ANTONIO AMAGO: BRAISED CALF CHEEKS
Chef-proprietor, La de Espronceda
Dish: Braised Calf or Ox Cheeks / Cabeza de Ternera a Guisado
Madrid-born Antonio Amago was the first Spanish chef I knew who hopped out of the world of alta cocina to set up his own affordable bistro-style restaurant, La de Espronceda, in Lavapiés. At the weekend, when the bar is stacked high with pintxos, many of Altamiras’s favourite ingredients can be spotted here: pumpkin, tomato, cabbage, minced Ibérico pig’s trotter, onion sofrito and goat’s cheese are layered, wrapped, spiced and contrasted then laid on bread to make delicious pintxos. One of Antonio’s classic restaurant dishes is a main course of braised pork or calf cheeks in an unctuous red wine sauce. I asked Antonio if he would adapt it to modern home-kitchens and to Altamiras’s recipe, and he agreed. As I watched him at work he explained the secrets of his sauce: he skims the juices constantly during early cooking and adds a ladleful of pig’s trotters’ stock to the liquid, techniques he picked up from his mum, also a working cook in her day. Today, though, most of his ideas, especially for spicing, come from cooks who arrive in his Lavapiés kitchen from other continents. This is a consummately satisfying dish served with small whole potatoes boiled in their skin, as you’ll find these calf cheeks at La de Espronceda.