Thursday, March 20, 2008

Trinxat (de la Cerdanya)

It probably wouldn't be too far off the mark to characterize this dish -- probably one of the best-known dishes of Andorra -- as an alpine take on "bubble and squeak": though it also shares some characteristics of the Irish dish colcannon. As usual in a mountainous climate, the locals of past days learned to make the most of what crops grow best on poor soil and at altitude, so it's no surprise that the potato puts in an appearance here. So does pork, which makes perfect sense in an landscape where grazing land for cattle is at a minimum. Because cabbage is at its best after it's had a touch of frost, this is ideally a winter dish.

Trinxat is a Catalan word meaning "chopped". Since Andorra is part of the larger Catalunyan area, it's to be expected that there are variations on this basic theme in the surrounding regions. The recipe below is for trinxat de la Cerdanya, the most commonly encountered kind -- a hearty mash of potatoes and cabbage, fried in a skillet-sized cake and garnished with fat back or smoky bacon.

  • salt
  • 1 2-lb. savoy cabbage, tough outer leaves discarded
  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled
  • 12 thick slices of meaty salt pork or bacon
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 1/2 oz. fatback, rind removed, thinly sliced
  • freshly ground black pepper

Bring two pots of generously salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Place the cabbage in one and potatoes in the other; lower the heat in the cabbage pot and simmer until very tender, usually 45-50 minutes: boil the potatoes until they are tender, usually about 25 minutes if you've left the potatoes whole, 15-20 minutes if they've been quartered. Drain the potatoes, allow them to dry off briefly over low heat, and then transfer to a large bowl. Drain the cabbage in a colander, and allow to cool slightly; then pull out and discard the core, and drain again, pressing the cabbage to release water. Add the cabbage to potatoes, and mash together with a potato masher. Season to taste with salt, and set aside.

Working in batches, lightly brown the salt pork on both sides in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat; then drain on paper towels, and set aside. Pour off the fat and wipe skillet clean with paper towels. Heat oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft, 2-3 minutes; then add oil and garlic to the cabbage mixture, stirring in well.

In the same skillet, heat half the fatback until fat is rendered. Add half the cabbage mixture, and flatten into a 1/2"-thick pancake. Cook over high heat until a bottom crust has formed and the trinxat slides easily in the skillet, 5-10 minutes. Invert a large plate over skillet, and carefully flip trinxat over; then slide it back into skillet, browned side up.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until bottom is browned, 5-10 minutes. transfer to a platter. Repeat the process with remaining cabbage mixture to make a second trinxat. To serve, cut each trinxat into thirds and garnish each with 2 strips salt pork.

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