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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

When you meet Jose Andres it's instantly clear that he's more than a chef and restaurant owner. He's a food philosopher.

Mr. JOSE ANDRES (Chef, Restaurant Owner, Food Philosopher): To open a restaurant is like the box of memories that we used to put our photos of childhood, our--I don't know--a flower from our first date that our girlfriend gave us. And so a restaurant to a degree is not a business. A restaurant is a place where a chef put all their smells, their tastes, their ingredients together.

ELLIOTT: Since Jose Andres came to the United States 14 years ago on a tall-masted sailing ship, he's been on a mission to ignite this country's passion for the flavors of his native Spain.

(Soundbite of restaurant sounds)

ELLIOTT: He's now considered one of America's top chefs.

Mr. ANDRES: I know it sounds chauvinistic or maybe even naive, but I do believe that anything in the cooking world, to really have a future, has to be happening at the kitchens of people at home. So until I don't get people in America one day making a paella or cooking garlic and shrimp Spanish style, or buying anchovies or pikeya(ph) peppers, I will not say that I succeed in achieving people knowing, really, Spanish cooking in America.

ELLIOTT: That's why Jose Andres has finally written a cookbook. It steers clear of some of the more elaborate cooking he's for from these days. No pomegranate air or cotton candy enrobed foie gras, just recipes a decent home cook could manage. It's called, "Tapas: A Taste of Spain In America." We went to sit with Jose Andres at one of his Washington, D.C. restaurants, Minibar, to talk about bringing a taste of Spain to Thanksgiving. He launched in with a memory of his first Thanksgiving spent with friends in California.

Mr. ANDRES: They made the turkey. They made so many of the sweet potatoes and the marshmallows on top. And--but one of the things that we made that was very fun is roasted potatoes. And they asked me, `How we do this?' And I was like, `Well, how do you do them, these roasted potatoes? Let's--there's little foil. There's--let's get garlic. Let's get the whole potatoes, and we put them in the oven. Well, a very low temperature, because we all decided to go for a walk in the beautiful La Jolla. So it took us like, almost two hours and a half, three hours to come back. When we came back the potatoes were crispy on the outside, soft in the inside. Was something I'd never achieved again in my life. Believe me, I tried to reproduce the same scenario and I can--I've not been able to do it. Very crispy all around the potato, yeah, four millimeters. That's huge, because usually you only get crispy in the very top, top, top layer. But this was like three millimeters, which is a lot of crispiness.

ELLIOTT: Like a crispy shell?

Mr. ANDRES: Right, like a crispy shell and the inside soft, soft, soft, soft. Believe me, I don't know how it happened. And since then, I remember, we called them the `walking potatoes.' That was like my first Thanksgiving.

(Soundbite of restaurant sounds)

ELLIOTT: If you were to try to introduce a traditional Spanish ingredient or dish to the American Thanksgiving meal, what would you do?

Mr. ANDRES: Well, we're big in Spain for oranges and clementines and lemons and so is America. And for me it's been very important to find common denominators. So oranges--everyone knows oranges. Potatoes--everyone knows potatoes. Shellfish--America loves shellfish. Oh, ev--it happens that everyone loves Spanish food and they didn't know it. So I will be bigger on citrus and oranges. It's fresh. It's alive and it doesn't look like a fall fruit. It looks to me like it's more a--it's spring, but it is not. And in the fall sometimes we think too much about pumpkins and about--which is great, but oranges, to me, brings like the spark to the fall.

ELLIOTT: So what would you prepare for us?

Mr. ANDRES: We're going to do something else to go along around the turkey. And we bring like, you know, the turkey of the sea, which to me is obviously the lobsters. And we do like the lobster salad, similar to the one I have in the book.

ELLIOTT: And the ingredients in the lobster salad?

Mr. ANDRES: Orange juice, clementines--I don't think we have clementines today. But if it says citrus--well, you can use grapefruit, oranges, clementines, limes.

(Soundbite of restaurant sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: So here we start with the oranges.

ELLIOTT: You should introduce us to who's going to help us cook, too.

Mr. ANDRES: Well, it's Katsuya Fukushima. It's a not very Spanish name, believe me. But Katsuya and I, we've been together for over eight, nine years.

And the orange--it's simple. You peel it. But more often than not, we miss the very important part of the orange, which is the zest. Look at it.

(Soundbite of scraping sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: Do you smell already? Already it's unbelievable. Something that is...

ELLIOTT: He's grating this orange rind.

Mr. ANDRES: Can you smell it? I know people at home, they have to be--you can smell it through the radio, too, ladies and gentlemen...

ELLIOTT: It does smell...

Mr. ANDRES: ...believe it or not. So we're going to be slicing an orange to take the segments now--that we did the orange zest.

(Soundbite of chopping sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: And you know what we should be using? We have pomegranates. And pomegranates are so huge in Spain, too. Here the pomegranate--a nice smell.

ELLIOTT: Fresh, sweet, smell.

Mr. ANDRES: Yeah. And this is the way to clean it. You carry--how you put it your palm, looking down where you did the...(Unintelligible) and then you hit it hard.

(Soundbite of hitting sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: Almost like as if you were mad with her, but nice. Be nice and you say, `Come on, behave.' And look it. You see all the seeds? They start going down.

ELLIOTT: So the seeds of the pomegranate are just falling through his fingers into the bowl.

(Soundbite of hitting sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: And they are whole and they are nice and they are like little tiny--they're like rubies. I mean--and you put this in the mouth...

(Soundbite of a slurping sound)

Mr. ANDRES: ...and when you smash it between your tooth all these nice fresh liquid--it's tart, but it's sweet. That's for me why fruits are the most fascinating thing for a chef to work with. Why? A piece of chicken, even if it's the best chicken in the whole world, to me is a very flat flavor. It's one flavor. When you get an orange, the smell you are able to get from the zest, the bitterness that comes sometimes with the white part, the acidity, the sweetness--the amount of highways that the orange allows you to take are far superior than sometimes the best meat or even the best fish.

So Katsuya, we go with the lobster?

Mr. KATSUYA FUKUSHIMA (Andres' Assistant): Yes.

Mr. ANDRES: We only use the tail. Or we boiled it whole?

Mr. FUKUSHIMA: I boiled it whole.

Mr. ANDRES: We boiled it whole. One minute. We only boil it for a minute because we want to shock the lobster. Believe me, he gets shocked. In that moment, the meat inside kind of separates from the shell. But it still is raw. That's what we want. Why? Because instead of boiling it, we're going to maximize the flavor of the lobster. And this is--we're going to sear the lobster.

(Soundbite of restaurant sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: We don't even peel it because we cut it into medallions.

(Soundbite of chopping and cutting sounds)

ELLIOTT: So you're cutting it in each of the little sections of the tail, cutting through the shell.

Mr. ANDRES: And look at what happen inside the head. Inside the head, technically, is the most flavorful part of the lobster. And we take all the juice out, and out of this we're going to make a vinaigrette. Vinegar, if it's a Spanish sherry, and we're going to blend it with olive oil.

ELLIOTT: So he took the head of the lobster and just squeezed it and out came a clear liquid and the green...

Mr. ANDRES: Oh, my God. You have to try this water. Hold on. You like to swim in the sea?

ELLIOTT: Yes.

Mr. ANDRES: Good.

ELLIOTT: That doesn't mean I like to drink the seawater.

Mr. ANDRES: This is purity.

ELLIOTT: It's a clean, salty flavor.

Mr. ANDRES: But you means--you like it or you don't?

ELLIOTT: Yeah, I like it.

Mr. ANDRES: OK.

ELLIOTT: It's like broth. It's like...

Mr. ANDRES: Ooh, you said it. It's the ultimate broth. So we have the vinaigrette done.

(Soundbite of grinding sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: Katsuya's going to start searing the lobster and we're going to use a pan, a little bit of olive oil, and we sear it seven to 10 seconds on each side.

(Soundbite of searing sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: Good. And then, the saffron, we're going to add it to...

ELLIOTT: With the...

Mr. ANDRES: ...the vinaigrette. Beautiful.

ELLIOTT: And you're piling the lobster on top of these nice sections of citrus. Now what are you doing?

Mr. ANDRES: And here we put a little bit of greens, whatever greens you like to work with. This is expensive green in Spain, and I remember one Christmas time one father bought one endive. One was so expensive, so expensive that he had to call my mother to ask for permission. So, my God, he was like, `Don't get close! Don't get close!' He was like, `Don't even touch it yet, OK? Let me work with it.' But this was a very important lesson for me, because you need to somehow give thanks for the things you are able to get. And remembering my father used to--eating an endive, like it was the ultimate thing. So we put the greens, the frisee, any other green you like is good. We get the orange zest and we put a little bit on top of each lobster, yeah?

ELLIOTT: Right on the lobster so that you have a little bit of orange taste when you bite the lobster as well.

Mr. ANDRES: Correct.

ELLIOTT: OK.

(Soundbite of restaurant sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: And you use to finish, the pomegranates. Look at the parch--the reddish, the orange, the different colors we are achieving in this dish.

(Soundbite of restaurant sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: Can I feed you?

ELLIOTT: Please.

Mr. ANDRES: I'm going to put a full piece of lobster in your mouth with the orange.

ELLIOTT: Mm, mm-hmm.

Mr. ANDRES: Mm. I like how you...

ELLIOTT: Mm.

Mr. ANDRES: ...can say things without saying anything. That's good.

ELLIOTT: Chef Jose Andres. His new cookbook is "Tapas: A Taste of Spain In America." Thank you for cooking with us today.

Mr. ANDRES: Thank you very much, and happy Thanksgiving to you.

ELLIOTT: Happy Thanksgiving.

(Soundbite of restaurant sounds)

Mr. ANDRES: Good job, guys.

(Soundbite of restaurant sounds)

ELLIOTT: To make your own lobster citrus salad go to our Web site, npr.org.

That's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

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