Adulting: Holiday Hosting


This year we did Thanksgiving as well as a ladies Christmas potluck. I love hosting and preparing a menu for friends but it can be exhausting. I’m a big fan of hosting potlucks because it’s so much easier and less pressure. Everyone brings something to share. On the other hand it is sometimes nice to host a full dinner party yourself because you control everything and it feels great to serve others. As the only American in the family over here in Madrid most of the Thanksgiving responsibility is bound to fall on me even though my lovely sister in law is now the appointed pumpkin pie baker. Slowly but surely everyone is getting involved and my Thanksgiving’s over here get better each year.

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Here’s our menu.


I love Ina Garten’s Sausage and Herb Stuffing

I follow her recipe and use 4 baguettes of bread. This year I didn’t add salt to the stuffing going into the turkey because the salt from the brine would go into that. This is my number one Thanksgiving dish. I could eat these bready leftovers forever.

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The turkey is so important and causes me the most stress. Somehow I have managed not to completely screw it up over the past few years. This year we tried something new and did a brine.


For a 12-15 lb turkey.

2c sea salt

1c sugar

3 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1tbsp black pepper corns, crushed

3 sprigs rosemary, thyme and sage

2.5 gallons cold water

Mix salt in water until dissolved. Place turkey breast side down in large plastic bag. Leave in brine for 12 hours. Remove from fridge and brine one hour before roasting. Rinse turkey and drain well.

Stuff turkey. Rub with olive oil and put butter and garlic between skin and meat. Add a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme to the cavity and on legs and wings.

Add a few coils of aluminum foil to the bottom of turkey roasting pan. Place turkey on foils breast side up. Add a few cups of chicken broth to bottom of pan. Roast at 325°F (160°C) basting every 30 minutes or so. Cover with aluminum foil if it browns too quickly. Turkey is done when thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of the leg and in stuffing.

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W H I T E  W I N E  P A N  G R A V Y

Turkey drippings 2-3 cups

1c white wine

4tbsp butter

6tbsp flour

1/2 tbsp dried sage

Pour liquid from turkey pan into a large measuring cup. Place in freezer for about 10 minutes. Remove from freezer and scrape off excess fat. Heat the same turkey pan over low heat scraping off the drippings. Add 1/2c wine to deglaze pan. Add butter and melt. Add flour while whisking to make a roux. Continue whisky about five minutes until it is a nice golden brown. Add remaining wine and let it reduce down. Slowly add the broth. Continue stirring until mixture thickens. Add sage and season with salt and pepper.

G R E E N  B E A N  C A S S E R O L E

1kg green beans, fresh is better

500g cremini mushrooms, sliced

1tbsp olive oil

2tbsp butter

4 sprigs thyme

2 cans Campbells cream of mushroom soup

1 cup milk

2 cups crunchy fried onions



1/4 cup parmesan, grated

First cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain and set aside.

In a large frying pan or cast iron skillet heat olive oil. Cook mushrooms until browned on both sides. Add butter and thyme. Continue cooking until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Add soup, milk, cooked green beans and 1cup onions to pan. Mix. Sprinkle with parmesan. Bake at 175°C for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining onions and cook 5-10 more minutes.

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S M A S H E D  S W E E T  P O T A T O E S

Another side we did was one that I featured a few weeks ago and it was a hit. Josemi’s father is amazing and was able to detect all of the ingredients in this dish just after having one bite.

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For dessert my sister in law always makes a classic pumpkin pie and I normally make my mom’s apple crisp. This year we got a Costco (yes, I finally went to Spain Costco and I love it) apple pie to take off some of the stress with all of the preparations.

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Chuka Ramen

This place is one of the TOP restaurants in Madrid.

After listening to an episode on the TAPAS magazine podcast and finding out that american John Husby (one of the founders of Chuka) had worked in Momofuku alongside David Chang, I was dying to eat at Chuka Ramen Bar.

As I said in previous posts, my ramen obsession began with watching The Mind of a Chef season one, I have been actively trying to make and or find the perfect bowl of ramen. I have found it at Chuka.

Chuka Ramen Bar is a version of “chuka” cuisine. Japanese style Chinese dishes.

Their menu is short and simple consisting of bao buns, gyozas, ramens and other things that are in season. We tried something of each.

First the tatiki de vaca. Amazing.

Next the bao bun de cangrejo de concha blanda. So good I ate it before I had the chance to take a picture. Bao buns are super popular in Madrid right now and I can understand why. This one was so interesting because it was literally the whole crab fried. At first we didn’t know how to approach it but were surprised to find that we loved it.

Gyozas de pollo y ajo negro. Beautiful and delicious. Can’t wait to try and replicate this one.

Finally the tori paitan ramen. So full in flavor. The broth was incredible. I’m craving it again and can’t wait to go back for more.

I don’t even have words to describe how great the food was here. I’m so excited to tell everyone about it and to go back as soon as possible. Just be sure to make a reservation ahead of time. It is usually fully booked and can be tough to get a table on the weekend.

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Carbonara a la Josemi

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When Josemi and I first started dating when we were so young and in a dumb love, where I could hardly understand anything he said, he cooked dinner for me one night. The first time he had ever cooked for me! This recipe is his and he has it perfected. It’s a go to dish that we always go back to and its one of our favorite comfort foods.


1/2 packet of linguini

150 grams of bacon, about 8 slices diced

1 yellow onion, small diced

dry white wine

3 eggs

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

2tbsp fresh flat leafed parsley, chopped

olive oil




Put a pot of water on to boil with a pinch of salt. Cook pasta until doneness of your liking.

Beat eggs in bowl. Add 1/4c grated cheese and 1tbsp parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large saucepan heat olive oil. Add bacon and onion. Cook until the bacon is crisp and onion is soft and beginning to caramelize. Cover with wine and heat on medium low until alcohol is cooked off. Take off heat.

Add pasta to pan and mix. Add egg and mix well.

Plate and sprinkle with reserve parmesan cheese and parsley.




Potato Leek Soup

This is a family recipe. So simple and great for a cold winter meal. Here is my simplified version of the recipe (for when I was unable to find a shallot or convert all the measurements properly).

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1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, finely diced

2 leeks, finely chopped

4 potatoes, peeled and quartered

200g bacon, dice

2 tbsp dill, finely chopped

4 cups chicken broth



In a large stockpot heat oil on medium heat. Add onion, leek and bacon and cover. Let sweat 10 minute only stirring once or twice. Add potatoes, dill and broth. Simmer 30 minutes. Blend with a submersion blender and enjoy.

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Here is the original recipe:


Don Oso

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This burger is everything a burger should be.

Perfectly juicy, all the fixings and you can add cheese, bacon and mushrooms to your liking.

Josemi holds this spot near and dear to his heart. A place his parents used to go to on dates. His aunts used to eat here. He would go as a teenager on Saturday’s with his cousins before the family lunch. And now a place that we frequent together.

Once someone told me that they didn’t like the hamburgers from this place and I immediately added him to my “do not trust this person” list, because these burgers are perfect. Almost everyone in Madrid agrees.

This place is nothing fancy. A basic Spanish style bar with the floor cluttered with napkins at first might turn an American like me away, but after my first bite I was sold.

This is a place with a “short menu” posted on the wall. I always order the small hamburger with bacon and cheese, no mustard. Josemi gets the grande burger and we split an order of fries. Wash it down with some cold Mahou beers and call it a day.

Best burger in town!

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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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7 eggs

1 tbsp white vinegar

pinch of salt

freshly ground pepper


panko bread crumbs

2 tbsp flat leafed parsley, chopped

sunflower seed oil (for frying)





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.


Calle Cantareros 2, 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.