So, I am now ending my second day in Palafrugell. The man who hired my husband to come here is a native Catalonian and couldn’t be more gracious. So far, he has taken us out to dinner and cooked for us twice. I told him that he can have a second career as a chef along with marketing his cutting edge video editing software.
When we arrived on Sunday night, Alejandro took us out to a local restaurant called L’Arc, where we had French onion soup and I had lovely duck in mustard sauce with french fries and zucchini. My husband had the Hungarian goulash. We didn’t need dessert, but Alejandro convinced us to share a local specialty called recuit, with is a sort of fromage blanc made from cow or sheep’s milk. It was served with honey.
Last night, Alejandro made a dish that his aunt used to make for him. It was shrimp with spinach. He sauteed the gambas (shrimp) whole, in their shells. After they had cooled a bit, we peeled the shrimp, saving the heads and carapaces. I cut the shrimp in smaller pieces (if the shrimp had been smaller, he would not have sliced them) and set that aside. Alejandro took the shrimp shells and heads, added some fish stock to it and mashed it with a wooden mortar, then took one of those lovely hand blenders and smashed it all into mush and strained out the liquid.
Then, he thawed out 6 bricks of frozen spinach and sauteed it with olive oil. He added the shrimp liquid and simmered it for a while. He topped it off with some cream and simmered the mixture for a while longer. Finally, he added the shrimp pieces, serving the dish after the shrimp was warmed. He served it alone, but it would have been great with pasta, too.
He also served us some pan con tomate, which was just sliced bread from a fresh baguette with tomato “guts” smeared on it. He served this with anchovies in oil, olive oil, and two artisanal hard hams. He served more bread with tomato for the meal tonight, but added small sauteed shrimp and steamed cockle shells to the mix.
The dish tonight was made with sepia or cuttle fish. He was going to make it last night, but the only cuttle fish available was gigantic. Tonight, I came in a little late, but I could see that he had cleaned the cuttle fish and set aside the ink sac and the “sauce” – innards, I suppose. He sauteed the sliced cuttle fish in olive oil and added some sliced garlic to that. Then, he added the “sauce” and cooked the mixture some more. He added some small steamed clams that looked like coquinas (small clams we used to find on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico) and served it all tossed with spaghetti that had been cooked in fish stock. It was awesome!
I ate lunch today at La Girbal, a cafe and pastry shop in downtown Palafrugell – I had a flauta (nope, not a rolled taco, it’s a sandwich made from a baguette) of ham and brie with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. It was great. For dessert, I had two of the three tartlets I chose – the truffle and the crema catalan. I could not eat the strawberry one, so I packed it up with one more of each of the others and brought it for dessert. I also bought a bag of the specialty of the house, called garoines de xocolate. I just looked up garoines and that means sea urchin. I don’t think the candy had sea urchin in it, they just look like them.
I walked a looooong way after I dropped off those things – all the way to Calella de Palafrugell and along the sea path to Llafranc. It must have been at least 5 miles!