Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Casa Leon Armengol - Andorra's Best Prix Fixe Menu?

When in Western Europe a prix-fixe afternoon menu is not hard to come by - practically every restaurant has one. We've experienced the menus at several Andorran restaurants now, but it's Casa Leon Armengol's lunch menu in the Parish of Ordino that keeps us coming back.
Owned by chef Christophe Grosjean, this 8.95€ menu includes a soup, starter, main course, and dessert. There are three to four options for each course, one of which is the daily special. Naturally it's the daily specials we tend to go for...

When it was still warm out for our first course we were served a wonderful homemade gazpacho, while in the colder winter months the soup of the day might be a delicious white bean or vegetable stew.
For the starter we've never been able to resist the hard-boiled eggs with ham, baked in an earthenware dish and smothered with a béchamel sauce. Though rather simple it's simply exquisite. Other options include a traditional Catalan salad and pasta.

For the main course specials we've had an incredible pork rib confit served with roasted potatoes as well as stewed beef. My favorite is the whole clove of roasted garlic that comes alongside.

For dessert one has the choice of a tarte tatine, a gloriously rich chocolate cake with a creamy sauce, fresh fruit, and another options which escapes me. Needless to say we've gone with the tarte and the cake.

Add another Euro or two for a nice cold beer or a glass of wine and you leave Casa Leon Armengol with a full belly and only 10€ poorer. Though it's a bit of a trek from the capital, and by trek I mean a 20 minute bus ride, this lunch menu keeps us coming back and will certainly be a lunch stop for anyone visiting us in Andorra.

The restaurant also has a webpage, mostly in French

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Creamy Truffled Polenta

We recently participated in a recreational cooking "class" at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. It was fun. We weren't quite sure how it was going to work, but each couple ended up being in charge of one or two dishes (depending on the difficulty or time required) so that all of the dishes would be ready at the correct time (and we could all eat them).

We were put in charge of making polenta—truffled polenta. It was delicious and easy to make.  Below is the recipe. 

Creamy Truffled Polenta

Serves 2-4

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz. fresh crimini (or baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
2.5 oz. fresh shiitaki mushrooms: stems discarded, caps sliced
3 cups chicken broth, warmed
3/4 cup dried polenta meal
1 Tbsp truffle oil (or to taste)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream or half & half
salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic and sauté until soft and caramelized. Add chicken broth; bring to a boil. Gradually whisk in polenta, ensuring there are no lumps. Add milk. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook until polenta is tender and the mixture is very thick, stirring frequently—about 10 minutes. Stir in truffle oil. Add cream and adjust seasoning. Serve warm. 

The consistency should be that of thick grits or "Cream of Wheat"/farina hot cereal. If you make this dish ahead, it will more than likely thicken more as the corn absorbs more liquid. You can always adjust the consistency to your liking before serving by adding more cream or broth, adjusting the seasoning as well.


By omitting the milk and cream and allowing the polenta to firmly set, you can slice the finished product and grill or fry the slices.

To do this, follow the instructions above, skipping the milk and cream. Transfer the cooked polenta into a greased 8"x8"x2" pan and spread the mixture evenly. Place plastic wrap onto the surface of the polenta to prevent a skin. Refrigerate until set.

Cut into 6 pieces. Brush both sides with oil and grill until warm and slightly charred, about 3 minutes per side. You may also fry the slices in a skillet with oil and butter.