Week 4: Andorra
Andorra’s cuisine is built around the sorts of things that go well in its high mountainous environment: meat and winter-hardy vegetables in stews. In other words, exactly the wrong thing for a humid New York summer. But the weather tried its best to comply: it’s been raining sheets all day.
Precious little of neighboring France or Spain’s spectacular culinary traditions rubbed off on mountain-ringed Andorra over the centuries. The food is, dare I say it, pretty bland: you won’t find any seasoning beyond salt and pepper in these recipes. The stew didn’t even have a bay leaf.
Not surprisingly, then, it’s little wonder I had a tough time finding good recipes for real Andorran food. My journeys took me to two primary places: Andorra’s tourism website, and the sites of others who felt compelled to cook Andorran food, including two others who are doing their own alphabetical gastronomical world joints. So, word up to My Hungry Tum and Global Table Adventure!
What the food lacked in pizzaz, the company made up for in preciousness: our dear friends Jens and Molly, who moved away to Portland last year, were back in town and came to dinner. We also enjoyed the company of Padraig, Sophie, Mike, Kate, and Gina.
Pa de Pagès amb Tomàquet | Rustic loaf rubbed with tomato and garlic | Recipe (in Spanish)
I wanted to learn what kind of bread they eat in Andorra, which took me nowhere. So I searched for “Catalan bread,” since Andorra shares a language and a culture with Catalonia so I figured that’d be close enough. But, all you get when searching for that is Pa amb Tomàquet, the famous tomato-rubbed bread. Nice, and yummy, but what do they actually rub that tomato on? A search for [catalan bread -tomato] yielded the answer: Pa de Pagès. I was thrilled to learn that it’s a sort of sourdough with a “mother dough” that can be made overnight, and doesn’t rely on spontaneous environmental yeast. (Given our proximity to the Gowanus Canal and a major expressway, I shudder to think of what that would be.)
As you can see, the bread turned out quite beautifully, a shocker given that I used the recipe in Spanish and converted all the weights to volume. It didn’t get as crunchy on the crust as I’d have liked, but that’s probably because I didn’t have the wooden banetón to bake it in and had to make do with what I had. But who really cares, because once rubbed with garlic and tomato and drizzled with olive oil, it made quite a nice appetizer.
How lucky I am to be a few minutes’ bike ride from a great butcher, because this recipe put them through their paces. Veal bones? Black pudding? Ham hocks? No problem! In terms of calorie-loading, it’s a no-holds-barred stew, with at least four different animals (depending on what went into the sausages) and three grains (or four, if you include beans). But what a lost opportunity for flavor! How I wish I could have roasted the veal bones to bring out their flavor, or drop in a bouquet garni to freshen up the stock. Oh well. It still turned out ok, although all the meat was, strangely, the same color pink. Apparently every church in Andorra cooks up a huge pot of this on some saint’s day in January, and gives it out to all comers, so keep that in mind if you’re ever in the area.
Trinxat | Cabbage and potato pancake | Recipe
I definitely didn’t do this one very well, but even still I wonder how much potential it has. Essentially, boil the cabbage and potato into submission, mash ’em up, fry up a bit of fatty pork, and make big ol’ pancakes out of them. I’ve never been good at things that fill a whole pan and require flipping (all my attempts at omelets magically become scrambles toward the end), and as you can see by the mounding mess, this was no exception. I guess the dish was OK, since most of it got eaten, but it could have done with some more spices and maybe an egg.
Espinacs amb Panses i Pinyons | Spinach with raising and pine nuts | Recipe
I’ve enjoyed this dish ever since I first tasted it in Seville. Really easy, and you get a lot of flavor out of just three ingredients. Try it sometime soon, it’s a fun alternative to yet another veggie sauteed with garlic.
Coques amb Pinyons | Pine nut pastry | Recipe
Sugar, butter, eggs, what’s not to like? It even looks good! Eh. Maybe I messed it up, maybe I didn’t cook it long enough, maybe I messed up the weight conversion on the sugar. I saw so many breathless articles of excitement over this Iberian take on pizza, which is done both sweet and savory, but in the end of the day it was fine but nothing great. Might have the last bit for breakfast.
Oh, it was sure nice to have a meal that goes with wine! Andorran wine is either non-existent or not available in the US, so we went for some nice Spanish reds instead. Bierzo is hundreds of miles away from Andorra, but their fruity and deep reds go nicely with a meaty stew. That went along a bit better than our attempt to find Catalan music on Spotify, which was pretty much either brass bands or covers of American/English pop tunes.
Thanks to the rain, this was our first indoor meal, which was a bit of a challenge, but thankfully our couch is sectional so we just moved the chaise part out of the way to expand the table. And now we know that for indoor meals, our limit is pretty solid at a total of nine.
Next is we head a bit under 4,000 miles south to Angola. Should be quite the contrast!