Esqueixada

Bacalao—salt cod—is a staple of traditional Catalan cooking, used in everything from cold starters to hot main dishes. This recipe for bacalao salad is adapted from Marimar Torres’s Catalan Country Kitchen.

Ingredients:

1 pound salt cod
1 small seasonal pepper (red, yellow, or green)
1/2 large thinly sliced red onion
1 large sliced tomato
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves (minced)
Salt
Fresh-ground black pepper

Directions:

Leach salt from salt cod in thick “middle” fillets by soaking in cold water for two days, changing water five to six times. Drain and press out remaining water.  Shred cod by hand into small strips and toss in a bowl with the peppers (seeded and sliced in rings), sliced red onion, and sliced tomato. Top with dressing made by combining extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and fresh-ground black pepper to taste.

Servings: Serves six to eight

Roast Duck and Prunes

This festive dish, courtesy of Tara Stevens, writer, Barcelona Metropolitan, is a great alternative to the traditional Christmas dinner.

Ingredients:

2 large duck breasts
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion
1 carrot
2 garlic cloves
Butter
1 bay leaf
Sprig of thyme
Handful of pine nuts
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup Spanish brandy
12 whole dried prunes (unpitted)

Directions:
Prick the skin of duck breasts, season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven 450ºF (230ºC) skin side up for 30 to 45 minutes.

Finely chop onion, carrot, and garlic cloves. Sauté in a large pan in butter or duck fat, with bay leaf, thyme, pine nuts, and cinnamon stick until golden and melted. Add chicken stock, red wine, and Spanish brandy. Bring to simmer, add dried prunes, and reduce liquid by half, seasoning to taste.

Add duck breasts and juices (but not the fat) to the pan, and simmer gently for ten minutes. Remove and cut into quarter-inch slices for serving. Distribute prunes over duck, pour liquid on top, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and torn parsley.

Servings: Serves four

Crema Catalana

This typical local dessert is surprisingly easy to make.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
Zest of half a lemon
4 fresh egg yolks
3/4 cup caster sugar
4 teaspoons brown sugar

Heat (don’t boil) milk with cinnamon stick and lemon zest.

Beat together egg yolks and caster sugar until creamy. Remove cinnamon stick and slowly add eggs to milk to form a thick, creamy custard. Remove from heat immediately and pour the custard into four ramekins or small terra-cotta dishes.

Cook and refrigerate for two to three hours. Just before serving, sprinkle a teaspoonful of brown sugar over the top of each and broil until sugar bubbles and caramelizes.

Servings: Serves four

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