By Claudia Roden
HarperCollins Publishers, $40
Claudia Roden has devoted much of her life to writing about traditional cuisines from around the world before they disappear. In this, her twelfth cookbook, the James Beard Award-winning author turns her attention to Spain.
Region by region and era by era, she untangles the Moorish, Jewish, Roman, and Celtic influences that permeate Spain’s national cuisine. It makes for great armchair travel and even better cooking. Roden juxtaposes scholarly research with musings on food and life and brings matchless insight and authority to the table. Whether she’s writing about an iconic Spanish specialty like Paella Valenciana, Tortilla de Patatas (a traditional potato omelette), or a lesser-known treat of Roast Chicken with Apples and Grapes, it’s as if she’s right there with you, sharing secrets and divulging funny little stories. Her clearly written recipes range from simple (think Sweet Roasted Tomatoes, Almond Cake, and Shrimp with Garlic) to more complex (like Roast Guinea Fowl with Marzipan and Dried Fruit Stuffing and Empanadillas with Tomato, Pepper, and Tuna Filling) and will gratify serious and novice cooks alike. Ingredient lists are precise (she’s careful to specify details like what size egg or type of apple to use), with most items readily found in grocery stores.
When you consider the thousands of recipes Roden collected and tested, it’s amazing that she offers just the two hundred or so here. Her aim was to feature the most delicious she could find, though, and it’s clear she succeeded.
“Wrinkled” Potatoes and Green Sauce with Cilantro (page 279) Cut open these perfectly salty potatoes and spoon on plenty of Roden’s refreshingly tangy green mojo sauce. It’s an unbelievably tasty combination.
Garlic Chicken (page 351) This stovetop braise produces fantastic results. The chicken is moist and deeply flavorful; the rich sauce is garlicky, in a mellow, sweet, nutty way.