A Christmas menu with Caco Agrasar, the chef of As Garzas

Caco Agrasar cooking in As Garzas

He is one of the fashionable chefs of the best Galician gastronomy. The Michelin Star proposes a Christmas menu paired with Pazo Baión, Gran a Gran and Vides de Fontán

Everything that happens is convenient. Good and bad. A work accident, without going any further, changed his life and made him one of the icons of the best Galician gastronomy today. After the proposal of Javi Olleros, the soul of Culler de Pau, another equally attractive arrives. A Christmas menu with Caco Agrasar, the chef at As Garzas. The Michelin Star of Malpica and Salitre As Garzas, in A Coruña. Agrasar proposes three Christmas recipes to pair with our three Albariño wines: Pazo Baión, Gran a Gran and Vides de Fontán. A true delight for senses.

Oddly enough, to find the origin of this Christmas menu we have to go back a quarter of a century. To a Saturday night in the mid-nineties. That day, the prestigious chef’s mother suffered a cut in her fingers that would leave her out of the game for almost a month.

She ran the kitchen at As Garzas, the restaurant she had opened with her husband five years earlier. The young Caco had worked occasionally in the kitchen. But not day by day as a professional. It happens that, as the saying goes, nobility obliges. And Agrasar had to take the reins of the kitchen with the equipment he had then.

Those little more than 20 days awakened a vocation that, today, thousands of lovers of good cuisine enjoy. No one better than him to define the trip: «When she returned I decided to stay in the kitchen. And I started from scratch. I didn’t study cooking, but I was very lucky that Toñi Vicente, who was a friend of my mother, welcomed me, having the opportunity to learn from her. And from that I continued training».

The rest is history of the best Galician gastronomy. Agrasar and his wife took the reins of As Garzas in Barizo (Malpica) in 2000 and it was in 2002 («in the week that Prestige sinks», recalls the cook) when they remain one hundred percent in charge of a restaurant that currently belongs to the select club of Michelin stars.

SCALLOPS IN BRONA BREAD AND PAZO BAIÓN

Thus, the time has come to discover the three Christmas recipes paired with Pazo Baión wines with which to delight the family and friends during these Holidays. And the chef at As Garzas decides to start with a classic of Galician cuisine that is also traditional in Christmas celebrations: scallop. Revisited, yes, by his wise hands, although with dedication and care it can be an easy recipe for at home.

Caco Agrasar explains how to shape this Christmas delicacy: «We prepare the Galician scallop, with its vegetables, marking it and serving it out of the shell. Recipe would base on a toast of corn bread that we fry to make the base and on top we would put very chopped onion that we poach a lot until it caramelizes, adding a little diced ham, which is very typical here. You can play even with a little bit of spice, although that depends on the area, in A Coruña for example it is typical. And at the end we would add a bit of natural tomato».

Once that base is made, the juicy seafood is marked and plate. “What scallops offer us is, above all, texture. The advantage we have here is that we play with brona and ham to get the flavor». When it comes to pairing, Agrasar doesn’t hesitate and stays with Pazo Baión to take advantage of its Atlantic essence, that touch of more classic Albariño but made with extraordinary care and quality. «It’s a natural pairing; it’s perfect».

RED MULLET WITH COCKLES AND VIDES DE FONTÁN

The Christmas menu with Caco Agrasar proposes another classic of these dates as a second course, although with a particular touch. And, instead of considering cooking a traditional fish for these celebrations (cod, sea bream, turbot…), «I would go to one that is not in high demand at Christmas, like some red mullet». In their restaurants they prepare this delicacy with cockles and the broth of their thorns.

And again, Agrasar gives us very precise instructions to venture to prepare this Christmas recipe at home. «We clean the mullets completely, remove the spines, remove the loins and keep bones and heads to make a broth. The peculiarity of the broth is that we are hardly going to let it boil. We are going to make it with some vegetables (onion, carrot, leek…) that poach well so that they take on a little color. Finally, add a touch of natural tomato and flambé with a brandy or a little sherry».

The thorns are toasted with a touch of salt and oil in the oven before joining them with the vegetables. Cover with water and let it start very slowly to boil. «At that time, we cover it leaving for two or three hours to infuse well. Once we have it, strain it and put it to the point of salt, this to the taste of the cook», he details.

The next step is to open some cooked cockles just in time. Marked the mullet in the pan with a touch of salt and oil and everything is plated: fish, cockles and that delicious deep broth. And the pairing? Again it is very clear.

Caco Agrasar stays with Pazo Baión Vides de Fontán. “I like to pair this recipe with a structured wine because this is a recipe that has salinity. We have a lot of seafood flavor because the mullet is a rock fish and I think it can be a good combination. It pairs very well with a structured wine like Vides de Fontán».

At all times during the conversation with the cook, an enormous affection for traditional Galician cuisine, with which he grew up and to which he has dedicated his life, flies over. «I identify with the kitchen that my mother taught me to do. At As Garzas we work with a more traditional recipe book that we have gradually updated with techniques, fatty points. Nowadays, the means we have and what a restaurant requires forces you to update your proposals».

Result is there. The two As Garzas restaurants are among those chosen today and the chef, a member of Grupo Nove, receives recognition after recognition from critics and public.

CHERRIES WITH RASPBERRY ICE CREAM AND GRAN A GRAN

As a culmination of these three Christmas recipes, As Garzas chef choose to a very original dessert. A disruptive proposal with respect to tradition. His explanation makes a lot of sense: «There’s always something wrong with Christmas desserts. As the classics of these dates are nougat, marzipan… I prefer to serve something fresh. And with fruit. Cherries or strawberries if we can’t find them or they are very expensive».

First step of «this easy to make recipe», in his own words, is surprising. Put to the fruits, previously cut in half and pitted, a few drops of Modena vinegar. «It has to be good, more than 15 years old. And you just have to give it a touch, a few drops, stirring the cherries and vinegar with ease. The better the vinegar the less we need. This is a dish that we make, the first of the desserts we offer, and we use a 75-year-old vinegar because it really special», he argues.

That is when it is plated and accompanied by a quenelle of raspberry ice cream a little acid. The icing on the Christmas dessert is raw beet foam, in season now. And Agrasar insists on a note: “It has to be raw beets, very important.” The preparation? «We liquefy the beets, heat part of it mixed with a little gelatin, load it into the siphon, let it cool down well and there we have the beet foam».

The chef loves the resulting combination, «it gives us a lot of earthy flavor.” A decisive point to decide the pairing: Pazo Baión Gran a Gran. “It is a fantastic combination because as it is a raisined wine, fits perfectly with the taste of cherries», he concludes.

Anyway, time to take note has come and take a chance with Caco Agrasar’s original Christmas menu. You dare?

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