The best area to bar hop and have tapas is El Barrio Humedo and El Barrio Romantico. Here we found full bars with people spilling onto the streets. In León it’s typical to order a “corto” of beer. This is a very small beer, smaller than Madrid’s “caña”. We also saw a lot of people ordering a “clarete” or rosé wine. In most bars when ordering a drink they will give you a tapa of your choice! We wish we could have gone to more tapas spots but here were our favorite TAPAS and the bars you can find them in.

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El Calecho

Plaza San Martin 9, León

This was the first place we walked into and fell in love so we ended up coming back later in our trip. Pictured is our cecina (cured beef) tapa. Here we also tried a nice red wine from the region.

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Meson la Ruta Jacobea

Calle Cid 18, León

Here we walked in for a quick tapa and saw that behind the bar was a huge cheese wheel. When asked which tapa we would like with our drinks, immediatly Josemi and I both pointed at the cheese. My first taste of Valdeón, the creamest blue cheese I’ve ever come accross. I don’t know anything more about this place but they sure do have good taste in cheese selections.

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Taberna Gaucho

Calle Azabachería 6, León

This is another bar that we came back to for seconds. Here out favorite tapas were the sopa de ajo (garlic soup) and patatas con morcilla. The sopa de ajo is a great choice on a chilly autumn or winter day. Even those who aren’t fans of morcilla (blood sausage) must try it in León. The flavor is unlike other morcilla that I have tried. Muy recomendable.

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Looking For

Rincón Conde Rebolledo 13, León

So apparently trying frog legs is a must in León, so despite my own fears we  went searching for a tapa of ancas de rana. We found just what we were looking for in “Looking For.” While this place didn’t look to promising, it truly delivered when it came to this delicacy. This place also had the widest selection of tapas including toreznos, sardines and snails.

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Quesos Tori

Calle Azabachería 20, León

So after trying the wonderful Valdeón cheese we decided to find some to take home to Madrid. Quesos Tori is a dream shop and I wish it was in my neighborhood. They probably have every cheese imaginable and all at a great price. We took home a large chunk of Valdeón cheese for only a few euros and regret not buying more.

 

 

Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I will be celebrating this Saturday with my Spanish family (because of course in Spain we don’t have the Thursday off of work). I have been planning for weeks and deciding which recipes to use. Some old and some new. This year we are brining the turkey for the first time. A little bit scary but I have faith in my grandmothers brine. Josemi is more wary.

I’ve never done sweet potatoes at my Thanksgiving simply because of lack of time and I have never been a fan of the traditional sweet potato casserole covered in marshmallow fluff. This year the cousins are doing the mashed potatoes and my sister in law is making the pumpkin pie so I have more time to add new dishes like these savory smashed sweet potatoes. This recipe is adapted from Cafe Delites Garlic Butter Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Parmesan. I added a little bit more garlic and butter and used olive oil instead of cooking spray.

I N G R E D I E N T S

4 sweet potatoes

4 tbsp butter

2 tbsp chopped flat leafed parsley

5 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tbsp grated parmesan

olive oil

salt

pepper

 

M E T H O D

Preheat oven on high. Rinse sweet potatoes and cut off ends. Slice in 1 inch slices and place on greased baking sheet. Bake sweet potato 25-30 minutes until fork tender. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes.

Melt butter in microwave. Add parsley and garlic to melted butter.

Gently smash sweet potatoes with fork. Pour butter mixture onto each potato. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper. Return to oven and broil 15 minutes. Sprinkle parmesan cheese and return to oven until cheese has melted.

Enjoy!

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KIKEKELLER

Store-Gallery-Bar

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Owners Kike and Celia have a workshop on the outskirts of Madrid where they make new and innovative pieces of furniture. In their designs they merge industrial materials and metals with antiques and beautiful woods.

This space is cool. Located in the hip neighborhood of Malasaña, you can find their showroom, Store-Gallery-Bar. The location is an old sewing shop, redesigned. With constant change and new concepts and ideas for furniture pieces as well as art exhibits are presented here. Kikekeller’s designs are funky and for sale in this space along with items from other designers as well. Artists display their masterpieces on the walls and the drinks are flowing. You can go out for a cocktail and come home with a new table. This is like interior design heaven meets a modern art museum meets bar.

The exhibit that was happening when I went last is by Turkish artist Cumher Jay Yilmaz. Inspired by urban art, Picasso, Polluck and his Turkish roots.

Great for a night out with your artsy friends.

KIKEKELLER

Calle Corredera Bajo de San Pablo 17

Madrid

Store Hours: Monday-Saturday 12-15 and 17-21

Bar Hours: Thursday-Saturday 19-2:30

La Venencia

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Madrid is a strange place anyway. I do not believe anyone likes it much when he first goes there. It has none of the look that you expect of Spain… Yet when you get to know it, it is the most Spanish of all cities, the best to live in, the finest people, and month in and month out the finest climate. While other big cities are all very representative of the province they are in, they are either Andalucian, Catalan, Basque, Aragonese, or otherwise provincial. It is in Madrid only that you get the essence… It makes you feel very badly, all question of immortality aside, to know that you will have to die and never see it again.
– Ernest Hemingway Death in the afternoon

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my 5 year relationship with Madrid. What I find at times impossible to articulate, Hemingway captures the feeling effortlessly. Madrid has truly captured my heart and it is the place for me.

La Venencia was one of Hemingway’s spots when he spent time in this city. This charming bar is like walking into a dream. It is everything you could ever hope a Spanish bar could be. Walking in on a late afternoon you are transported back in time to 1930’s Civil War Madrid. Behind the bar is a wall of dusty old sherry bottles. The space is lined with old posters from sherry festivals of the past.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to order a beer (like I did the first time here). The drink list consists of only five Spanish sherries; Manzanilla, Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado and Palo cortado. My favorite is the dark Oloroso. Your drink will be served with bright green Campo Real olives. The menu is short and posted on a faded piece of paper on the wall. You can order tapas, 1/2 raciones and full raciones depending on how hungry you are. Mojama, Hueva, Lomo, Queso, Chorizo, Salchichón, Cecina, Roquefort, and Anchoa are your options. Everything is high quality, authentic and inexpensive. When ordering the barman will keep your tab open by writing on the wooden bar with a piece of chalk.

The people you will find here vary from elderly Spanish couples and other locals to young foreigners who are so lucky to have found this gem. Look out for the little black cat sleeping on a chair or table perhaps.

The only photo you will see is this one of the outside. Photos inside are not allowed to preserve the essence of the past and the antique posters.

La Venencia

Calle Echagaray 7

Madrid

Hours: 12:30-15:30 and 19:30- around midnight

Genius Recipes

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This book was a Christmas gift from my sister Kristen. This is a collection of 100 recipes chosen by Food52’s executive editor Kristen Miglore. They are from various chefs and include Breakfasts, Snacks & Drinks, Soups & Salads, Meaty Mains, Meatless Mains, Vegetables and Desserts. Immediately I thought the design of the book and the photography by James Ransom was absolutely beautiful. But it took me a few months to actually try out one of these recipes. My regret is that I hadn’t begun sooner.

Every recipe is amazing. Truly GENIUS.

Thus far I have tried Michael Ruhlman’s Rosemary-Brined Buttermilk Fried Chicken which was to die for. The brining made the meat so flavorful and with a perfect blend of spices the breading was crispy and had just the right amount of spice. I am not a fan of working with chicken because mine always comes out dry and wrong. With this recipe you cannot go wrong. It’s foolproof.

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The next recipe that I tried was Julia Child’s Gratin of Zucchini, Rice & Onions with Cheese. Luckily this recipe makes a lot so I was enjoying these leftovers for days. I had never attempted a gratin before and was unsure of what it would be like, but you can’t go wrong with Julia Childs. Although this recipe only calls for a bit of milk and less than a cup of parmesan, it was so creamy. I’ve never had a richer zucchini dish.

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I look forward to trying more of these Genius Recipes and exploring more Food52 recipes. Maybe I’ll try Pasta with Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Puree or the Salt-Baked Herbed Salmon.

Thank you to my sister for gifting me this treasure.