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SPANISH CUISINE

GASTRONOMY

No thanks: Spanish chef snubs Michelin star

The chef at Casa Julio restaurant in Valencia has decided to renounce his coveted Michelin star due to the pressure that came with it.

No thanks: Spanish chef snubs Michelin star
Casa Julio was opened by the Biosca family in the 1940s and is now run by fourth generation Juan Biosca. File photo: Marty Desilets

Casa Julio, located in the small village of Fontanars dels Aforins, on the Valencia–Alicante border, is a family affair. Run by Bioscas since the 1940s, the restaurant has recently announced that it is giving up its coveted Michelin star, after four years of featuring in the exclusive guide.

In the mid-2000s, under fourth-generation Julio Biosca, the restaurant saw a distinct change in its cuisine, attracting the prestigious Michelin guide, but putting off locals who didn't appreciate the new, smaller portions and modern twist on traditional Spanish cuisine. Julio had wanted to incorporate what he had learnt while working at Bilbao restaurant, Zortziko, where he met José Luis Ungidos, who would become chef at Casa Julio.

“We were looking for something new based on traditional cuisine”, he told Spanish newspaper El País.

But after four years in the Michelin guide, Julio had had enough. He has nothing but respect for the Michelin guide, "The inspectors work really well…It is because of the respect that I have for the guide that I preferred to leave it".

Julio says it is not the publication that he has a problem with but, "the whole world that’s generated around it".

"When everyone is telling you you’re the best, when you don’t get your second Michelin star, you’re pissed off."

But it´s not as easy to give back your Michelin star as you might think. Julio wrote to the guide in 2013 but was still featured in the 2014 edition, only finally managing to hand back his star in time for the 2015 edition, published a couple of weeks ago.

Casa Julio is not the first restaurant to give back its Michelin start. In 2005, French chef Alain Senderens chef renounced his three Michelin stars, saying, "In these restaurants it’s all about the theatre. It has little to do with real life".

Many restaurants complain that, if anything, they lose money after receiving the Michelin star. Ferran Adrià explained in his memoirs that he lost half a million euros a year while the head chef of renowned Spanish restaurant, elBulli. So for many, the coveted star can be a curse rather than a blessing.

Pascal Remy, an ex-inspector for the Michelin Guides said whoever receives this distinction "will need more money".

"Everything you earn from new clients, you will reinvest." 

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RECIPE

Recipe: How to make Spain’s classic croquetas de jamón

January 16th is officially Internationally Croquette Day.

Recipe: How to make Spain's classic croquetas de jamón
Photo: thespanishcuisine.com

The golden crunchy snack has its very own international day of celebration so make sure to devour at least one plate of the Spanish speciality this week. 

You can find meaty versions, fishy versions and even vegetarian croquetas but by far the most popular filling is the traditional jamón iberico. 

So for those of you who don't feel like leaving the house in search of these tasty morsels, here's how to make them at home. 

Peruse any Spanish menu and you are likely to find the classic croquetas de jamón – the golden crunchy outside containing a deliciously creamy filling. 

Luis Valerio from spanishcuisine.com lets us in to the secret of how to make a perfect croquette. 

Ingredients

– Half an onion

– Two eggs (hard boiled)

– Four tbsp olive oil

– Three oz of serrano ham (pieces)

– ¼ tsp salt

– ¼ cup olive oil

– Three oz of flour (all-purpose)

– ½ litre of milk

– One tsp of salt

– Two eggs (medium)

– Breadcrumbs (dried)

– One cup of vegetable oil 


Photo: thespanishcuisine.com

Recipe 

Hard boil eggs to your liking and then peel and chop.

Peel and chop finely half an onion.

Chop finely the Serrano ham pieces or slices.

Heat four tablespoons of olive oil in a pot. When warm add chopped onion, Serrano ham, hard-boiled eggs and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cook over low heat for 10 – 12 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup of olive oil to the pot with the onion.

Once warm add the all-purpose flour and cook over low heat for three to five minutes whisking constantly with a balloon whisk until the mixture is smooth and turns a light, golden colour.

Slowly (1/4 a cup for each time) add the room temperature milk to the pot with the mixture and cook over medium heat whisking constantly. Season with one teaspoon of salt.

Bring it to a boil and cook over medium heat for four to five minutes stirring continuously (taste and add more salt if needed). If the béchamel sauce is gritty, use the blender to make it smooth.


Photo: Tim Lucas/Flickr 

Set the béchamel aside and let it cool for around three hours or until firm.

Whisk eggs in a bowl and put breadcrumbs on a plate.

Shape a tablespoonsful of mixture and roll in breadcrumbs.

Dip in egg and roll in breadcrumbs again.

Heat one cup of vegetable oil in a skillet. When hot add croquettes in batches and fry until golden (one to two minutes each side).

Transfer croquettes to a plate.

Serve warm and enjoy your Spanish ham croquettes recipe!

(Note: You don't have to eat your croquettes all at once – although it is tempting! You can freeze them before frying). 

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