Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Eating (and drinking) my way through Spain Part 2 -- Decimating the pig population from Madrid to Castilla y Leon

One of the culinary legacies (ex) Mother Spain left us is the love for pork.  Pork is the most 
popular meat in Spain and is a main ingredient in many Spanish dishes from the everyday 
chuletas de cerdo to the special cochinillo, not to mention the various kinds of chorizos and 
salamis and the glorious jamon iberico.  
On this trip,  I indulged my love of all things porcine -- thus single handedly contributing to 
the decrease of the Spanish pig population.  

After the Camino, Madrid was our base for the next six days.  On my first night in Madrid, I 
opted for a light meal of  tapas -- jamon with tortilla patata, angulas and crayfish with salmon.

The next day we travelled to Alba de Tormes to visit the church where Sta. Teresa de Avila 
is buried. I am sure it was through her divine intercession that we found this restaurant aptly 
called Restaurante De La Santa.

Do you see that leg of ham hanging on the bar?  Notice that it has a black tag which means that
it is from the purebred, black hoofed Iberico pig, fattened on a diet of bellota or acorns as it
grazes freely in the orchards and meadows.
A black tag on your jamon  means that this is El Pig Supremo, the Everest of hams, the pot of pork
at the end of the rainbow.(Yes, I get pretty excited about pork).
Lower grades of jamon carry red or green tags and jamon without a tag is listed as just plain jamon serrano.

The kind and gracious waiter carved a few slices  and arranged them appetisingly in a cocktail glass. Dark red like the colour of rubies -- and just as precious, I looked at the jamon iberico with 
reverence.  Then I made sure this pig did not die in vain.  
Muy delicioso, almost nutty in taste (thank you, bellotas) with wonderful creamy fat that just melted in the mouth.  Señor Pig, muchas gracias!

For our lunch, Jay and I  shared an order of the most divine fried pork hocks that we had ever tasted.  The meat was deep fried yet tender and moist.  The skin was crisp but dissolved upon entering my mouth.  I didn't even notice the excellent fried potatoes that came with it.
Jay who is a man of few words and not easily impressed,  declared it sublime.

There are large murals of both Sta. Teresas on the walls.  All in all, lunch at De La Santa was
truly a heavenly experience.

After that more than satisfying lunch it was back to Madrid  where olives and a glass of cerveza seemed just about right for dinner.

Who am I kidding?  We actually had paella as the main course.

Would you travel 124 kilometres for pork?  I would!  From Madrid, we drove to the hillside town 
of Pedraza de la Siera, one of the prettiest small towns in Spain.  High on the hills near Segovia
it has a population of less than 500 on weekdays but this more than quintuples on week-ends when people come from all over to sample Pedraza's specialty -- roast meats.

We had lunch in a place that came highly recommended.  El Soportal claims to be the place
for cochinillo and cordero asado, as it states on this excellent bottle of Rioja red.

Taking the cue from our bottle of wine,  we had a cazuela of the house specialty, cochinillo asado.  
See the crackling skin on this baby (pig) -- the cochinillo was tender, moist with its own juices 
and just beyond delicious.

When eating a lot of meat, I need my cerveza.  I also enjoyed this  light, clean and fruity Vinadrian Rioja.

The other specialty that El Soportal is known for is cordero lechal asado or milk fed lamb
slow cooked in a wood burning oven.  The slow cooking process seals in all the juices and
flavours of the meat.

 After demolishing the cazuelas of cordero and cochinillo, time for an assortment of digestifs.
The unmarked bottle on the right contained a delicious creamy drink not unlike Bailey's.

 It was almost 5 p.m. when we finished our lunch at El Soportal.   The square in front of the
restaurant was practically empty.  Such a lovely Spanish afternoon -- after cochinillo and vino,
what is there left to do but have a siesta.

More pig tales to come ... but for now,  hasta luego!  

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