In Spain and Portugal, the grill is an indispensable tool, whether it be a flat-top griddle (plancha), a wood-fired pit, or a traditional barbecue, fueled with a fragrant mix of charcoal and hay (like those used to grill calçots). Unlike “American Barbecue” that focuses heavily on sauces, marinades, slow-cooking, and smoke, Iberian barbecue is all about fresh flavors, prime ingredients, and not too much fuss.
The dishes that grace the summer tables of Spain and Portugal are many, and it can be difficult to choose what exactly to savor with so many aromas and flavors enticing your appetite! Whether eating perfectly grilled baby lamb chops, plump sausages, beef and bay leaf skewers, grilled sweet potato flat bread with garlic butter, wood-fired paella, smokey clams, tender spring onions, or warm chard tomato salad with creamy goats milk cheese and sherry vinaigrette, spirits are always high and stomachs are rightfully full! When friends gather to enjoy the weekend sun that hangs long into the evening before setting behind the mountains, or across the ocean, good food is not an exception, nor a rule; it is an integral part of life.
No wine goes better with the heat of summer, and the varied fare of an Iberian barbecue, than a dry rosé. Produced all over Spain and Portugal, rosé wine (rosado) is cool and refreshing, with enough crisp fruit to dance delicately beside veggies and seafood, and enough subtle body to take on the lean charred meats that are most commonly prepared! Though beef is certainly prevalent, Spain is well known as the land of pork; giving a perfect opportunity to ‘cross over’ in you wine pairing.
A “cross over” wine pairing is applied to a dish that could comfortably span the gap between hearty white and light red wine. A great example is roasted pork; lean and delicate enough in flavor to potentially pair with a full-bodied white wine like a Garnatxa Blanca from Terra Alta (Spain), or a Dao (Portugal) white with Encruzado, Bical and/or Malvasia Fina. Conversely, the ‘cross over’ can work the other way, pairing the same pork dish with a light-bodied red wine like a Pinot Noir from Bairrada (Portugal) or a Prieto Picudo from Bierzo (Spain).
However, one excellent way to simplify the classic quandary of ‘red or white’ is with a vino rosado! Of course, in the case of hearty, richer food, a red wine should probably step in, and vice versa with lighter veggie dishes and cold, acidic white that is elegant and invigorating.
Valencian pork chops with smoked paprika marmalade
“A bright, smokey, succulent, and simple dish for summer.”
- 8 pork chops (Iberian, if available)
- Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
- 2 springs fresh rosemary (leaves and stems separated)
For the marmalade (2 cups):
- 3 sweet Valencia oranges
- 1 cup of water
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 rosemary stem
- 2 tsp smoked, ‘sweet’ Spanish paprika (pimentón dulce)
Make the marmalade ahead:
Begin by washing the oranges well before removing the zest (orange part of peel only) with a vegetable peeler. Avoid the white pith, as it is bitter. Cut the orange peel into thin strips (julienne) with a sharp knife and set aside. Next, discard the seeds and white pith membrane from the orange pulp and mince the pulp well (or pulse in a food processor).
Place the zest, pulp, water, and rosemary stem in a small sauce pan. If the water doesn’t cover the oranges, use a smaller pan or add a little more water. Bring the pot to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, uncovered. After 20 minutes, stir in the sugar and continue to simmer for around 10 minutes until the mixture is quite thick. To test the thickness, drop a small spoonful of the mixture onto a ceramic plate that you have frozen in the freezer. If the marmalade is still runny after setting for 30 seconds, continue cooking.
Once the marmalade is ready remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for 30 seconds before stirring in the paprika (this can burn easily). Pour the marmalade into a heatproof bowl and allow it to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.
To Serve the pork chops:
Mince the rosemary leaves, then rub both side of the pork chops with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Make sure the pork chops are at room temperature and your grill is very hot before cooking. Grill the pork chops for around 4 minutes on each side (depending on thickness) then test the internal temperature (they should come off the grill at 138° F (58°C), so that it can rest and continue cooking, ultimately to be served at a juicy 145°F (62°C). Serve the pork chops with a spoon full of paprika marmalade and enjoy!
Espetada of Beef, Bay Leaves, and Garlic with Piri Piri Chili Sauce
“A popular dish from the island of Madeira. Grilled beef skewers with bay leaves, garlic, and a traditional spicy condiment from piri piri chilies.”
Piri Piri sauce (1 cup):
- 2 Tbsp of fresh, red chilies (Piri Piris are also known as African Bird’s Eye chilies, but Thai chilies will do)
- 1/2 cup of lemon juice (and 1/2 lemon’s zest)
- 3 Tbsp of cilantro, chopped
- 1 Tbsp tarragon, chopped
- 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
- 1 bay leaf (fresh and crushed)
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Espetada (8 skewers):
- 4 thick-cut rib-eye steaks
- 16 fresh bay leaves
- 24 garlic cloves
- 8 bamboo skewers (soaked in water)
- Koser salt
- Fresh black pepper
Begin by making the piri piri sauce. This will keep at room temperature for a day or two, but is best fresh (refrigerate for up to two weeks). Start by placing all of the ingredients except for the oil in the bowl of a food processor (or a mortar if you desire an authentic, rustic purée). Purée/mash the mixture until very smooth before adding the oil in a thin stream (machine running). Once all the oil is incorporated you are ready to enjoy your sauce.
To assemble the espetada, soak your bamboo skewers in water for several hours beforehand to avoid splitting when they are placed on the grill. Cube the rib-eye steak into bite-sized pieces (3/4”x3/4”) and build your skewers like this:
Garlic, beef, bay leaf, garlic, beef, bay leaf, garlic (extra garlic to hold the skewer together).
Season the skewers well with coarse salt and fresh black pepper, and grill them on a hot grill for around three minutes per side. Serve the beef medium-rare with a spoonful of piri piri sauce on top (or on the side).
Wine: Bobal de Sanjuan Rosado. Cherubino 2012 (Red)
Grape: 100% Bobal
Region: D.O Utiel-Requena (Valencia)
Winemaker: Cherubino Valsangiacomo
This wine a young and juicy, the Bobal varietal bringing aromas of the Mediterranean: watermelon, pomegranate, minerals, and wild herbs. Very easy to drink and extremely refreshing, this rosado is the perfect bbq companion. Equally well-equipped to pair with the tart, sweet, and smokey pork chop as well as to cool and contrast the charred, spicy beef (and complement nicely the soft, herbal flavors of bay), this wine breathes summer!
Wine: Fitapreta, Palpite Reserva 2009 (White)
Grape: Verdelho, Arinto de Bucelas, Antão Vaz
Region: D.O. Alentejano
Winemaker: David Booth
To hold up to the bold smokey and charred meat flavors, this rich Alentejano white wine is wood aged giving it great structure but still retaining its succulent peach and apricot fruits. This is a lovely wine to not only enjoy with the above recipes, but also with fatty fish, such as salmon, or creamy pasta dishes. This wine was rated one of the Top 50 Portuguese Wines by Master of Wine, Julia Harding.