Monday, August 17, 2009

It Was the Best of Tapas, It Was the Worst of Tapas.

Sunday night at Casa Scampwalker was Spanish tapas night. I'm the first to concede that while I haven't mastered this cuisine by any stretch, the sublime flavors of Spanish small plates is really refreshing on a lazy summer evening.

This meal was actually planned for over a week. Last weekend, I was thawing some sharptail grouse for a sausage, and got the wild idea to attempt converting a couple of breasts into prosciutto. The recipe is easy enough -- cover the breast fillets in kosher salt for 24 hours, wrap in cheesecloth, and refrigerate in 50-ish degree temps for a week. Our basement wasn't that cool this time of year, and our fridge was too cold. That meant a weekend trek to my personal office fridge was in order.
As we pulled into the office parking lot with two mummified grouse breasts, I opted to NOT check my kids in through security -- after all, we'd only be there long enough to deposit the charcuterie and be on our way. I told the kids that if security stopped us somewhere along the way, we'd do the right thing and just tell them what we were up to.

"Dad, how do you explain to a security guard that you're just putting two sharptail grouse breasts wrapped in cheesecloth into a fridge??" my fourth-grade son asked incredulously. Good point, that boy.

Luckily, the rent-a-cops never showed, and I brought the bounty home for our Sunday dinner. I'd already determined I'd slice it paper-thin and serve it with melon, the traditional pairing. Before plating, I sampled a piece. Horrible. Maybe I just got a funky slice. I tried again. Rank! I've eaten a lot of gamey food in my life, and a mild gameyness I don't mind. But this was atrocious. Not spoiled, but terrible. The recipe I used was based on duck, and I figured a sharpie couldn't be that different. Boy was I wrong. I'll try it again someday with a milder (less red) meat, but for now, I'll admit defeat.

Anyhow, the rest of the meal turned out wonderfully. We served gazpacho and tortilla both prepared with recipes from Jose Andres' Made in Spain. Dynamite, especially when combined with Mrs. Scampwalker's fresh-baked baguettes, some manchego and creamy goat cheese, farm-fresh cantaloupe, and a plate of olives. But what I wouldn't give for some Jamon Iberico de Bellota...


  1. Win a few, lose a few, I guess. Too bad the sharptail didn't work out. That would have been a helluva culinary coup.

  2. Too bad that didn't work- I'm surprised. I've had good success with wild duck breasts. You can't dry them as long as most recipes suggest because they don't have the same fat layer as commercial duck, but the flavor is fine.