Adventures in Spanish Eats: Oreja Edition

6 10 2011

Morcilla: What Your Study-Abroad Teacher Warned You About. The not-so-secret ingredient that gives this Spanish sausage its characteristic blackish hue and earthy flavor is pig’s blood, which somehow manages to give many foreigners the heebie-jeebies. However, having already fallen in spicy vampiric love with Thailand’s nam tok – spicy soup deepened in flavor by the addition of fresh sangre – I remain free of such tikismiquis qualms; morcilla is one of my absolute top Spanish dishes.

There are two common variations, the kind made with onions and the Burgos variety made with rice. Burgos’ is best and has the rep to back it up. Lateral‘s version, pictured above, is total offal magnificence.

These gorgeous green puppies are pimientos de Padrón, and I think there’s some kind of blogging law about including the following gallego couplet in their description:

Coma os pementos de Padrón,
uns pican e outros non

The wiki claims 1 in 10 are unexpectedly hot enough to rattle your bones, but personal experience slates it at more like 1 in 20. Either way, the majority of the sautéed (or sometimes grilled) peppers taste of charred vegetable sweetness, accented perfectly by unmistakable Spanish EVOO and crunchy crystals of salt; it’s only when you’ve finally given up on seeking out any lurking Scoville beasties that they come out to play.

Funnily enough, I encountered these the last time I was back in the states, there marketed as Exotic Shishito Peppers From Japan. Munching them with mom and bro was magnificent in Greensburg back in June; the most recent Iberian iteration was the pictured plateful from Bar El Jamón in Lavapiés.

Couchsurfer Eddie convinces me to order up a ración of oreja along with the beloved peppers, and I savor hot, gooey, greasy gelatin vaguely reminiscent of animal product for the first and last time.




10 responses

6 10 2011

I was recently in Tenerife and had a version of “black pudding,” as they call it here in Ireland. My host, a lovely expat Brit and fellow travel blogger, was quite fond of it. She told me it was sweet, rather than savory, and indeed it was. I quite like black and white pudding here, but somehow the sweet just wasn’t doing it for me. Wondering if I’d go for your more mainland flavored morcilla instead. (Probably. 😉

7 10 2011

The morcilla round these parts falls on the savory side, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “salty” – there’s a distinct subtly sweet earthiness that’s been a common element to all the blood concoctions I’ve ever tried, and I think you either adore it or abhor it. Do give it a go; I find it pairs beautifully with the nutmeg they sometimes add for a spike of spice.

7 10 2011
Cassandra Gambill

Morcilla trumps oreja any day, hands down.

As for pimientos de padron, I find that I get a higher ration of spicy peppers outside of Madrid than in. I’m not sure why this is–do they weed out the spicy ones for guiris? When I ordered them once in Cantabria, pepper after pepper came up so piquant that I had to put out the fire with a chupito of crema de orujo.

7 10 2011

Huh. I live with a Gallego (from Bilbao, actually, but he considers himself Gallego-Vasco) who keeps promising to bring me his home version, which he says you can order specified by the amount of spicy surprises you desire – will keep you posted.

However, I need no Scoville prodding to go after the ol’ crema de orujo.

8 10 2011

Pimientos de Padrón are one of my favorite foods in Spain! Have you been to Café Melos in Lavapies?

8 10 2011

not yet, but I’ll put it on the list right away! What’s the style, more modern funky or traditional Spanish cutre?

12 10 2011

Where can I get pimientos de padron in the states????? You know I got hooked when we tried those at Smorgarburg in NY.

12 10 2011

Where can I get pimientos de padron in the states????? You know I got hooked when we tried those at Smorgasburg in NY.

12 10 2011

good question. Bet you anything Whole Foods has ’em; look for “Shishito peppers” probably.

24 04 2012
2012-13 Fulbrighters to Spain: Hola! « con tomates

[…] positions on anything whatsoever. That’s a good thing! You can ask me about stuff like the truth about oreja, how much hell finding a piso actually is, and where exactly to get your hands on elusive ground […]

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