Spain has long been known for its lively food and drink culture. From lengthy afternoon repasts, to late night dinners filled with music and wine, there’s always a fiesta to be found. Of course, Spain is an expansive country—every region has its own cuisine and agricultural traditions, including the autonomous community of Aragón.
Tucked between the cities of Barcelona and Madrid sits Aragón and its capital of Zaragoza. Though less visited by international tourists, Aragón rewards intrepid travelers as a hidden jewel of food, culture, and wine. In fact, Aragón once served as a crossroads of civilizations and boasted one of the most important kingdoms in the world during the 15th century. The result today is a cuisine of mixed roots and rich heritage.
If you’ve heard of Catherine of Aragón, wife of King Henry VIII and Queen of England, they’ve you’ve heard of this Spanish region. Catherine was the daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragón and Isabella I of Castile, the royal couple who funded the expeditions of Christopher Columbus. However, fortunes rise and fall. Centuries later, Aragón’s economy suffered from the hardships of WWII and the Civil War, contributing to its low population density and expansive farming industry. Today, some of Spain’s best fruit, vegetables, and meat comes from Aragón, a growing percentage of it naturally organic due to the warm, arid climate.
While rural life rules the outskirts of cities, the three towns of Zaragoza, Huesca, and Teruel boast a surprising density of Michelin star restaurants. These spots on the must-do dining circuit feature both traditional and innovative chefs. One can find dishes that speak to the past with their authenticity and rusticity, or sample modern renditions of Aragonese classics that look to the future. Coupled with the renaissance in local wines from Cariñena, it’s an exciting time to investigate the food of Aragón.
Ask a local what dishes are most popular and lamb will top the list. Ternasco de Aragón, or suckling lamb, is prized for its tender meat and delicate flavor. It’s typically roasted or grilled with potatoes, garlic, and parsley. The succulent, concentrated wines made from Cariñena’s old vine Garnacha, make a splendid pairing.
Migas, a rural rustic dish from the countryside, is made with hard bread, bacon, chorizo, garlic, onion, and paprika. Originally consumed at breakfast to utilize old bread, today locals consume it at lunch or the start of dinner, preferably with a glass of Cariñena.
Teruel earned fame for its ham or jamón serrano. Producers cure the dark, rich meat it in the dry, windy climate. The exceptional flavor and quality earned Teruel’s dry-cured hams regulatory protection. The DOP, or denominación de origen protegida, functions like a wine appellation.
Other Aragonese dishes include hearty stews, as well as eel and trout pulled from the mighty Ebro River. Beans, onions, asparagus, olive oil, pears, apples, cherries, plums, strawberries, and peaches, plus pulses and grains, all contribute to the variety of flavors found in Aragonese cuisine. The guiding premise of regional cooking: let the ingredients shine.
Of course, the adage “what grows together goes together” applies emphatically to the wine and food of Aragón. The reds of Cariñena, whether Garnacha, Cariñena (Carignan) or blends, are always welcome at the Aragonese table.
Wine Pairing: Monasterio de las Viñas Reserva 2016
- 8 oz (200 grams) log soft goat cheese
- 1/4 cup flour (34 grams)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (119 grams)
- 1/2 cup sunflower oil
- Honey, to drizzle
- Dried cranberries, to sprinkle
- Toasted pumpkin seeds, to sprinkle
- Sea salt and black pepper, to season
- Cut 1 log of soft goat cheese into 1-inch-thick pieces. Using your hands, shape each piece of cheese into a ball.
- Add 1/4 cup (34 grams) all-purpose flour into a bowl.
- Crack 2 eggs into a separate bowl, season with sea salt, and whisk together.
- In a third bowl, add 1 cup breadcrumbs, season with sea salt & black pepper, and mix.
- To create the croquettes, first dip the balls of goat cheese into the flour, then dip in the egg wash, then dip in the breadcrumbs. Follow process once more, dipping flour, eggs, then breadcrumbs for a second coating.
- Heat a small frying pan on medium heat and add in 1/2 cup (125 ml) sunflower oil.
- After 5 minutes of letting the oil warm, add the croquettes into the pan in a single layer. Turn every 1- 2 minutes, to ensure they fry evenly. After a total cooking time of 5-6 minutes, the croquettes should be golden in color.
- Transfer croquettes to a serving dish, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with chopped dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!
Spanish Cod with Roasted Peppers
Wine Pairing: Bodegas San Valero Celebrities Old Vine Garnacha 2016
- 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tomatoes grated (1/2 cup)
- 3 jarred roasted red bell peppers
- 14 oz fillet of cod (390 grams)
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- Handful fresh parsley, chopped
- sea salt and black pepper, to taste
- Finely grate 2 tomatoes for about 1/2 cup of grated tomato.
- Pull 3 roasted red bell peppers from a jar, pat them dry with paper towels, and cut each one into thin strips.
- Pat dry a 14-ounce piece of cod, cut into 1-inch pieces, season with sea salt and black pepper.
- Heat a frying pan on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of EVOO.
- After 2 minutes heating the oil, add 1/2 onion and 3 cloves garlic. Stir to mix.
- After 3 minutes when onion is translucent, add the grated tomato. Mix and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Once the grated tomato has thickened, add strips of roasted bell pepper and season with sea salt and black pepper, to taste. Mix.
- Add chopped cod and 1/4 cup of vegetable broth. Mix and place a lid on the pan.
- After simmering for 4 to 5 minutes, the cod should be perfectly cooked. Transfer everything into a large shallow bowl, sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve.