Saturday, October 11, 2008

Migas de pan con huevos

I'm always on a lookout for recipes using stale bread. No matter how good the bread I bake is (and recently it's been pretty darn good) I can only eat so much and I usually end up with at least a heel slowly petrifying beyond edibility. Recipes for day old bread aren't uncommon; four day old bread is harder to find a use for.

So, I was watching the first episode of travel/food TV series Spain: On the Road Again and saw a demo of a fried-rice-like dish called migas that used bread crumbs for the starch base. A little poking around on-line turned up a Tex-Mex version that uses torn up tortillas and a wide range of Spanish versions. The type I'm making is a Central-to-Northern Spanish variety.

There is some variation on how to prepare the bread crumbs, which I think stems from varying assumptions on what sort of bread you're starting with and how stale it is. Light and fresh loaves can just be chopped up and tossed into the pan, but older, denser loaves like the country loaf I baked last week need to sprinkled with water, tossed with salt and pepper, and left to soften for up to 12 hours. This week's high humidity has kept my leftover bread soft so I discarded the iffy bits, chopped up the rest, sprinkled it with a couple handfuls of water and left it to absorb for an hour. I didn't use a whole lot of water as the bread needs to absorb plenty of fat later on.

The version I saw on TV added only garlic and chorizo and garnished with roasted red peppers and green grapes. Other recipes I found add onion and peppers along with other types of Spanish cured pork to the fried bits and a fried or poached egg to the garnish. Luckily, I've been stocking up on good quality Spanish ingredients. I've got the right sort of chorizo, roasted red peppers and pimenton all imported from Spain and some good quality jamon serano of unknown origins. My olive oil is Italian but it'll have to do.

Traditionally, migas is cooked in a special pan that looks like a cross between a paella pan and a wok. Turns out I've got one. I've always called it a flat-bottom wok, but it's a migas pan. Who knew?

Also, traditionally, I'm pretty sure the cooking method is to fry up the mix-ins, add the bread crumbs, fry some more, garnish and serve. I'm going to use the slightly more complicated fried rice method so the mix-ins don't get over-cooked. This, like fried rice, and the risotto I made a couple days ago, is a toss-in-the-leftovers dish so I'm not fretting about exact how much of what I'm using.

I set my heat to medium high and first into the pan is plenty of olive oil (half extra-virgin, half plain-old so I get some flavor and a decent smoke point too), followed by the garlic, onions and peppers. A few minutes later when they're golden but not brown they come out.

Next in are the chorizo and jamon serano. If I had a Spanish-style bacon, I'd also add that. A couple minutes of frying renders out the fat and gets the meat crispy around the edges. Out they go.

And then the bread bits along with a spoonful of pimenton. I have about 2 1/2 cups of bread here. I found that my latest loaf cubed too tidily so I tossed in some bread crumbs I had saved from previous loaves too rough things up. You want the results to be crisp on the outside but chewy inside--not quite croutons. That took around seven minutes for me (although I kept cooking a little longer). When it looks about ready everything else goes back in and tossed to combine. Then out into a bowl. I drained a little remaining unabsorbed grease which I used to quickly fry an egg. The Spanish style is to heat a 1/4 inch of oil on pretty high heat so the egg white bubbles and crisps and a bit of basting cooks the yolk.

The egg and some chopped roasted red peppers go on top. My bread started pretty dark so the bread crumbs don't look quite right. If you're starting from white bread, you want a bright gold color from the absorbed olive oil with a reddish tinge from the pimenton.

I found the results to be flavorful but heavy and greasy. Better than it looks in the picture, though. One problem is that I overcooked the bread crumbs a bit. And I think a lighter white bread would have been a better starting point. I've made some really fabulous croutons from that sort of bread before so I know what this could have been. Here's what it's supposed to look like. Also, my vegetable ratio was too low. I can see real promise here, but today's version didn't fulfill it. I'll have to try again.


kat said...

What an interesting why to use up those heels of bread I always have too. I wish I could find jamon serano around here, oh do good!

billjac said...

It is an interesting dish; It's odd that it's remained an obscure Spanish dish while fried rice is so well known.

I've found that if you let prosciutto dry out a little it will become a creditable imitation of jamon serano. Or, of course, there's mail order. There's really no such thing as "can't find it around here" any more, just "I'm not willing to spend twice as much to get it shipped to me."