Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh Senorita

I'm a big fan of Nigella Lawson's.  Now I know that making fun of her, of the food porn aspect of her shows, of her marrying "up" after the untimely death of her first husband, of her low cut bosom showcasing shirts is the sophisticated thing to do these days, but I think it's all a bit unfair.  

At heart, the woman is a very good cook.  She's a home cook no doubt, but a talented one.  In fact, she could probably wipe the floor with 50% of the restaurant chefs in New York.  And if you watch her shows, particularly the very early ones, you can't help but be drawn to her.  Nigella's a bit on the shy, earthy side, which I think is probably what made her charming initially, she's clearly very smart, witty, and loves food without regard for whether it's fancy or trendy.  She just cooked what she and her family liked to eat.

Now I'll admit that her most recent shows have a different feel about them.  She's certainly more glam, she plays up the food porn thing to an annoying degree at times, and she's gotten a bit more involved with the five minute meal thing than I would like.  But underneath it all I still admire her attitude, towards life generally and towards food, and think that for the most part her recipes are good (to my mind Forever Summer and Nigella Express did not quite live up to the standards of her other books, but that standard is quite high).

At her best, Nigella gives us all the chance to do some real, but doable, even potentially weeknight, cooking.  Her Spanish Stew recipe out of my favorite of her books, How to Eat, epitomizes all of the qualities that made people respond to her and her food in the first place.  It's satisfying and feels like quite a major meal, but the ingredients are easily procured and the prep time is minimal.  In fact, it's so easy that I often make it for myself if I'm home on my own for the night.

You simply gather potatoes (you can see below that I was experimenting with a purple peruvian potato the other day), chorizo, onions, garlic and sherry, and you're all set to go.

And a half hour or so later out comes this comforting, fabulously fragrant dish.  In fact it's so satisfying, that when I ended up splitting what was meant to be a dinner for one with Marissa when she stopped by for a glass of wine the other night (conveniently enough, just when my stew was coming out of the oven), I felt totally sated by my half portion.  It's one of those things that just clicks.  

For your cold weather enjoyment, I've provided the recipe.  Just a quick note about it though.  A lot of the measurements here are based more on the size of the baking dish you'll be using than anything.  12 oz. of potatoes and 4 oz of chorizo just happen to fit in my dish of choice, and it's a ratio of meat to potato that I like.  But feel free to change these quantities as you see fit, along with the sherry and onion.  It's a pretty forgiving dish.

Spanish Stew
Adapted from How to Eat by Nigella Lawson

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
4 oz. semidried chorizo (approximately one sausage, I like the picante house brand from Despana)
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup of dry sherry (I use Wisdom & Warter's Pale Dry (Fino) Sherry from Sherry-Lehman for cooking, at $8.50 a bottle it really can't be beat)
12 oz. potatoes, cut into halves or quarters, depending on the size of the potatoes (I like very small yellow waxy potatoes like Yukon Gold)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and put water in a kettle on to boil.

Put an oven proof  shallow baking dish (like a gratin dish or a round terra cotta dish) over medium low heat, and heat olive oil in the pan.  Add onions and saute for about five minutes, until onions are softened and translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.  Add the chorizo and bay leaf, and cook just until chorizo begins to release a bit of its fat.  Then add the sherry and stir to loosen any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add potatoes, stir and add enough of the boiling water to cover the potatoes (don't worry about the odd corner poking out of the water).  Simmer on the stove for 10 minutes.  Taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste.

Put the dish in the oven, uncovered, and cook for 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are tender.  Serve in bowls with crusty bread (vital for sopping up the lovely juices).  Serves 1.  

No comments:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin