Chef Jonah Miller and restaurateur Nate Adler are the combined force behind Huertas (huertasnyc.com) in New York’s East Village. The restaurant skews Basque in its inspiration, but the pair’s cookbook, The New Spanish, is a playful take on contemporary Spanish cooking with a pronounced NYC accent. Case in point: “Arroz al Chino” is a mashup of paella and Chinese fried rice inspired by Zhou Yulong, the Chinese restaurant in the parking garage beneath Plaza de España in Madrid. It’s saffron fried rice with lots of bacon, shrimp, and pea tendrils. Covered with zigzag tracks of aioli, it’s not far from the fried paella balls that many Spaniards make at home with leftovers.
It’s pretty clear that Miller and Adler are most at home in “Green Spain.” That’s Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and the Basque Country. Some dishes wander into Catalunya. The more African-inspired dishes of Andalucía and the rest of the south don’t seem to strike as resonant a chord. That’s not a complaint—just an observation. Most English-speakers tend to think of Spanish food as paella, sangria, and gazpacho, which is like characterizing American food as hot dogs, hamburgers, and kale smoothies.
The section of New Spanish devoted to canned seafood (conservas) is a real service. Few non-Iberians realize how great Spanish canned fish and shellfish can be. We’re also taken with the vegetable recipes. The following charming approach to asparagus may be an American take on Spanish flavors, but the dish is beautiful and tasty. With Northeastern asparagus now in season (New York and Massachusetts right now, Quebec soon to come), it seems timely. In keeping with the permissions from the publisher, we’re reprinting it without modifications. It comes from The New Spanish by Jonah Miller and Nate Adler © 2018 Kyle Books, photographs © Ramsay de Give.
ESPÁRRAGOS CON ALMENDRAS Y QUESO
ASPARAGUS WITH ALMONDS AND RONCAL
As you’ll find with most recipes in this chapter (with the exception of salad-like preparations), our approach to vegetables is typically not to combine them, but rather let them all play a starring role, with techniques, seasonings, and flourishes that highlight or complement their flavors and textures. You can certainly roast or grill the asparagus here, but because the almonds, Roncal, and mustard are all assertive flavors, we usually opt for the milder results from blanching the asparagus. –Jonah Miller and Nate Adler
Serves 4 as a part of a larger meal
1 pound asparagus
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 ounces Roncal or Manchego cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Marcona almonds, chopped
Trim the woody ends of the asparagus stalks by gripping them, one at a time, with one hand at the very bottom of the stalk and one in the middle. Bend until the end snaps off, letting it break where it will naturally. It’s usually about one-fourth of the way up the stalk. If the asparagus are very thick, you can peel off the outer skins with a vegetable peeler to tenderize them.
Fill a pot large enough to hold the asparagus either vertically or horizontally three-fourths full of water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Salt the water heavily; it should taste of the sea.
Next, add the asparagus to the seasoned, simmering water and, depending on the thickness of the stalks, simmer for 1 to 3 minutes. The best way to tell if they are done is to taste-test one; they should still have some snap to them and remain bright green. Drain the asparagus. Pat the stalks dry and transfer to a platter large enough to spread the asparagus in a single layer.
In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and mustard. Don’t worry about slowly adding the oil, as there’s no need to emulsify this vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.
To finish, spoon the vinaigrette over the plated asparagus and top with the almonds and grated cheese. Serve immediately.