Trout on the Table

When it comes to the fish of the day, one of my favorites is trout. This beautiful, delicate and pink fish is so tender and easy to cook and tender that works with pretty much every ingredient.

Many of our customers keep ordering our pan-fried trout with bacon, tomato garnish and olive oil nested on a bed of sliced potatoes. This is been for quite a while in the menu at Alcala Restaurant and we keep bringing it to the menu just because our customers are so loyal to it.

We know trout is one of the healthiest oily fish, ­—rich on Omega-3 fatty oils and proteins.

Alcala Pan-Seared Trout

Alcala Pan-Seared Trout

Customers are often surprised to learn that actually eating trout results in weight loss while retaining lean muscle mass and feeling fuller after meals.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming fish two times a week and better yet, as a substitute for red meat.

Those fishing aficionados know that throwing the fly well it’s the key for a good caught and no less great river scouting.

You can prepare brown or rainbow trout either pan-fried or lightly cooked in the oven. Also lightly boiled and smoked goes well as a salad with a mayonnaise-like sauce; also with pasta, or with other strong ingredients as chorizo or bacon.

And don’t forget a great glass of white wine like Albariño.

Enjoy!!

Chef Jesus Martínez

Alcala Restaurant

 

Sardines, The Healthiest Food in the World

Alcala' sardines 2.0

Alcala Restaurant Sardines

One of my favorite fish has always been Sardines: easy to cook, rich on taste and, as it happens, the healthiest food in the world – full of omega-3 fatty acids, D and B vitamins, calcium and an array of minerals.

For all those reasons Sardines have always been a favorite food to many around the world ranging from less privileged communities to the elites, a real dish crossover among classes because of their great flavor and availability. And as they enjoy a sort of new renaissance today, they can be found in many New York restaurants as tapas, in Mediterranean salads or simply ‘grilled’ a-la-minute.

Sardines are found abundantly in the Atlantic, Pacific and the Mediterranean where they feed at the aquatic bottom solely of plankton for which they do not concentrate heavy metals such as mercury and other contaminants. Delicious and inexpensive, humans have been consuming them since ancient times. In Galicia, Spain, a land of fishermen and seafood cuisine, the tradition of sardines is as old as the first inhabitants of the region. From the small villages to the fish industry, tales about sardines seem to inhabit our popular culture as much as our culinary imagination. As one of the world leading producers today, —if not the biggest producer, Spain’s sardine canned industry expands through a long history that includes women workers preeminence and even surviving several ‘Sardine Wars.”

I can remember vividly myself as a young man many afternoons in Galicia hanging in the piers waiting for the arrival of the small fishing boats where the locals would buy the freshest sardines for the next day. The bounties of salty smells and silvery colors emanating from the sardine bags remain in my memories. My mother used to buy them in fairly good quantities that she would prepare and conserve for the whole season. Once at home she would clean them thoroughly first thing, — since Sardines tend to deteriorate quickly, and lay them boneless in fillets in a large pan. Then she’d marinate them in “escabeche” with salt, fennel and fresh herbs, vinegar, garlic and spices and fill the pan with olive oil. They will be covered and put away in the kitchen shelves for couple weeks. When the marinating process had ‘cooked’ the sardines the fillets were ready to eat as snacks in small tapas, or as part of other dishes.

Sardines are very easy to cook. Most restaurants offer them ‘grilled’ though they are really broiled which creates the same crispy skin texture (without actually falling apart) and rich smoky flavor. You can make a great dish with canned sardines marinated in salad  and pasta dishes or tapas. Fortunately for us there are plenty of sardine banks in the ocean and they are not becoming endangered species any time soon.

Buen provecho!!

Chef Jesus Martínez

Alcala Restaurant

 

Octopus Galician Style – Mediterranean Diet

Tapas Alcala octopus Galician Style

Alcala’s Octopus Galician Style Tapa

Octopus Galician-Style –  Mediterranean Diet in New York City

Preparing a good dish of octopus is not difficult but it certainly takes some skills. Being born in Galicia, the Northwestern region of Spain, ­—one of the most beautiful places in the world with one of the best seafood of the world, I can say Gallegos are a bit ‘obsessed’ about cooking our octopus. This fascinating, mysterious and highly intelligent creature of the deep is found in the warm and more temperate waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

Octopus is been known since ancient times for its remarkable appearance and its amazing defense mechanisms, like shooting a jet of ink to cover its retreat and changing the color of skin as if a flashing neon sign.

Growing up in Galicia I got my first culinary memories and flavors from the popular seafood houses called “Pulperías” specialized in serving Galician ‘Pulpo a Feria’. Today every tapas bar in Galicia features this dish of boiled, paprika-scented octopus with potatoes, a signature of Galician culinary specialties.

Octopus Galician Style - Mediterranean Dish

Alcala’s Octopus Galician Style Dish

As a chef, I find octopus a delicacy of flavor and texture when cooked correctly and prepared appropriately. Traditionally Galician-style octopus is cooked inside a copper cauldron and before actually boiling it the octopus is repeatedly dipped in and out of the boiling water, held by its head. The purpose of this operation is to curl the tips of the tentacles.

The secret is to cook the octopus very slowly in a pot of lively boiling water abundantly salted. Once in the boiling water, you want to simmer it for an hour, hour and a half for the octopus to become tender.  While the octopus is cooking, you can also bring along the sliced potatoes to boil for some fifteen-twenty minutes.  Potatoes can be prepared in big chunks as they do in the traditional pulperías of Galicia or in thing slices to nest the octopus medallions over if you prefer a more refined presentation. Also small beds of mash potato make for a great presentation and add another layer of texture.

When the octopus is cooked, remove from heat and keep covered for another good twenty minutes. The optimal cooking point is the one in which the octopus is not rubbery but not overcooked either, somewhere a middle perfect point similar to “al dente’. At that point, the octopus shrinks and its texture has become tender and magenta colored.

Now it’s ready for serving. Slice the octopus in medallions and place them over the potato slices. Then drizzle abundantly with a good olive oil, — for me, extra virgin Spanish olive oil is the best. Then sprinkle with Spanish paprika “pimentón” and place it in a big plate. Traditionally the dish is served on wooden plates, along with sliced boiled potatoes “cachelos” and bread.

It can be served as tapa or as a meal, either way a delicious dish full of nutrients. The dish is usually accompanied by young Galician Albariño white wine but any other good white wine will be fine.

At Alcala Restaurant you can find this delicious meal of the Mediterranean diet right in New York City.

Enjoy your octopus!!  Que aproveche!!

La puerta ‘del’ Alcalá en Manhattan

Screen shot 2013-07-26 at 1.06.54 AMSentir ‘morriña’ es cosa de españoles, no solo de gallegos españoles, sino de españoles. Por algo en todas las américas, seas de Murcia o A Coruña, siempre serás ‘un galleguito’. Pues en esto que me encontraba yo con sentimiento de lo mío y me tropecé con la Puerta ‘del’ Alcalá

Que un español pueda perderse en Manhattan entra dentro de lo probable, pero si esto sucede hay una manual seguro que terminará con su preocupación pues, es bien sabido, que un español piensa mejor después de un buen yantar y mejor beber. Hete aquí que un servidor, por más que pudiera parecer que me dedico a otras cosas, mi ocupación principal es contar lo que le sucede a a uno mismo o a otros, y esto que les cuento es lo que me pasó.

Acostumbrado como estaba a ir a la ONU, siempre con prisas; New York imprime carácter y es fácil que como todo el mundo va corriendo, uno termina haciendo lo propio por pura imitación y, así, cuando llevas media hora corriendo entre la Quinta y la Sexta, de la ‘fortyfour’ street a la ‘fortyseven’! Te paras un segundo y te preguntas ¿Pero por qué pijo corres, si tu no tienes prisa?.

Pues eso que, entre mi medio inglés y mi poco conocimiento de la ciudad me vi a las puertas de la ONU, desmayado como el perro del Lazarillo de Tormes y con la nostalgia de meterme entre pecho y espalda algún sopicaldo de los nuestros, una platica de cabrito… Y sin conocer mas que aquellos carteles de “Macdoanld’s” y otros tipos de ‘fastfood’ que es como se llama a eso del comer mal.

Dios…que mal se lleva eso de comer mal, y ahi me tiene usted entre sentimientos de ‘morriña’ y hambre. Salí de la ONU -y, oiga, lea con atención que no lo repito- como si tuviera un radar en mi despejada cabeza, salí por la puerta de visitantes a la izquierda hasta la calle 44, caminé unos pasos, como si fuera dirección a Grand Central Station…y vi un cartel “Alcalá” (Dios ¡No puede ser!) y debajo de Alcalá una puerta y un cartel que, aunque escrito en inglés, el hambre me hizo interpretar correctamente, ‘Spanish Restaurant’.

Les juro por mi vida que casi lloro, ya podía oler -en mi imaginación- los aromas de la cocina, caldo gallego, paella, pimientos del padrón, gazpacho, gambas al ajillo… ¿Sería verdad?.

Vaya amigos, era todo eso y mas. Que gozo para el paladar y para el alma, porque esta claro que por el estómago se nos conquista y los hermanos Martínez (Jesús, Benito y Juan Carlos), con unos veinte años en los EEUU, han conquistado a la superpotencia, y lo han hecho por el estómago. Estos tres gallegos han sabido demostrar que para hacer una buena cocina española no hacer falta ser el Bully o tener el nombre de restauradores de postín y mediáticos -que está bien, no digo yo que no- pero es que la sencillez de la cocina española, bien trabajada y con una buena materia prima, como en el Restaurante Alcalá de Manhattan, necesita de pocas estrellas, sean de Michelin o de la marca de ruedas que sea.

Se llaman Martínez, son de Galicia y recriados en distintos sitios de España y del Mundo, como corresponde a buenos gallegos. Pasen y pidan, gazpacho, gambas al ajillo, estofado de ternera, sardinas a la parrilla, paella, pimientos del poquito con bacalao, jamón…

No me pidan que les diga todo lo que comí en estos días en New York, pero la pena de estar lejos de España, trabajando, pensando en mi santa madre ingresada en el hospital por una maldita caída…todo en la cabeza dando vueltas. Creo que pocos como los españoles para sentir la necesidad de estar en donde tenemos que estar, pero estando en otro sitio diferente. Yo debía estar en Murcia (España) pero estaba en Manhattan (NY) EEUU. Gracias sean dadas al buen Dios, porque estos gallegos están en todo el mundo y tras la ‘puerta del Alcalá’ uno puede sentirse cerca de España.

(a todos los que viajéis a NY, os lo recomiendo de corazon: www.alcalarestaurant@gmail.com)

Mediterranean Diet Shown to Ward Off Heart Attack

food-pyramidAbout 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.

“Now along comes this group and does a gigantic study in Spain that says you can eat a nicely balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and olive oil and lower heart disease by 30 percent,” he said. “And you can actually enjoy life.”