Sunday, April 1, 2012

ANDORRA: THE FOOD


Finding good recipes for Andorran food is like trying to find paperwork on my desk. Theoretically, it’s there; I just have to sift through a lot of other stuff to find it. And even at that, who knows what kind of condition it’s in. As I searched on what was out there, I found recipes that were lacking details, like how long to bake something, or had wrong measurements (like the difference between a centiliter and a milliliter almost had me using a little less than a gallon of oil! Good thing I double-checked that recipe.)  But I made like a jazz musician and improvised.

First we made the coques, an Andorran flat cake. (The recipe I was originally working with was terrible – I could deal with the European measurements, but some of them were actually wrong. See note above.) Coques can be either sweet (with sugar or fruits) or savory (with meats and cheeses on it). I decided to go with a sweet bread. The recipe was a little different than any of the others so far – it had me make a batter and then tear up pieces of rolls to add into the batter. Obviously my helper loves the camera. 


I think the dough was supposed to be a lot drier, but I ran out of flour and had to work with what I had. It still was enough to form it into the rectangle shape that coques are traditionally formed. After it baked I brushed some melted butter on top and used powdered sugar (it actually called for icing sugar, but at this point I was NOT running back out to the store) and cinnamon on top. It turned out it was a hit with the family. They sang praises to me, danced in my honor, and threw flowers at me. And it was good.


Next, we made stuffed mushrooms with sausage. I ended up making a few substitutions. The recipe called for morels, but in Indiana (even though we had a record warm month for March), it’s still a little early to find morels at the store. I settled with white mushrooms. The recipe also called for botifarra sausage, which I researched and found out that it was similar to linguiça sausage. (I ate a lot of linguiça when I was in southern Brazil. It’s a very filling sausage.) But I had a little trouble finding linguiça where I was and had to look up what some substitutions for that, and I came up with mild chorizo, which you can amply find in Indiana (and for cheap!). It also called for cognac, and I had to go with the best, Rémy Martin. It turned out really well. I liked it. The only problem is that chorizo is a very oily sausage, and some of the oil would seep out of the mushrooms.


Now came the meal. In almost every article I read on Andorran food and cuisine, one dish was almost always mentioned: trinxat. It’s from a Catalan word meaning “to slice.” It’s basically kale and Swiss chard (something I bought for the first time) boiled with potatoes. I thought the Swiss chard was pretty, and I did tell my daughter it was red because farmers poured blood on the soil, so it can soak up the blood to be high in iron. (It is April Fool's Day, you know.)


Then you cook bacon in olive oil and set the bacon off to the side. After that you take the oil off the heat and put peeled chopped garlic into the oil to infuse it. I had never heard of infusing oil, but I did it for the first time today. I gave myself a pat on the back AND a gold star. Once the oil has been sufficiently infused (how long that takes for real, I have no idea. I left the garlic in there for 1-2 minutes.), take the garlic out and pour it over the mashed potatoes/kale/Swiss chard mix. Then crumble the bacon on top. I thought it was really good and quite filling.


I couldn’t help but think about what national dishes are. It always seems to me, like with the trinxat, that many dishes that are considered “national dishes” are the ones that came from poor people. These are the dishes that use ingredients that are abundant and are prepared in such a way that stretches what people already have. Using the bacon grease and the infused oil is a very old way of adding flavor to vegetables that don’t have a strong flavor to begin with, yet are hardy to grow in abundance. Just like the use of putting the torn rolls is an old way to reuse stale bread (like how French toast got its start). These kinds of dishes prove the resilience of a people, that just because we may not have a lot, we can make something good out of what little we have.  It reminded me of the end of the movie Ratatouille, where the food critic goes back to his childhood memories just from tasting the simplistic countryside dish the movie is named after. These are the dishes that bring us all together in the commonality of surviving whatever tough times befall us.

Next country: Angola

Resources:
Coques: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-coques
Trinxat and coques: http://www.rxx.co.il/TextPage_EN.aspx?ID=8620741

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