Madrid: Foodie Heaven and Jamón Mecca
Madrid is a foodie heaven. You see it in the markets that offer row after row of fresh produce, and the tapas stacked on café countertops, beckoning passersby in with the thrill of bite-sized pleasures. Pages could be written of the tapas in Spain; hell, pages could be written on the jamón ibérico alone. But for now, the focus is the simple pleasures of tapas in Madrid. Nothing fancy, nothing molecular, just good eating that taps into a heritage of soul-satisfying dishes.
All photos by Dana De Greff Jamón Ibérico
Croquetas de Jamón (Ham Croquettes)
Croquetas with Jamón Ibérico
Although many varieties exist -- spinach, Roquefort, duck -- the best version of the crisp, golden, savory pastry is the classic ham. Filled with rich bechamel and fatty jamón ibérico, croquetas are cheap, filling, and, if done right, transcendental. Prices vary, but at the San Miguel Mercado you can get one for about €1.50, or $2.
Tortilla Española (Spanish Tortilla)
Tortilla with Bread
A well-made tortilla Española (or tortilla de patatas) will make even the most anti-foodie want to Instagram photos of their slice. Similar to an omelette, but much better, the tortilla takes five fairly run-of-the-mill ingredients -- potatoes, eggs, onions, olive oil, and salt -- and makes a robust and gratifying snack or meal. One of the few dishes that is just as delicious served cool, hot, or at room temperature, it's made by sizzling potatoes and onions in oil, mixing them with eggs, then pan-cooked and flipped like a thick pancake. Try it alone, or tucked between pieces of bread for a bocadillo.
Sure, you've heard of gazpacho, but what about its richer, heartier cousin hailing from Cordoba in the southern Andalusia region? Served as a starter or first meal, salmorejo is a chilled, pureed tomato soup that is usually topped with some sort of protein like jamón ibérico, crumbled hard boiled egg, or tuna flakes. The combination of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and silky olive oil makes spooning and dipping a refreshing treat. Prices range between 5 and 8 euros, depending on the size.