Saturday, October 18, 2008

Madrid's answer to the 4AM Fairmount Bagel

Okay, let's be honest: when I was going out in Montreal it was more like the 1AM Fairmount Bagel. Regardless, after a night out drinking there is nothing more sobering and satisfying than a warm, chewy and crunchy, sweet and delicious loop of dough. Then you arrive in Spain and they don't even have a word for bagel. Last night, however, I discovered that they don't need one. This is what churros were really meant for!

Churros, for those who haven't visited the hispanic world or ArchCafe, is deep fried doughnut in the shape of those red AIDS ribbons, circles, or sticks, served in Spain with either coffee or liquid chocolate for dunking. They're primarily a breakfast food here, which because they're so oily and lacking in nutritional content, is off-putting for a lot of people. What I've recently realized though, is that there is a whole crowd of people who enjoy these at 7am, not when they first get up, but after the bars close and before they've gone to bed.

My first experience was at San Gines, a fancy chocolateria in Madrid's centre that is open all night. The chocolate there is really good. Not Juliette et chocolat quality, but better than the average served here, which is a disconcertingly gelatinous brown-grey liquid. What really clued me in though, was stopping by a churreria, the place where the churros are made, at 6:30AM and picking up a brown bag of them fresh out of the giant vat of oil. The operation is not as elaborate as at Fairmount and St. Viateur, but the similarities struck me: the same narrow shop, no-frills aesthetic, and tired workers in white aprons, making thousands of these units all day and all night right before your eyes. You can pick up a carton of the sketchy chocolate there too, before heading home to heat up a cup, satisfy your munchies, and collapse into bed.

Now because this is a cooking blog and not my own personal travel blog, I will include a recipe. I warn you that I have not actually made these, but this comes from a trusted book by Janet Mendel called Cooking in Spain so if are feeling ambitious, I expect they will be good. Personally I prefer porras, which are thicker and chewier, cooked in a big spiral and then cut into 6-inch logs, but she doesn't have a recipe for that.

Breakfast fritters

(There's a hilarious introduction about papa taking the littlest child to market to buy churros for the whole family on Sunday morning, but I will spare you. I will note that Janet insists churros "were invented for the sole purpose of dunking." Also, "they must be eaten fresh and hot.")

250 mL water
75 mL oil
1 piece lemon rind
1/2 tsp salt
200 g flour
oil for frying

Put the water in a saucepan with the 75 mL oil, the lemon rind, and the salt. Bring to a boil. Skim the rind. Add the flour all at once and beat hard with a wooden spoon, working it on a low fire for a minute or two until it forms a ball. The batter will be quite stiff. Put it in a pastry bag and pipe long strips or rings of the batter into deep, hot oil. It takes a bit of muscle to push it through. Fry until golden brown, remove and drain. With scissors, cut long strangs into short lengths. Sprinkle generously with sugar. Makes about 30 strips.

1 comment:

rico: the doctor of curtains said...

in case the lack of response has been discouraging, i want you to know that i love spanish-based recipe travelogues. it would be best if you didn't get a job anytime soon and wandered the city of madrid looking for culinary adventures to post about. that would be best.