Friday, September 4, 2009

Sovereign State #4: Andorra

The Menu:
Terrina de Conejo (Rabbit Terrine)
Sofrito (Catalan Tomato and Onion Sauce)
Trinxat (Cabbage and Potato Cake)
Cargols amb Mantega D'all (Roasted Snails with Garlic Butter)

Familiarity is a funny thing. It's easy to live a little dangerously when you understand your surroundings. In a sort of twisted way I can understand why people travel across the world and end up eating out of American burger joints. It's safe and easy. Hell, perhaps I might even try something wacky like a Mc-Tonkatsu burger in Osaka or maybe a Flame Broiled Shawarma Jr. in Cairo just to , you know, soak up some culture for the few minutes I'm not sitting in the hotel pool. I can almost understand the madness. Almost.

I love Spanish food. Arroz co Pollo, Picadillo, these are my comfort dishes. Andorra is pretty damn close to Spanish food. It actually has quite a bit in common with Catalan and Basque cuisine. I understand Spanish flavors. I grew up with these flavors. I could just whip out some kind of braised chicken dish with tomatoes and olives or perhaps fry up some Basque chorizo and eggs and call it a day. But I like the challenge of searching for something new. I like expanding my culinary knowledge. I wanted to cook something I've never cooked before. I know these flavors, so why not test my palate. The hotel pool is really nice but sometimes you just have to see what else is around you and find some adventure.

I went down to see my buddy Don at Don & Joe's butcher shop in the market to grab some rabbit. He fabricated it (cut it up) for me and I asked him to save me the livers. He asked me if I was "feeling a little jumpy" to which I replied "keep using puns like that and I'll have to shop somewhere else". I also got a bit of bacon and some of their amazing pork meat sticks that I need for my pork deficiency. I also picked up my snails from Delaurentis next door. I found a recipe for snails that said "go outside and collect 20 garden snails". Uhhh, not in my neighborhood friend. I'll stick with canned snails. After collecting all my ingredients I went home and started on dinner. I finally got to use my lovely new friend. My pink Kitchen-aid mixer with meat grinder attachment that my sweetheart wifey got me for my birthday. I loved how upset the cat got while watching the rabbit meat squish out of the grinder. Both my kitty Clara and K were intrigued and repulsed at the same time.

The rabbit terrine was incredible. A mixture of ground rabbit meat and liver, garlic, onion, egg, and spices. All wrapped up with bacon and steamed in a terrine water bath for 1 1/2 hours. It was like eating the most moist meatloaf you ever had in your life. If there was a god of meatloaf, this is what she would make. It went perfectly with the sofrito sauce. A super smokey and spicy tomato sauce with pimenton (smoked paprika) and sweet onions. I always make Cuban sofrito as the base for soups and sauces but I have never thought of the addition of pimenton. I don't know why, it makes perfect sense. This will be my "go to" sofrito from now on. We ate the terrine the next day in sandwiches. So stinking good!

Who doesn't love potato pancakes? Unloved demon spawn, that's who. Trinxat (pronounced trin-chat), Andorra's national dish of potatoes, cabbage, and bacon all fried up in patty form, is comfort food pure and simple. K is half Irish and I make a dish called colcannon for her when she's not shining shoes or following rainbows. It's basically the same ingredients as trinxat but the Andorrans here have stepped it up a notch (as my favorite uneducated TV celebrity leprechaun would say) and fried the whole thing.

Snails are a hard sell to people that have never tried them before. Getting someone to try snails for the first time can be a daunting task. "Here, I cooked you some slimy insect looking creatures, have some." Snails are mollusks. If you like clams, oysters, mussels, etc... you will like snails. It's a texture thing that most people have a problem with. To me, snails have similar texture and flavor to a portabella mushroom that got in a fight with a clam. I stuffed the snails back into their shells and topped them off with some garlic and chive butter and roasted them for 10 minutes. They were garlicky and delicious.

Food does not have to be filled with chemicals just to be comforting. Food should be made with care and pride(call me a hippy and I'll hurt you). And perhaps sometimes you need to get a little challenged. Eating and traveling shouldn't just be about familiarity. It should show you new and exciting things so that when you want some of your favorites, you'll have a whole lot more to choose from.

For more info on this project, read this: 203 Sovereign States


Kelleen Conway Blanchard said...

Yummy. And delicious.

Nikki said...

Sounds amazing!!