In times of uncertainty, people tend to go back to their roots to find comfort. That’s certainly been the case for fashion designer Alejandra Alonso Rojas lately, at least. Born and raised in Madrid, Rojas has been filling her New York kitchen with classic (and nostalgic, for her) Spanish dishes for herself, her husband, and their 15-month-old son.
“All of these recipes bring me home!” she says, “I’ve been helping my mum cook this since I can’t remember.” Rojas, whose parents are still in Madrid, is sure to sit down and share lunch over FaceTime with them everyday, to deepen this sense of connection. Here, she shares the savory and sweet dishes that help bind generations of her family—the taste is just icing on top of the cake.
Croquetas (for 6 People)
“Croquetas are my favorite food by far! Honestly, I would pick them over caviar! Although maybe we should try caviar and egg croquetas one day…”
● 600 ml whole milk
● Butter 1 TSP
● All-purpose flour 1TSP
● 100gr Serrano ham or prosciutto, chopped
● 2 hard-boiled eggs -chopped
● Bread crumbs- very fine. Enough to cover the croquetas
● On a pan pour the butter and the flour, toast the flour until a bit golden, mix it together in the pan, don’t stop mixing with a whisk.
● Add 1/2 of the ham to the pan and mix with the butter and the flour. Use a silicone whisk so that you don’t scratch the pan.
● Start pouring the milk little by little as you keep using the Whisk to mix it. If you pour all the milk at once you’ll get lumps and you’ll have to mix for a longer time.
● As you keep mixing the béchamel, you’ll notice that it is getting thicker. Make sure the fire is medium-low heat so that it doesn’t stick and burn at the bottom of the pan. The béchamel is done when you see that it starts forming big bubbles on top. Turn off the stove.
● Add the chopped hard-boiled eggs and the rest of the ham. Turn the stove back on to low heat and mix for 2 min. Try it to see if it needs salt. (Serrano ham or prosciutto is salty so make sure you don’t add too much).
● Pour the mix into a bowl and let it rest in the fridge for at least 8-12h. (We need it to be cold and hard in order to shape the croquetas)
Shaping the Croquetas
● Prepare one bowl with 1-2 mixed eggs.
● A second bowl with bread crumbs.
● You can do it old school with 2 spoons (I hate that!) or you can fill a pastry bag (don’t add the metal part at the end - we need a wide opening).
● Start making long lines with the cold béchamel. Cut 2 1/2” or whatever size you’d like pieces.
● First place them on the egg bowl and cover them with egg, then transfer one by one to the bread crumbs and cover the entire croqueta with them. I would recommend doing the croquetas first. When you have them ready - you can fry them all or you can freeze some before they are fried.
● In a medium-sized pan add 1/2 cup of olive oil—medium heat (don’t burn the oil, remember that olive oil can’t be cooked at very high temperature).
● Fry them until lightly golden.
● Use a paper towel on a plate to drain the oil and enjoy!
Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelette)
“The Spanish omelet is a classic; we would always have it on Friday’s at home growing up. You can have it at room temperature or from the fridge, and you could grab a piece after school, a bite for dinner, or after coming home at 3 a.m. from a party with friends! That’s when it tastes the best!”
● 1/2 cup olive oil
● 4 medium-sized potatoes
● 7 eggs
● Salt, to taste
● My special trick is the mandolin. Peel the potatoes, wash them and slice them in 1/2. Then use a mandolin to slice them. All the potatoes will fry very even and you’ll save so much time!
● Heat the oil in a nonstick large sized pan. Fry potatoes. I use the pan cover to cook them faster and as they cook I break them in little pieces, they’ll mix much nicer with the egg later. Fry until they are done, a bit golden.
● Drain oil (use a metal colander if you have one), until all of the oil is drained. Leave the potatoes there for at least 5-7 min. Save some of the olive oil to cook the omelette.
● Beat eggs with salt to taste. Pour the potatoes into the egg mixture and mix well. Leave it for 5 min so that the potatoes soak all the egg.
● Pour the potatoes and egg mixture into a medium (10”-12”) pan, pre-heated with a TSP of olive oil. Use a spatula to make sure the borders don’t stick to the pan.
● When you see the borders a bit cooked, nice yellow/golden color it’s time to flip the omelet.
● Flip the omelette: Grab a plate a bit larger than the pan. [Tip: Make sure you have a plate larger than the pan before you cook it. You can use a smaller pan if you need (8”-9”) the omelette will be taller, which is also great. ] turn off the stove, put the plate over the pan, and grab the pan by the handle with cooking gloves. Put the other hand on the plate and turn it. ( I do it over the sink just in case! And always have a plate there in case something falls, you can still save the omelette! )
● Cooking the other side is fast like 2 min tops! It shouldn’t be overcooked.
● To remove the tortilla from the pan, place a clean plate on top of the tortilla and flip again onto the plate.
Olive Oil and Lemon Cake
“As for the cake, in Spain, we don’t use buttermilk or baking soda to make cakes fluffier. I love how healthy this recipe is with olive oil instead of butter. We always have one of these at home for breakfast or a snack.”
● We will use a yogurt cup as our measurement tool
● 1 yogurt (natural no flavor)
● 3 yogurt cups of all-purpose flour
● 1 yogurt cup of organic sugar
● 1 yogurt cup of olive oil
● 3 eggs
● Zest of 1/2 lemon (only the yellow, not the white)
● 1/2 lemon juice
● 1 TBSP of baking powder
● You will need an 8”- 9” pan
● A bit of butter to make the pan nonstick
● A bit of flour to make the pan nonstick
Prepare the pan with the butter at room temperature, grab some, and using your fingers rubbed the inside of the pan. Leave in the fridge for 5min.
● Take out of the fridge and pour some flour. Hitting the pan and moving it around spread the flour all over it. Throw away any excess.
● Place on the fridge until your dough is ready.
● Pre-heat the oven 180 Celsius or 350 Fahrenheit.
These 2 first steps will make your cake very fluffy and delicious!
● Separate the egg yolks and the egg whites
● In a bowl that can take the heat, place the egg yolks, the olive oil, and 1/2 of the sugar. Place the bowl into a pan with boiling water. Using a Whisk mix everything until it gets thicker. Remove the bowl using cooking gloves and let it rest.
● In another bowl, mix (with an electric mixer) the egg whites with the other 1/2 of the sugar until you make a meringue.
● In another bowl, mix the flour, lemon zest, yogurt, and lemon juice.
● Add half of the (flour, lemon zest, yogurt, and lemon juice) mix to the first bowl you made with the egg yolks, sugar and butter, and mix. Then add the other 1/2 and mix it all well. If you have an electric mixer even better!
● Using a spatula add 1/2 of the meringue into the mix and keep mixing with the electric mixer. Then add the other 1/2. Mix for 4-5min.
● Take the pan out of the fridge and pour the mix.
● Cook for about 30-45min.
● I would recommend checking after 30min. Place a thin metal stick (even a knitting needle) or a cooking thermometer, in the middle and take it out. The cake will be ready when the metal is clean and has no dough stuck to it.
● Tip so that it doesn’t collapse (I know this happens to all of us. It looks huge and then it deflates...) when you take it out of the oven and it’s still inside the pan put it upside down on a plate. Put a plate on top of the pan and turn it. This is something related to the baking powder and the weight of the cake. Leave it upside down for 30min. Then turn it again and take it out of the pan. Let it rest on a cooling rack for 10min or so and enjoy!