Godello, Hake, Ibérico, and Arzak

Sounds like a nice combination, doesn’t it? Several years ago, when I was first becoming familiar with Spanish wines, I serendipitously ended up at a weekend winery event in a beautiful middle-of-nowhere place tucked into the mountain above Sil valley in Valdeorras, Galicia in northwestern Spain.

I was at ValdeSil winery in Portela, a small enclave above O Barco known for its world-class godello elaborations. Galicia is more often than not synonymous with albariño that strikes that wonderful balance of acidity, alcohol (around 13.5% abv, rather high for a white wine) and rich mouthfeel of peach and honeysuckle. But while albariño is fruit and acidity, godello is minerality and structure with plenty of finesse and delicate mouthfuls of sea air.

Pezas da Portela, ValdeSil winery, Valdeorras, Spain. The ValdeSil winery is one of the most prominent godello (as well as an outstanding mencía) producers.

Pezas da Portela, ValdeSil, Valdeorras, Spain. The ValdeSil winery is one of the most prominent godello (as well as an outstanding mencía) producers.

When we slept at the family house I remember how refreshing the air was compared to the city. It was warm during the day and cold at night, even in summer. The moisture in the old stone buildings crept out in the form of mist when the sun shone and mixed with the faint ocean smells coming down the valley; it was the same way the wine went down, tasting like the place smelled.

pezas back label

Family progenitor José Ramón Goyoso planted godello in 1885 and the current project now counts on 11 distinct ‘pezas’ on mostly slate slopes.

Wine paired: Pezas da Portela, godello, Valdesil, Vilamartin de ValdeorrasHand-picked in 20 kg crates and hand sorted. A short skin-contact maceration. Six months in new oak. No malolactic fermentation. 14% abv. Straw-yellow color, popcorn kernel, ripe green fruit, marine salinity, good acidity, long finish.

I prepared this recipe at home. It is inspired by Juan Mari Arzak of the eponymous Michelin, three-star restaurant. Fresh hake, clams and a few small prawns in a frothy salsa verde with a crispy bellota ham slice over potatoes went beautifully with the salinity of the godello and the acidity and complexity on the long finish.

Hake on sale

Hake on sale

The fishmonger showing the freshness of fish according to the brillance of the red interior.

The fishmonger showing the freshness of fish according to the brillance of the red interior.

Hake preparation at fish market

Expert hake preparation at fish market by total Daniel Boulud lookalike.

Cooking level: Easy with a little finesse

Time: Prep: 20 minutes

Cooking: 30 minutes (or slightly more if you wanted a thicker, more reduced sauce and/or you choose to make a basic fish stock from spine and head)

For this recipe, you will need:

-For the hake in sauce-

4 200g loins of steaky white fish with skin. This recipe calls for merluza (hake), but cod or halibut would work great as well

4 cloves of garlic

2 heaping spoonfuls of italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

12 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil

1 glass of cold water


-For the sautéed clams and vinaigrette-

250g of fresh (not 24-hour!) clams

4 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil

spoonful of onion, finely chopped

2 spoonfuls of cider vinegar

1 small dried cayenne chili pepper

-For the hake in sauce-

Clean the loins, better with a cloth. Season them. Put a pan on the stovetop wide enough to fit all the loins. Crowding a pan is the worst for even cooking. Simmer garlic, parsley and oil. Before the garlic starts to brown add the hake loins skin side up. Add glass of water (for this I diverted from Arzak version and ladled in a previously made fish stock from spine and head. It made the sauce less translucent, but possibly more flavorful and more body.). Keep cooking for about 3 minutes (depending on desired thickness), shaking the pan to pick up the sauce. Then turn over the loins and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Season. Before dishing you should make sure that the sauce is well blended, if not, take the spines off the head (if you did not make optional fish stock), moving the pan sauce and reducing on med-high heat. I diverted from Arzak’s recipes one last time and squeezed one half of a lemon in the pan and then used a stick blender to make the sauce smoother (after I had added fish stock and let it reduce for 20 minutes).

Hake in sauteed garlic and parsley before adding fish broth.

Hake in sautéed garlic and parsley before adding fish stock.

ladling stock

Ladling fish stock into pan of sautéed garlic and fish juices

Stick blending the sauce with fish stock (not part of Arzak's plan

Stick blending the sauce with fish stock (not part of Arzak’s plan). The stick emulsified it into a whiter sauce than I wanted, but it was frothy and well mixed. Salsa blanca anyone?

-For the sautéed clams and vinaigrette-

Take a bowl, a couple of hours before, and place the clams in salted water to loosen sand trapped in clams. Rinse well. Put a pan with olive oil and the pepper (ground between your fingers) over high heat. Check clams and saute pan moving well. As soon as they open, remove them. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil , vinegar, fresh garlic, onion and salt. Raise heat briefly, but do not boil. Remove the shells of clams (I kept a few on) and season your meat with the warm vinaigrette.

Parsley and ground cayenne pepper in olive oil

Parsley and ground cayenne pepper in olive oil

–For the ham crisp and ham ‘dust’-

Cut the ham into thin slices . Put them on a tray and enter the oven at 200 C degrees for 10 minutes ( until very crispy and toasted ). Then crush one slice in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder until reduced to fine powder. We broke the other toasted slice into pieces and used as garnish. It looks very professional and is actually quite easy.

Two slices San Jamón bellota ham laid out carefully on oven tray

Two slices San Jamón bellota ham laid out carefully on oven tray

Results of ham after being between two sheet pans at 300 F for 10 minutes

Results of ham after being between two sheet pans at 350F/175C for 10 minutes

It was not included in Arzak’s recipe, but I also added some slow-cooked potatoes that we first fried in olive oil for about 3 minutes each side on medium-high heat, and then added the rest of the fish stock and cooked on a low simmer until fork-tender. Do not let boil as the potatoes will break up.

Potatoes frying in extra virgin olive oil

Potatoes frying in extra virgin olive oil

The dish can be prepared in a full meal portion or in a smaller, tapas-style size.

Tapa of hake with clams in salsa verde and crisp bellota ham

Tapa of hake with clams in salsa verde and crisp bellota ham and ham dust

Hake on blue plate

Hake on blue plate. Prawns were added last minute as a gift from the fishmonger.


Slow Food Saturday: Braised Chicken with Wild Mushrooms

fry (food) lightly and then stew it slowly in a closed container.

One of the things I most love about Saturdays in September are long cook times.

Summer menus where I live are light and vegetable based with lots and lots of gazpacho. It is too hot to eat anything else. But the weather changes quickly here in Ribera del Duero and the first autumn storms came this past week. I opened the windows, listened to the rain and thought about Oregon. Sigh.

As the seconds between thunder and lightning became greater and the storm rolled on, a sat in bed thinking about how I’d achieve the season’s first chicken braise. Root vegetables? Not at market yet. With kale? acelga (super leafy green)? Miguel wouldn’t go for it. We got some dried wild mushrooms the other day, a combination of chanterelle, porcini and boletus. Boom.

A dusted off my handmade earthenware dish that a bought in Pereruela. When I bought it the woman told me the 24-hour treatment process that I had to subject it to before it could ever be used. “Or else it might explode,” she said. Exploding earthenware, okay.  It weighs exactly 7.3 pounds. That’s a lot of mud.

Every home cook should have a nice braised meat recipe in their repertoire. The key for me is that you cannot be afraid of hot oil and you must have good ventilation in the kitchen, ’cause shit’s about to get cray-cray.

Braised Chicken and mushrooms with potatoes, carrots and onions (for two).

You’ll need: chicken thighs with skin, carrots, an onion, a large potato or two, garlic, expensive or homemade vegetable or chicken stock, salt, pepper, olive oil, light cream, dried mushrooms reconstituted

1. Take out a good frying pan and coat it excitedly with olive oil. Sometimes I add a vegetable oil too so it can withstand the high cooking temp. In this case I only had extra virgin olive oil. Put heat on med-high.

2. Take 2-3 cloves of garlic and smash them enthusiastically several times on the cutting board. Remove peel. Add to pan.

3. Butter bottom of earthenware. It is not necessary, but I ran all week and wanted some richness in my braise.

4. Mind sizzling garlic. Turn heat down if garlic starts to brown too quickly. I tilt pan a few times to cover garlic with oil and fry more thoroughly. DO NOT LET GARLIC BURN. If this happens it will make oil too bitter to use and you’ll have to throw it all out and start again.

5. Wash chicken thighs under cold water. Cut off excess fat, leaving flap over top side intact. Pat dry. No water should remain. It will make the next step too gooey.

6. In a bowl, add flour a couple generous helpings of sea salt and cracked pepper. I dashed in a bit of herbes de provence. Don’t judge. Being in Spain I could have added some sweet or smoked paprika. Next time?

7. Dredge chicken through dry mixture and vigorously shake any rebellious clumps.

8. Remove garlic that should by now be toasty and brown. Add chicken in batches. DO NOT CROWD PAN. There is not rush–it’s Saturday, remember?!

9. The sound coming from the pan should be a loud, ferocious sizzle. Do not be like me when I started cooking and step away from the pan because the hot oil is attacking you. Resist urge to turn heat down unless it is burning. Open the windows if possible.

10. Take one large potato. We don’t live in the United States of Whole Foods where there are 20 kinds of organic potatoes. Today at the farmers market there were two: the little red ones and ones resembling Russets. I chose a large Russet. If you like another baking potato, go ahead. Peel, slice about the width of three quarters put together. Arrange in buttered earthenware.

11. Check chicken. If starting to get crispy brown on one side, turn. You may need to add more oil at this point.

12. Peel carrots and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Same with a yellow onion.

13. In a medium bowl add one carton of expensive chicken stock (don’t buy the cheap stuff if you are going through all this effort) or homemade and a little carton (about one cup) of light cream. Roughly chop the rehydrated mushrooms and add to bowl. Stir.

14. By now the chicken should be browned on both sides. Arrange on top of potatoes. Ladle 3/4 of the stock mix over the chicken. It should reach about halfway up the chicken. Push the mushrooms into the liquid or else they will get hard while cooking. I also chopped up the previously fried, reserved garlic and threw it in.

15. Cover with foil. Puncture foil with a few holes. Slip into preheated oven at 200 celsius/390 fahrenheit. That is really hot. I have a new oven and I am not sure about the accuracy of the temp yet. But I chekced on it every 10 minutes toward the end. I think it was in there about one hour and 20 minutes total. Poke a carrot to see if it is done. If it is tender, take out the earthenware. Let it sit for 20 minutes at least. It will continue to cook. Plate when ready and ladle the juices over the chicken.

15. I also roasted some zucchini, onions and leeks and pureed it with the other 1/4 of the stock liquid for a first-course soup.

I had a bottle of Sancerre and a little bit of Chablis laying around. I am more a fan of Chablis and the high acid cut nicely through the heartiness of the sauce. The grassiness and herbaceousness of the sauvignon blanc complemented the baked veggies. A light-bodied red could have been nice as a substitute. You really can’t go wrong. Just don’t be afraid of the hot, splattering oil. Maybe have a glass while turning the chicken.


Sancerre and braised chicken

Sancerre and braised chicken

Just out of the oven

Just out of the oven


Set on new, hand-painted earthenware plates

Set on new, hand-painted earthenware plates


If you understand it, your Spanish is top notch. If you agree, even cooler :)

Eloquent Spanish “proverb”. If you understand it, your Spanish is top notch. If you agree, alright, alright.