By Fleet Corporate Executive Chef Franck Garanger

 

High-quality ingredients travel from market to galley to inspire the big flavors of our traditional small bites and regional Spanish dishes on board. Having spent many years in Valencia now, I’ve cooked and learned and lived the culinary ways of Spain. I love this country for so many reasons but one of them is that it has such a high quality of food because of the passion and respect Spanish people have for food. You see it everywhere you go – in the markets, in the restaurants, and in the neighborhood tavernas and tapas bars too. They have a great knowledge of what exactly is good food and when to eat it.

The variety of Spanish ingredients is immense due to the varied climate, topography and geography of each region. For example, Galicia in the northwest has incredible fish and seafood and is one of the best sources of beef in all of Europe. País Vasco, or Basque Country, is recognized for its incredible quality of tapas, called pintxos here. Valencia is celebrated for its rice fields and paella, while Andalucia is known for its use of spices and vegetables due to its geographical proximity to Africa. Traveling around Spain, you really see and taste the distinctness of the regions in their dishes and wines.

After cooking many, many pans of paella, tortilla española and pots of gazpacho, I feel…almost Spanish – almost. Many of the most beloved Spanish foods are really quite simple and rely heavily on drawing out the natural flavors of fresh, classic ingredients. Here are some of the Spanish ingredients I love most that we use on board to capture the flavors of this vibrant country.

Castilla-La Mancha Saffron
Prized as the most expensive and elusive spice, our saffron is cultivated in Spain’s heartland, noted for its ideal climate, and harvested by hand. On board, we use saffron for paella of course, but also risotto, bouillabaisse and several sauces for fishes.

 

Marinated Olives
When you’re in Spain, it’s likely some olives will appear with your drinks. A staple of Spanish pantries everywhere, olives pair with everything. My favorites that we serve on board are the large green manzanilla variety and arbequinia.

Jamón Ibérico de Bellota
Recognized as the finest in the world, this exceptional ham is cured for up to four years and comes from an ancient breed of acorn-fed pig found only on the Iberian Peninsula. You’ll see it in markets and grocery stores across Spain and aboard our ships – it’s a culinary tradition Spaniards are very proud of, and once you taste it, you’ll understand why.

 

Piquillo Peppers
Grown in Northern Spain near Lodosa, these small red peppers are perfect for roasting, which gives them a rich, smoky-sweet flavor. These are traditionally stuffed with potatoes and bacalao (cod) or béchamel. We also blend them in savory sauces.

Manchego
The pronounced nutty flavors of this Castilla-La Mancha cheese is made exclusively fromraw or pasteurized Manchega breed sheep’s milk and has been produced in this region for thousands of years. Enjoy it by itself or for one of the most classic pairings, try it with dulce de membrillo, a traditional quince paste, and Marcona almonds.

 

Pulpo
Everyone from school children to Spanish grandmas love octopus, especially pulpo a la gallega, a signature Galician dish. This is a soft-cooked large octopus and gets its unique flavors from three simple ingredients: paprika, sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. On board, we serve pulpo a la gallega during our Spanish buffet at Terrace Café.

Next time you are on board, look for featured Spanish dishes on select menus at Terrace Café and The Grand Dining Room. Buen provecho!

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