Classic Spanish Cooking: Recipes for Mastering the Spanish Kitchen by Elisabeth Luard
I bought this book on impulse because the book itself is so tactilely and visually pleasing. It is a thick, squat book, only 5" by 7" and 2" thick; filled with adorable illustrations; with cardstock-weight pages; and with two grosgrain ribbon markers, one orange and one brown. I wanted to eat the book itself, it was so pleasing to me.
As it turns out, it is also a great little workhorse of a cookbook. It features 100 basic Spanish recipes, which is enough to liven up a few daily meals without being overwhelmed. The idea is to provide the "core recipes that are the building blocks for traditional Spanish fare." That is all I need.
The book also features Luard's charming little side essays about the culture and cuisine of Spain, where she lived with her family for many years. She introduces most of the recipes with a general description and a few hints about the dish or how to serve it.
For example, her recipe for braised lamb shanks (calderera de piernas de cordero) advises that you can leave it in a low oven, tightly covered, overnight and "it will come to no harm." That is really all I ask for when it comes to home cooking.
BRAISED LAMB SHANKS FOR FOUR
4 lamb shanks
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon diced serrano ham or lean bacon
8 oz. small shallots or baby onions
1 large carrot, "chunked"
1 lb ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and diced
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed with a little salt
1-2 rosemary sprigs
1-2 thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, crushed
1 generous glass of dry sherry or white wine (about 3/4 cup)
1. Wipe the lamb and season with salt. Preheat the oven to 300F.
2. Heat the oil in a roomy flameproof earthenware or enamel casserole that will just accomodate the lamb shanks in a single layer. Brown the meat lightly, turning to sear on all sides. Settle the shanks bone-end upwards.
3. Add the remaining ingredients, packing them around the sides of the casserole. Bring all to a boil, cover tightly (seam with a layer of foil, shiny side downwards, if you're uncertain about the fit) and transfer to the oven.
4. Allow to cook gently for at least 3 hours -- longer if that's more convenient-- without unsealing, unless your nose and ears tell you that the meat is beginning to fry, when you'll need to add a splash of water. The meat should be tender enough to eat with a spoon and the sauce reduced to a thick syrupy slick -- very delicious indeed.