The Spanish American chef shares some of his finest dishes, from open-faced crab empanadas to cauliflower fritters.
Food & Wine
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Duck Confit Tacos
"If Mexico hadn't shared its chiles with China, would we have spicy Chinese food?" asks chef José Andrés. His Vegas spot, China Poblano, with dishes like these Asian duck tacos, shows how more and more chefs are combining seemingly unrelated cuisines. Store-bought confit duck legs make these tacos really easy. Another shortcut: crisping the skin in a microwave.
At Jaleo, the delightful Spanish restaurant in Washington, DC, José Andrés prepares this satisfying rice dish with lots of seafood, including hard-to-find cuttlefish, and a house-made fish stock. Use squid in place of the cuttlefish, and skip the fish stock in favor of bottled clam broth from the supermarket.
Instead of using butter, chef José Andrés prefers to add richness with olive oil and Manchego cheese. His tip: "Add the olive oil slowly to the potatoes because if you dump it in all at once, you’ll get streaks of oil."
José Andrés says: "I love America! Without a doubt, one of my favorite American ingredients is blue crabs, a true delicacy! And a great value, I think." This recipe is his twist on the traditional Basque txangurro (crab simmered with tomato), crossed with a Galician empanada (a savory pie).
For José Andrés, Christmas always means clementines, the easy-to-peel citrus with a sweet, apricot-like taste. He pairs them with tart grapefruit in a juicy, refreshing winter salad flavored with a bit of saffron—a common Spanish ingredient.
Pork and fruit is a classic pairing around the world, but this dish gets a particularly Catalan flavor from the combination of dried fruit and butifarra (a Catalan cured pork sausage) in the stuffing. The stuffing cooks inside the roast, which gives it a deep, marvelously porky flavor.
To create these wonderful tapas, José Andrés makes a batter with crunchy nubs of chopped cauliflower florets, fries spoonfuls in a skillet and then tops the fritters with yogurt sauce and a dollop of caviar.
Rossejat de fideos, a traditional seafood dish of Spain's Catalonia region, resembles paella but instead of rice, it calls for fideos, fine vermicelli-like pasta. Here, the pasta browns in hot oil until toasty, then cooks slowly in a deliciously rich stock, made with the lobster shells, soaking up all the flavor.
Removing seeds from a pomegranate can seem tricky. "Don’t worry, it is easy!" José Andrés says. His method: Cut the pomegranate in half across the middle, not through the stem; then wrap each half in cheesecloth and, holding it over a large bowl, hit it hard with a spoon or rolling pin. "Just hit it! Really hit it!" Andrés urges. Then open up the bundle and pick out the seeds, which should practically pop out.
The leek, like its relatives onion and garlic, is generally used to flavor other foods. José Andrés feels this is a mistake. "Listen to me: Leek is a vegetable," he says. "It can be the center of a dish." Here, he cooks leeks until tender, then pairs them with trumpet mushrooms for a sensational side dish.
Olives Stuffed with Almonds, Anchovies and Peppers
"For me there is no better tapa than a really good stuffed olive," José Andrés says. He strongly recommends homemade stuffed olives over the store-bought kind, which he proclaims are "usually terrible." Plus, if you stuff them yourself, you’ve got a million options: "If you love almonds, use good marcona almonds. If you love anchovy, use good Spanish anchovies. If you love peppers, use peppers; I like the wood-roasted piquillo peppers from Navarra. Or if you are like me, you use all three."
One of José Andrés’s favorite American sweets is pecan pie. "We love nuts in Spain too, but I confess I find pecan pie a little heavy. This version is my attempt to lighten it up a little." This twist was inspired by tocino de cielo, a rich, eggy cousin of flan.