Spanish Sipping

Photo: Kang Kim

If you’ve never thought much about Spanish wine, now might be the time to start. The 2007 vintages, recently arrived in New York, represent a stellar year for Spain’s vineyards, and the price-to-quality ratio bests much of the competition from Napa, France, or Italy. We asked Tía Pol wine director Mani Dawes and Suba sommelier Roger Kugler to recommend three bottles under $20. Then we turned to three of the city’s best Spanish chefs and asked them for delicious accompanying dishes. All the wines are available at Dawes’s East Village wine shop Tinto Fino (85 First Ave., nr. E. 5th St.; 212-254-0850).

Alex Raij, Formerly of Tía Pol and El Quinto Pino
Dish: Pulpo a Feira
Wine: Albariño de Fefiñanes 2006 ($19)

“Pulpo a Feira (Galician-style octopus) and Albariño de Fefiñanes are both from the same general region of Spain—Galicia. Our wine director, Mani Dawes, says the Fefiñanes is the best of the aromatic Albariños. It has a citrusy quality and nice finish. I haven’t been to Galicia since last year, but in tasting these two, I was back there again for a moment.”

A pot of water large enough to accommodate your octopus
Kosher or sea salt as needed
1 onion, cut in half
1 bay leaf (1/2 if it’s strong)
2 black peppercorns
1 large octopus (no less than 4 pounds), defrosted
6 Carola potatoes, peeled (available at Union Square Greenmarket). Substitute: Yukon gold
Sherry vinegar, a splash
2 tablespoons sweet paprika mixed with 1 teaspoon hot paprika
Olive oil
Coarse sea salt (Maldon salt is great for this)

Salt the water aggressively as for pasta.

Bring to a rolling boil with the onion, the bay leaf, and the peppercorns. Once boiling, hold the octopus by the head and dip the legs in the boiling water for a few seconds and remove it. Repeat this 3 times. Release the octopus in the water and cook at a medium boil until tender (this can be as little as 25 minutes or as much as 1 hour). Insert a skewer into the thickest part of the leg after 20 minutes—it should have the slightest resistance going in and nearly none coming out. When cooked, remove the octopus to a platter and chill, loosely covered. Reserve 2 quarts cooking liquid.

Once chilled, cut off and separate the legs as close to the head as possible. Discard the head. Slice the legs in ½-inch-thick coins.

While the octopus chills, cook the potatoes until just tender in the reserved cooking liquid. When done, remove to sheet pan, splash with sherry vinegar, and let cool.

TO SERVE: Slice the potatoes, and arrange on a plate. Arrange the octopus slices on top, and warm briefly. Dust with paprika mixture and drizzle with olive oil. Finish with sea salt. (serves 4)

Photo: Kang Kim

Andy Nusser, Chef at Casa Mono
Dish: Ensalada la Gitana
Wine: Hidalgo Manzanilla la Gitana ($13)

“Hidalgo Manzanilla la Gitana is perfect for spring and summer months out on the patio. When well chilled, the sherry goes down like water; it’s bone-dry, fresh, and tangy. Sherry is an excellent match for ‘unmatchable’ vegetables like asparagus and artichokes, which makes it a great pairing for the following salad.”

1 bunch pencil asparagus
1/2 dozen small artichokes (or 1 jar marinated artichokes)
1/2 pound sea beans
1/4 pound fried and salted Marcona almonds
1 tablespoon pimentón
1 bunch frisée
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup Spanish extra- virgin olive oil12 thin slices Serrano ham

Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to boil. Blanch asparagus until ends are tender. Plunge in a large bowl of ice water. Remove from bowl, place on a kitchen towel. In same boiling water, blanch sea beans for 10 seconds. Plunge in ice water and remove. Cook quartered artichokes in boiling water until tender. Drain and chill. Toss almonds and pimentón in a food processor, and pulse to coarse grind. Clean and cut frisée into 2-inch pieces.

In a large salad bowl, add frisée, asparagus, artichokes, sea beans. Dress with sherry vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Lay out 2 slices of ham on 6 plates. Toss the salad with your hands.

Find the asparagus from the bowl, and lay 4 or 5 stems on top of the ham on each plate, then place the frisée over the asparagus, and finally the artichokes and sea beans. Dust the tops of the piled salad with the coarsely ground pimentón almonds. (serves 6)

Photo: Kang Kim

Seamus Mullen, Chef and Partner, Suba and Boqueria
Dish: Berberechos y Beicon con Txakoli
Wine: Arabako Xarmant Txakoli 2007 ($18)

“Txakolina is a great cooking and drinking wine—it has a high level of acidity and works beautifully with food, especially shellfish like cockles. It’s also very refreshing and is a perfect spring-summer sipper.”

1 pound extra-large cockles, scrubbed
1/4 pound double- smoked bacon, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 cup Arabako Xarmant Txakolina 2007
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup blanched English peas
1/4 cup chopped mint, parsley, and chives
Salt and pepper

In a large saucepot, sauté the bacon over medium-high heat in 1 tablespoon olive oil until golden. Add shallot, and sauté for 30 seconds, being careful not to let it burn. Add cockles, then the Txakoli, and cook off alcohol for 30 seconds; add chicken stock and peas, and cover to steam the cockles for about 2 minutes until they open. Uncover, add chopped herbs, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately with warm bread. (serves 4)

Spanish Sipping