Marcona almonds, which are grown along Spain's Mediterranean coast, are rounder, richer, and sweeter than the typical American almond. These blanched almonds are fried or toasted in olive oil.
Pour olive oil to a depth of 1 inch into a deep frying pan and heat over medium heat until hot. To test if the oil is ready, drop in 1 almond; it should sizzle.
Add the almonds, a handful at a time, and fry until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, and then sprinkle with coarse sea salt (and with a pinch of cayenne pepper or hot paprika if you like) and serve warm.
Alternatively, toast the blanched almonds in a 350ºF oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes, season the same way and serve warm.
"Fierce" potatoes are a spicy tapas–bar favorite. Eat them with a spicy tomato sauce or with alioli for dipping.
Olive oil for frying
1 pound potatoes such as red or white creamer, Bintje, Fingerling, or small Yukon Gold, cut into 1–inch pieces
1 tablespoon all–purpose flour
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ cup beef broth
2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons tomato sauce or puree
Pour the oil to a depth of about 1 inch into a deep frying pan and heat over medium heat until hot. Add the potatoes (they should be immersed in the oil; add more oil if needed to cover), reduce the heat to low, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Raise the heat to medium and continue to cook until the potatoes are browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a cazuela and keep warm.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil from the pan and return the pan to low heat. Add the flour and paprika and stir over low heat for a few minutes until a smooth paste forms. Slowly pour in the broth while stirring constantly. Add the vinegar and pepper flakes and simmer for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Stir in the tomato sauce, and then taste and adjust the seasoning. Some like the sauce very hot.
Pour the sauce over the potatoes and serve warm. Or, pour the sauce into a small ramekin, spear the potatoes with toothpicks, and serve the sauce alongside for dipping.
Espinicas con Pasas y Pinones
Dishes with raisins and pine nuts originate from Catalonia and Andalusia.
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 teaspoons for the nuts (optional)
1 small onion, chopped (optional), or 3 ounces Serrano ham, minced (optional)
2 pounds spinach, tough stems removed and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a bowl, combine the raisins with hot water to cover and set aside to plump for 30 minutes.
In a small, dry frying pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until fragrant and golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour onto a plate to cool. (Alternatively, toast in a 350ºF oven for about 8 minutes.) Or, if you prefer the flavor of sautéed pine nuts, heat a little oil in the frying pan over medium heat, add the nuts, sauté until golden and fragrant, and then transfer to the plate with a slotted spoon.
In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the onion or ham, if using, and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened and translucent or the ham is lightly colored, about 10 minutes for the onion and 5 minutes for the ham. Add the spinach with just the rinsing water clinging to its leaves and cook, turning and stirring constantly with tongs, until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes.
Drain the raisins and add to the pan along with the pine nuts. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and serve warm.
Croquetas de Jamon y Queso
Ham and Cheese Croquettes
3 cups whole milk
½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
½ cup minced onion (optional)
2/3 cup all–purpose flour
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups finely diced full–flavored cheese such as Manchego, Mahón, or Gruyère (5 to 6 ounces)
½ cup chopped serrano ham, chopped (2 to 3 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat–leaf parsley or other herb of choice (optional)
About 1 cup all–purpose flour
2 large eggs
About 1 cup fine dried bread crumbs
Canola or peanut oil for deep–frying
To make the croquette base, in a saucepan, bring the milk just to a simmer over medium heat and remove from the heat. While the milk is heating, in another saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, stir well to combine, and cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes. A very thick, smooth paste will form. Gradually add the hot milk to the flour paste while stirring constantly. Then continue to cook, stirring constantly, until a very thick béchamel sauce forms, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat and fold in the cheese, ham, and parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Oil a 9–inch square pan. Pour or spoon the croquette base into it and spread it out to cool. (You can pat it down with your hands, use a rubber spatula, or the back of a spoon.) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours.
To assemble and fry the croquettes, place 1 large or 2 small racks on a baking sheet, or line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place on a work surface. Arrange 3 shallow bowls near the baking sheet. Put the flour in 1 bowl, lightly beat the eggs with 2 tablespoons water in the second bowl, and put the bread crumbs in the third bowl. Dip a tablespoon in cold water and scoop up some of the croquette mixture. With wet hands, roll it into a 1 ½ –inch ball or into the traditional torpedo shape, about 2 inches long. Drop it into the flour, roll it around, and shake off the excess. Then dip it into the eggs, allowing the excess egg to drip off, and finally drop it into the bread crumbs, again rolling to coat and shaking off the excess crumbs. Set on the rack or lined pan. Repeat until all of the croquette mixture is used up. Refrigerate the croquettes until well chilled, about 2 hours.
Pour the oil to a depth of 3 inches into a deep, heavy saucepan and heat to 360ºF on a deep–frying thermometer. Carefully slip a few croquettes into the hot oil and fry until golden, about 3 minutes. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to an ovenproof platter lined with paper towels to drain, and keep batches of the croquettes warm in a low oven until all of the croquettes are fried.
Arrange the croquettes on a warmed platter and serve at once.