España…Spain is a beautiful country unlike any on Earth. Its people, art, music and cuisine have emerged from a tumultuous, brutal history with wars, fascism, religious zealotry and ethnic cleansing. Even the Spanish love affair with pork has its roots in one of the country’s darkest periods. So we are informed by our host, Annie Sibonney; as From Spain With Love dedicated this entire episode to the almighty pig. Every food/travel show about Spain at the very least, mentions Jamon Ibérico de Bellota. This one is no different as ham is eaten in almost every single episode. Annie spent most of the episode in Almendral, Extremadura. This is where the Iberian hogs are raised free-range and fully organic. They don’t believe but have proven that happy pigs are very tasty pigs. In the old days, a family would kill one and spend the next couple days making sausages and curing cuts that would last for a year. Although Jamon Ibérico is now widely available in all its forms, Spaniards still get together for this activity.
At the Rocamador Hotel in the Dehesa Forest, Annie visited señor Carlos Tristancho and his then wife señora Lucía Dominguín, for an old fashioned pig festival – the Matanza. Our presenter has never shied away from hard work in this series. However, in this episode, everybody got busy. The Matanza is all about pork preparation, consumption and enjoyment. Work begins right after the slaughter. We saw loins about to be seasoned and wrapped. In addition, how Salchichón and Chorizo sausages are made. While the Matanza participats are busy, they are fortified with a bread dish called Migas Extremenas (Extremadura-Style Fried Breadcrumbs). It is eaten with every spoonful dipped in Café Con Leche (Sweet Coffee with Milk). Señor Carlos also prepared Papada Ibérica, which are uncooked, salted, thinly slices of the pig’s fatty jowl on bread.
When the labours were complete, it was time for the guests to indulge in delicious grilled dishes. Of course, all of them were pork. Señor Carlos butchered the tenderloin in a Tataki style. He didn’t season the pieces except for salt, before they went into an earthenware grill. Since the pork was so fresh, they also had Ibérico Sirloin Tartare, to snack on until the pork was ready to come out of the grill. Señor Carlos cut the Presa Ibérica, Redondo Ibérico, Tataki de Lomo Ibérico and Secreto Ibérico into very thin strips, before they were served. Two familiar faces to viewers were also at the Matanza. Señora Rita Trestansio from Preserves: Keeping the Flavor Alive. Also, chef Maria José San Román from Paella: Tradition in a Pan and Olive Oil: Liquid Gold.
No episode about pork would be complete without a Roast Suckling Pig. For that, our next stop was Casa Duque in Segovia. Fourth generation Maestro Asador Julián Duque greeted Annie and led her to the kitchen where Chef Carlos was to prepare Judiones De La Granja (White Bean Stew). This savoury dish would go along with the pig. That doesn’t mean it didn’t contain pork as well. Chorizo and Morcilla (Blood) Sausages, along with spiced slab bacon and a piece of Iberian ham were all slowly boiled in the stew. Then, the “King of Sevonian Cuisine” was ready to make its grand entrance or rather exit…from the oven. Asador Julián showed the universal sign that the pig was ready by cutting it with a plate. The crackling was so crispy that it cracked loudly. Annie and the master roaster thoroughly enjoyed their meal; while I’ve added Segovian Roast Suckling Pig to my list of must-have dishes.
San Sebastian, Basque Country
The final segment took us back to the first restaurant the series visited: Chef Andoni Aduriz’ restaurant, Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Basque Country. His time spent under the tutelage of Superchef Ferran Adrià was fairly evident as he prepared Ibérico Pig Tails with Crayfish. Any time a chef plates the dish with forceps, you’re probably in for a pretty spectacular dining experience. Indeed, chef Andoni delivered and left our host a bit lost for words. It took me a while to write this piece because this marks the end of the series’ first season. There were very few missteps along the way. We learned about Spanish customs and culture, as much as about its cuisine. They effectively conveyed the sumptuous food and vivacious people. At its heart, this series has been about love; and just like any well told love story, it makes us fall in love. We want to go to Spain. Eat there, drink there and just be there. We want to eat octopus on the Galician coast and Suquet on the Barcelonista. We want to walk along Granada’s ancient streets and a wild night in Madrid. Rioja…Girona…Atxondo…San Sebastian…España…Spain.
* Screenshots from Shaftesbury on YouTube