A Night Out in Madrid – Part Two

During the second part of this foodie’s stroll that I was taken thru in Madrid, the task was still the same one: eat the most traditional dishes in the most famous and authentic places were to get them.

That been said, traditional Spanish food is very simple in the ingredients and in the preparations. The real “secret ingredient” to any dish, is always the same one…

I know, at this point you would expect me to say: olive oil, or garlic, or jamón, or anything else. Wrong. The secret ingredient to any of the fantastic recipes you can taste in Spanish food is freshness. Nothing else. Well, may be I would add simplicity. And you will see how…

Talking with Christian, my friend and tour guide, mentioned something about the freshness of the seafood in Madrid. Let’s face it, Madrid is right in the middle of the Iberian peninsula, which is far away from any sea or ocean. His reply was assertive and straight: the capital might be far from water, but it is still the best, most demanding and discerning market for seafood (and any food) in the country. So, in any coastal town around Spain you will find great seafood in their fish markets early in the morning, but most likely, the best pieces were already selected on the fishing boat to be sent straight to Madrid that same morning, and probably will be for sale at the same time that they are in the seaside town.

Gambas al ajillo – La Casa del Abuelo

Gambas al ajillo, translated as shrimp scampi, is the perfect example of what I was saying before. To make a perfect shrimp scampi you need fresh peeled shrimps, olive oil, garlic, parsley and a dried chilly. And some bread, of course.

Right after hitting our forehead against the window in Casa Labra, we headed to La Casa del Abuelo. They received us with a welcome rime, a smile and the inviting aroma of garlic being fried in olive oil.

La Casa del Abuelo has been making tapas since 1906. With the same simplicity and fashion they have been doing it more that 110 years ago. And the same grace. To go with the shrimp scampi I was given a chato of red wine (house wine), and it was delicious!

I fell in love with the chato glass. It has the same width of a regular tumbler, but half the high, that is why is called chato, with literally means “flat”.


It was getting late to keep strolling around, but there was still some room in our bellies for some more delicacies, and since we were walking, like a lot, all of a sudden we passed by a jamonería. The shop was dedicated exclusively to jamón and nothing else. Well, also sausages and cold cuts, but all done from pata negra pig.

The pata negra pig is the finest pig you will ever find in Spain. Raised free-range in a very specific ecosystem called Dehesa, which is rocky and uneven, and fed with acorn which they have to walk around to find, makes them have a diet and exercise that gives the meat and the fat it’s characteristic aroma and taste.

Once aged for at least 36 months, the finest jamón ibérico is sent out for consumption. It is to be cut by hand, and sliced as thin as possible. The carving is so precise and crucial to the taste, that those that are to carve jamón are specially trained and given a certification called cortador de jamón. This trade is so important to the whole jamón industry that is becoming a profession that includes competitions and championships, and juicy prizes for the winners.

A good Spanish beer is always a good option to get refreshed with while having some jamón, it will cleanse the palate between bites. I personally don’t need anything more than a slice of warm bread to be content. And I was!

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