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Pongi

Pimientos del piquillo

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vserna and wolfert are right on the money about piquillos. Daniel Boulud and many other famous chefs use them. And Victor is right about esparagos blancos and tinned fish and shellfish (I am sure everyone remembers why Cannery Row in Monterey is called Cannery Row). The canned and jarred ventresca de bonito from the Basque Coast is fabulous. I was once in Bilbao with the son of the man who owns the Gourmetour Guides. He was thrilled to find a store in La Parte Vieja that had scores of different brands of tinned fish and shellfish. And if you ever go to Quimet y Quimet in Barcelona, a diminutive tapas bar with all kinds of DO products, including some frightfully expensive canned clams, etc., you won't believe it. What I don't understand is why these things are dismissed, often like the cuisine of Ferran Adrià and other Spanish chefs has been, by people who have never really experienced same. Go, try it, and then tell us how ridiculous or awful it is. Believe me, neither Victor nor myself are champions of nasty food and nasty wines (well, of the latter, at least I am not :smile: ).


Edited by Gerry Dawes (log)

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Personally I love the white canned asparagus, I think it goes great on Italian-style antipasto platters with sliced salumi and cheeses, much as you would use preserved artichokes.

Yeah, I'm a heretic, so sue me.

BTW, lets try to keep things civil in here, thanks.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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In the US, you can get pimientos de piquillo from www.tienda.com, www.despanabrands.com, www.oleolefoods.com and www.thespanishtable.com to name a few. And, in New York, you can try pimientos de piquillo rellenos de bacalao at Marichu restaurant, 342 E. 46th St. (2cd & 1st), 212-370-1866.

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Ole Ole Foods is located in Newark, NJ, and has an "Open House" sale every month:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST&f=5&t=14145

BTW, I just called them, in addition to the Pimientos, they have the Pimenton de Vera from Extremadura and Chorizo which uses smoked pimenton in it, they've got 7 kinds of Chorizo in stock.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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"glass jars, which I personally don't like that much because the sunlight doesn't help the delicate white asparagus, and for some reason they are not using dark glass"

I suspect they use clear glass because the sight of those big fat asparagus is irresistible.

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What I don't understand is why these things are dismissed, often like the cuisine of Ferran Adrià and other Spanish chefs has been, by people who have never really experienced same.  Go, try it, and then tell us how ridiculous or awful it is.  Believe me, neither Victor nor myself are champions of nasty food and nasty wines (well, of the latter, at least I am not :smile:  ).

You guys are great ones for putting words in mouths. No-one used the term "ridiculous" or "awful" or "nasty" or criticised canned fish or Ferran Adria. A statement was made above that a certain kind of canned asparagus was better than almost all the world's fresh asparagus.

I challenge that statement. Canned asparagus can never be as good as good fresh aparagus. Now of course their is a lot of no good fresh asparagus around-especially in the UK. And I'm sure that the best canned stuff is bettere than that. But get hold of the best fresh asparagus from around Europe and it knocks the canned stuff into a corner.

And that's a fact.

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I'm outta here.

Why? :huh:

I suspect it's because threads deteriorate quickly when certain things happen. One of those things is an attempt to differentiate between a word a poster used and a synonym used in a reply. Absolutes also work well at times to subvert a thread, especially when one insists on defending an opinion based on a lack of knowledge. I share your prejudice against tinned vegetables and to a certain extent even against tinned seafood, but I've learned by experience that certain canned fish and seafood is not only acceptable, but a desireable part of my culinary experience. Canned tuna fish is never as good as fresh tuna, except when it's better. For all the nouveau rare fresh tuna nicioses I've had, none compare to a real salade nicoise on the Riviera.

Can I just point out that a statement that implies that tinned asparagus can never be as good as fresh asparagus, when made by someone who's admittedly never had top quality canned white asparagus is not going to hold as much weight, even on the Internet, as one that says I've just tried the best available tinned white asparagus and that in my opinion it's not as good as the best fresh asparagus? A refusal to consider a possibility is not evidence it's unreasonable. In terms of this thread, it's all the more pointed as we've just had rather professional authorities tell us that Alain Ducasse and Daniel Boulud perfer canned piquillos. Certainly that should make a reasonable man consider that there just might be one other vegetable in the world that might come off quite well canned. Of course I'm not saying you're unreasonable, it's just that all those other posters haven't presented the proper argument.


Robert Buxbaum

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Actually threads deterorate quickly when people find it difficult to distinguish between honest disagreement and personal attacks. Are we not able to have a discussion about canned v fresh vegetables without people getting defensively shirty about it?

As for absolutes, Victor stated that this particular canned asparagus was better than almost all fresh asparagus. Now ,true I haven't had this canned asparagus. But by the same token I suspect that Victor hasn't had all the world's fresh asparagus. I imagine that in our time, though, we've both eaten a lot of asparagus, both canned and fresh, no? :unsure:

Look I'll put it this way,then: I find it hard to believe, given the amount of asparagus I have eaten, that even the best canned asparagus can be nearly as good as even very good fresh asparagus, let alone the best.

I would imagine that 99% of people who have eaten both would believe the same. But allright, don't take it as a fact. :raz:


Edited by Tonyfinch (log)

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Look I'll put it this way,then: I find it hard to believe, given the amount of asparagus I have eaten, that even the best canned asparagus can be nearly as good as even very good fresh asparagus, let alone the best.

Then we're in agreement on this. One of the things that's long bothered me about Puerto Rican cooking is how both home and restaurant cooks take a perfectly good and deeply seasoned chicken and rice dish, and garnish it off with canned "petit pois" and asparagus. My wife has improved the traditional recipe by simply omitting the canned vegetables, but it's not dawned on the rest of the population that they're degrading the dish with the garnish. Is it simply a matter of a learned preference and can anyone prove which is actually better? Are the canned white asparagus from Navarra simply a learned taste and if so, is it any differnet from caviar? Is it possible that the tinned asparagus are, like tinned tuna fish, a different thing from the fresh raw asparagus. If I lived in Puerto Rico long enough, would I develop a taste for arroz con pollo the way it's garnished there? I suspect not and all of my gastronomic experience tells me I will not like canned white asparagus at first taste, nor will I develop a taste for it in preference to fresh green or white asparagus. None of that however, leaves me willing to dismiss the possibility, especially in light of this thread. And that I believe, addresses the issue Gerry raised with his question.

I don't understand why people dismiss things they haven't experienced, and feel comfortable discussing their dismissal in public in the face of testimony from those who have the experience. In the end, I really don't care what Victor likes, or what 99% of the people would believe, but I'm not about to dismiss the opinion of those with the experience I lack, as much as my prejudices incline me to do so. I think another reason people leave threads is when the voice of inexperience challenges the voice of experience.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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a statement that implies that tinned asparagus can never be as good as fresh asparagus, when made by someone who's admittedly never had top quality canned white asparagus is not going to hold as much weight, even on the Internet, as one that says I've just tried the best available tinned white asparagus and that in my opinion it's not as good as the best fresh asparagus?

I've had the best of both types of asparagus and fresh is by far superior. Nevertheless, I will admit that other conservas, like piquillo peppers, bonito de norte, anchovies are fantastic. Indeed, in the case of bonito del norte and anchovies the process of preserving can be considered an elaborate and unique form of preparation. It is said that bonito del norte preserved in olive oil shouldn't be eaten until at least a year after preserving. Leeks and Asparagus, on the other hand, don't lend themselves as well to the process and end up tasting of the liquid they were preserved in; a frustrating reminder of how good these can taste when fresh.

In more general terms, preserved foods are of primal importance in regional eating around the globe, and the many examples of which are often the highlights of cuisines. I would be mistrustful of anyone who preferred fresh pork to the hams of Montanchez, or Alsace bacon. However in the spectrum of food preservation, I would posit that boiled and brined leeks and aparagus are an anomaly.


Edited by Lord Michael Lewis (log)

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I don't understand why people dismiss things they haven't experienced, and feel comfortable discussing their dismissal in public in the face of testimony from those who have the experience. In the end, I really don't care what Victor likes, or what 99% of the people would believe, but I'm not about to dismiss the opinion of those with the experience I lack, as much as my prejudices incline me to do so. I think another reason people leave threads is when the voice of inexperience challenges the voice of experience.

Jeez. Tell me something, Bux. How much experience do you need to have before it is acceptable to voice the now apparently controversial opinion :huh: that the best fresh asparagus must always better than the best tinned asparagus? How much asparagus, both tinned and fresh, do you have to have eaten to qualify?

It's very notable that the language of discourse is constantly being interpreted pejoratively on this board. Why is it when I dispute an opinion on another board I am disagreeing with it. But on this board I am "dismissing" it? This seems to be happenening a lot here.

As for the "voice of inexperience" versus the "voice of experience", what on earth are you talking about? The voice of inexperience challenges the voice of experience throughout the history of mankind in all walks of life. It is perfectly reasonable for those of us who haven't been converted to the ecstatic joys of tinned asparagus to "challenge" those who say that some tinned asparagus is better than almost all fresh. What, we're just supposed to "defer" are we? Well I'll tell you something. I dont "do" deference. If the response of "the voice of experience" to a "challenge"( again, why is a disagreement suddenly a "challenge"?) is not to discuss, but to pick up his can and walk away then I'm afraid he can't have a great deal to offer to the "less experienced" amongst us.


Edited by Tonyfinch (log)

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I dont "do" deference.

I agree with that. No need to show deference, of course. But do "do" prudence, won't you? Finding someone else's statements "laughable" may be termed, to put it mildly, imprudent.


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Except when you're eating one-day-old fresh asparagus, the canned, big white asparagus from La Rioja or Navarra is very hard to improve on anywhere in the world. Why is it that you "could never eat" them? Because canned food is a health hazard for you or because of sheer prejudice against canned foods? In Spain we couldn't live without canned foods. As already explained by other posters, the best tapas bars always offer some great (and expensive!) stuff straight out of tins, small or huge...

I think the texture of a vegetable is an integral part of its flavor and I find mushy vegetables - especially asparagus - distasteful. The canned piquillo peppers I have bought here in New York have also been far too soft for my taste. Let me add that I love Spanish food and have spent a few weeks in different parts of Spain for three out of the last four years to be able to try new restaurants and sample more great wines. Like the French the Spaniards do tend to cook even their fresh vegetables rather more than I would like but I have noticed a trend to crisper vegetables in some of the newer restaurants. Of course this is all a question of personal taste but I would certainly never condemn a preparation I have never tried.


Edited by Ruth (log)

Ruth Friedman

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I agree with that. No need to show deference, of course. But do "do" prudence, won't you? Finding someone else's statements "laughable" may be termed, to put it mildly, imprudent.

Point taken-apologies.

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I've had the best of both types of asparagus and fresh is by far superior.

I find this a reasonable position and so well supported by the rest of the post, that I'm inclined to suspect I will share his opinion even after I get to taste the best examples of canned asparagus. In addition to having had first hand experience with both types of asparagus, Lord Michael Lewis goes on to convince me that he is well aware that the techniques used to preserve certain food stuffs, often improve the taste and quality. What's missing from this post, and it's absence contributes to the strength of the opinion in my view, is any comment on the validity of other opinions. eGullet is a more valuable place when opinions can be accepted as opinions and not argued as fact.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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I think the texture of a vegetable is an integral part of its flavor and I find mushy vegetables - especially asparagus - distasteful. The canned piquillo peppers I have bought here in New York have also been far too soft for my taste.

I tend to agree with your thoughts on the texture of vegetables. As noted above, I will be surprised if I become a fan of canned white asparagus, but my curiosity has been piqued enough by expert testimony here, that I won't rest until I've had the chance to have some in spite of a recurring nightmare that I am in a very fine Basque restaurant and having told the waiter that I want some of his very best canned asparagus, I am thrown out on my ear and told we serve nothing but fresh seasonal produce. :biggrin:

I'm curious about how you served the canned piquillo peppers you've had in NY. Bar none, the best stuffed piquillo peppers I've had were prepared at Cafe Boulud, when it was Daniel Boulud's sole restaurant before Daniel reopened. They were not a traditional Basque or Spanish recipe, but an original dish based on Basque flavors and ingredients. The stuffed pepper was paired with a stuffed squid of about the same size. I was rather shocked to be told the peppers were imported in cans, when I commented that we couldn't find peppers like this in the greengrocers. Not only did I find it hard to believe they would used canned peppers, but I didn't find the texture very different from the stuffed piquillos we had in the Basque region on either side of the Pyrenees. Now that I'm told that Basque chefs use canned piquillos as well, I understand that better.

In the late summer, like right now, we often roast red bell peppers. Most often we use them in appetizers combined with anchovies, olives, fresh mozzarella, etc., but sometimes we use them in cooked dishes and I find that cooking them to a meltingly velvet consistency can make them quite wonderful to eat as a granish. A stuffed roasted pepper is a different thing than a stuffed pepper.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I think we're missing the point of the canned and/or jarred asparagus. I don't think we should be comparing canned asparagus to fresh asparagus and arguing which is better just like we wouldn't be comparing canned tuna to fresh tuna. They are simply different and should be enjoyed in their own right. I doubt any chef, spanish or otherwise, would be saucing canned asparagus the same way he'd be saucing fresh asparagus in that the flavors and textures and possibly the serving temperatures are much different.

I love shellfish and had a most enjoyable lunch in Barcelona eating canned clams, mussels, etc. It was great but I never even thought to ask myself if I thought they were better/worse than fresh clams and mussels. They are just different. Enjoy them for waht they are.


Edited by sammy (log)

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Hi guys,

actually I've heard a lot about asparagus, considering that I was asking about pimientos :wink:

Before coming back to the topic, just my personal 2 cents.

I've had those "cojonudos" canned asparagus. I also have the luck to live in a place (Genoa, Italy) where fresh, locally produced asparagus are easily available in season. I think that they cannot be compared. Like peas or artichokes, canned asparagus are not "asparagus"... they are "canned asparagus", which are something else. To my taste, they're definitely worse than the fresh ones and I would never waste money for them when I can get the real thing...but it's just a personal opinion.

As for pimientos del piquillo, thanks for having elucidated me! Those I had in Tui were likely to be canned, but I must honestly say that I haven't realized that as they were delicious :smile:

I also understand now something that had puzzled me: the fact that the recipe I have doesn't give any direction about how to COOK pimientos after having stuffed them (it ends just with the words "y ya se pueden rellenar los pimientos") which is obvious as they have been already cooked.

As for "my" bacalao brandade, I suppose it's traditional as the book is entitled "Cocina Regional Espanola". These are the ingredients (for 12 pimientos del piquillo):

-400 gr soaked bacalao

-200 gr cream

-100 gr pine nuts

-150 gr maize flour

-1 handful chopped parsley.

I have slightly modified it, replacing maize flour with soft bread (soaked with the cream) and adding a small garlic clove to the bacalao before cooking it. Of course, everything is creamed in a food processor before stuffing the pimientos.

Pongi


Edited by Pongi (log)

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The jarred borage stalks (thespanishtable.com) aren't mushy just meltingly tender. I use them in rioja-style beef stews and puree them with small peas for a chilled Turkish soup.


“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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I've had those "cojonudos" canned asparagus. I also have the luck to live in a place (Genoa, Italy) where fresh, locally produced asparagus are easily available in season. I think  that they cannot be compared.

I am strictly referring, from the start, to the 'gigante' or extra large, ultra premium (i.e., around one-inch, 2.5 cms diameter) white asparagus which are sold at caviar-like prices in Spain. Sorry for the confusion, for under the Cojonudos brand I know that there are a number of other qualities, and always smaller, asparagus that are sold.

There are plenty of fresh asparagus of all colors available in Spain, and only the 'giant' justifies its use in a restaurant or a cuisine-conscious home kitchen. Navarre produces some of the most delectable types of white asparagus in the world (virtually nil fiber), so that we're pretty pampered in that sense: I see more fresh asparagus in any 'covered market' (i.e., Boquería-style) in Spain than in most places I know in the world.

It's almost impossible to find the real 'giant' outside Spain: small production, big local consumption. So I do wonder if these were the Cojonudos you found. Were they?

As I stated in my very first post on this subject (long buried now, so it may have been conveniently forgotten), "except when you're eating one-day-old fresh asparagus, the canned, big white asparagus from La Rioja or Navarra is very hard to improve on anywhere in the world."

An asparagus is 95% water. Its aromas and flavors are extremely tenuous and soon evaporate. Those with high fiber content tend to lignify (turn stringy) and become tasteless; those of the delicate Ebro white variety, exceedingly tender because they have no filaments, sort of self-destruct. That's why the traditional method of scalding them quickly in boiling water, no more than an hour after picking, has long been favored in the region because, a) the flavors are sealed in; b) it ensures year-long availability: the actual season is not more than six weeks in spring, and these can't be replaced with Peruvian imports that are entirely different and of quite another quality. But obviously (I never disputed that!) canning diminishes any asparagus to some extent. And quite logically the bigger the asparagus the less it suffers from this treatment. That's why they're so highly valued and so darned expensive.

Then again, the proof is in the pudding. I can say that now that asparagus is out of season almost anyplace (except for those produced under plastic tents, something that we also know quite well in Spain... and these are not very tasty), it'll be very hard to find something, among fresh produce, more delectable than one of those jumbo Cojonudos. Do try them with these provisos in mind, and I think you won't be all that shocked.

PS Anyone traveling to Spain: bring back a couple of cans/jars home, and test them there!


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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PS Anyone traveling to Spain: bring back a couple of cans/jars home, and test them there!

If only I knew this two weeks ago :sad:


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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