Tapa Thursdays: Carillada (Braised Pig Cheek)

When I say I’ve eaten every part of the pig, I seriously am not joking. While my family is more about beef and chicken than pork, having a partner whose family business revolves around the acorn-munching cerdito means that we’ve often got a small gama (offering) of swine in our fridge.

While I don’t eat all of it for knowing better, Kike did trick me into eating carrillada, and I’m all the better for it:

Pig cheek is lean, tasty and quickly becoming my favorite party of the pig. In fact, it reminds me of coming home to pot roast after school during the harsh Chicago winters I grew up with.

While various versions exist (including a tasty Christmas thought-provoking version with dried cloves that Kike makes), my favorite is traditional carrillada with potatoes and carrots, perfect for a chilly winter day.

Lasaña de Carrillada with mashed potatoes at Barajas 20

What it is: The lean cut of pig cheek, often called the carrillera in a butcher shop or meat section of the supermarket. It’s often cooked on low temps for hours to make sure it’s tender.

Where it’s from: Carrillada is typical all over Spain, though the pork-producing regions of Western Andalusia, Extremadura and Gijuelo are rumored to have the freshest cuts.

Where to get it in Seville: This dish is about as common on menus in Seville as salmorejo is, so new ideas for incorporating the meat have become popular. At Pura Tasca (Calle Numancia, 5 in Triana) and Barajas 20, you can find ravioli filled with the meat, oft served with mashed potatoes as above. If you’re looking for the traditional version, I recommend Barra 20 in Bellavista or Zahora in Los Bermejales.

If you’re willing to make the drive, there’s an unassuming roadside restaurant on the A-92 highway near Antequera with carrillada so tender and braised with sweet Pedro Ximénez wine. This is, without a doubt, the best carrillada I’ve ever tried.

Goes perfectly with: A robust glass of red wine. If you’d like to make carrillada in your own kitchen, try this recipe by Lauren of Spanish Sabores, and enjoy the smells as you wait for it to slow-roast!

If you like tapas, tell me which ones you’d like to see featured on Sunshine and Siestas? Here are my picks for the Five Must-Try tapas in Spain. Alternately, there are more pictures on Sunshine and Siestas’s Facebook page.


Sampling Barajas20 Tapas Bar: between Gastro and Traditional

My friend Mickey and I have a lot more in common than our birthday. We most often come together when food and wine are involved.

I’ve tried to feign foodie forever, but the truth is that I don’t know parsley from persimmon. I gave up the act, but what I haven’t given up going out for a night of tapeo, washed down with one of Spain’s many DOs. Mickey happens to know a bit more about wine than I do, which makes going for a meal with her a treat.

The New York Times recently wrote that Seville is undergoing a sort of renaissance where Soho-like pockets are popping up all over the city, a barrio with boutiques, gastrobars and mismatched furniture on the corner. Mickey lives right in the thick of it, so when we decided to meet for tapas on Thursday night, she rattled off a list of three places that had popped up while we were away for the summer.

We settled on Barajas20, a halfway point between traditional bars and a gastrobar. The old hallmarks are on the list – croquetas, pavia de merluza, espinacas – but done with a bit more flair. I had a feeling I was going to like Mickey’s find.

Spilling light out onto Calle Conde de Barajas, just a few steps from Plaza San Lorenzo, the bar resembles a college dorm cafeteria at first glance – naked walls, colorful plastic furniture, young clientele. Mickey and I took the lone table on the street and were immediately attended. Two glasses of Ribera, per usual.

Mickey ordered salmon steak with guacamole and mushroom risotto. I asked for the risotto and pig cheek ravioli, wanting to compare it with other bars of similar caliber. For our palates, the star dish was most definitely the salmon, as the rice was a bit undercooked and the ravioli was nothing stellar. Note to self: Best not to try a gastrobar on a Sunday, when ingredients are likely not as their freshest.

Rather than sharing another tapa, we chose to have another glass of wine. A couple and their slick greyhound had dragged a table out onto the terrace and ordered a glass of white: Las Tetas de la Sacristiana. As it turned out, Edu was a wine distributor and a fixture at his neighborhood bar, along with other big names in hostelería. Las Tetas was his star brand, made from tempranillo, cabernet and merlot grapes. Light yet robust, it was a perfect addendum to a meal.

The head chef came to ask about our dinner and drinks. Mickey ld off with the fact that I was a blogger and often write about food and culture, offering him up a business card. One of the original partners of the group, he and some friends had built the place from the ground-up, staying strictly middle-ground – not too pijito and not too gritty. Their plans are to make it a bit more local by adding a rotating art gallery, changing the menus according to the season and wine tastings. He explained that they tend to have a steady house red and white while rotating in and out different D.O.’s – denominación de origen.

With a click of his fingers, we had a limoncello in front of us.

I’d be willing to give Barajas20 another try on a weeknight. While the food didn’t impress, the service and attention certainly did. And, if you end up leaving hungry, you’re just steps away from one of Seville’s best-known tapas bars (with reason), Eslava.

Been to Barajas20? What did you order? Know of any other great eateries in Seville? Want me to come along and eat? Seville is appealing to UNESCO to add yet another award to the city as the World Capital of the Tapa, so stay tuned for more gluttony from the Hispalense!


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