Josh and I hosted a World Cup party at our apartment to watch the final between Spain and the Netherlands. We had decided long ago to cook foods from the competing nations, not knowing who would be in the championship match. We were rooting for Spain from the beginning so we hoped they would be one of the teams, and luckily they didn’t disappoint, but the other side of the bracket was a complete toss up. When the Netherlands prevailed, we were at a loss as to what to make to represent Dutch cuisine.
Planning the Spanish side of the menu was easy, as Josh and I both love Spanish food and he had done a semester in Barcelona during college. For the Dutch side of the menu, I ended up doing a few google searches, and although we couldn’t exactly pronounce the names of any dishes, we got some good recipes of stuff to make.
While Josh and I both like to entertain, we don’t exactly know how to do it without going overboard. We both love to cook and to share our cooking with other people, so when we have parties, we tend to make a million things. Most of the time we end up missing out on most of the party because we’re in the kitchen still cooking. We didn’t want to miss the soccer game though, since this was the whole point of our party, so we made sure to plan dishes that can be cooked ahead of time and easily reheated.
We had our planning done ahead of time, complete with detailed shopping lists and who would make what, but I think we were a bit overly ambitious and wound up pulling an all nighter – cooking, that is. We did all of our shopping on Saturday morning/afternoon in NJ, got back to the city around 7 pm, and promptly started prepping and cooking. 11 hours later, at 6 am, after the sun had set and risen, we finally went to bed. We got up three hours later and finished cooking, then set everything up for our party, which started at 1:30. It was a hectic and tiring process, but we did get everything done, we didn’t miss the game (hooray for Spain!), and everything turned out better than we hoped.
Since the theme of the party was the World Cup final, we kind of planned our menu to pair Spanish and Dutch dishes head to head. First up was our cheese board, which featured Spanish manchego cheese versus Dutch gouda. We paired the gouda with apple slices, and the manchego with membrillo, which is quince paste. The gouda was declared the winner, though the membrillo turned out to be a surprise hit. Silva and Felipe also brought a different kind of Spanish cheese that was milder than the manchego but still quite tasty.
Next was the battle of the breads. On the Dutch side, we made Boerenkaas Puffs, which were cheese puffs made with gouda. The recipe we followed came from here. They were pretty similar to gougeres, very easy to make, and really delicious. On the Spanish side, we made pan con tomate, which is simply tomato bread. All you need to do is take a baguette, slice it in half length-wise, rub a clove of garlic on each side, and sprinkle each side with some salt and olive oil. Then you take some ripe tomatoes, cut them in half, and rub the juicy pulp all over the bread. Easy and really tasty. Both breads were a hit, so I think this may have been a toss up.
For the potato dishes, we had tortilla espanola on the Spanish side. The tortilla is basically a giant frittata with layers of potato, onion, and egg. To make the tortilla, we gently roasted potatoes and onions in the oven, layered it in deep dutch oven, and covered the layers with lots of scrambled eggs. We baked the tortilla in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until it was cooked through and had set. For the Dutch potato dish, we made Boerenkool Stamppot, which is a hodgepodge with mashed potatoes, onions, kale, and smoked sausage. This was the recipe we followed. The potato/kale mixture turned out to be a surprise hit, helped mostly by the smoked sausage we spread around it.
For the main courses, this was where we showed our true colors. Since we were rooting for Spain, we made two Spanish entrees and only one Dutch entree. In actuality, we couldn’t decide on which Spanish dish to make so we made both. First was pollo ajillo, or chicken in garlic sauce. To make the chicken, we first brined it in salt water for a few hours. In the meantime, we gently cooked a whole head of minced garlic in olive oil to make a super flavorful garlic oil. Then we seared the chicken (we used bone-in thighs) in that garlic oil and placed them into a dutch oven with minced onions that had been carmelized in garlic oil. We deglazed the pan with white wine, poured that off into the dutch oven, and tossed in the garlic from the garlic oil into the mixture as well. To add even more garlic punch, we added slivers of garlic from an entire additional head of garlic. Then we added the zest of three lemons and enough chicken stock to cover the chicken. We cooked the chicken in the dutch oven, in the oven, at 350 degrees for several hours. Right before serving, we added the juice of the three lemons to brighten up the flavor. By the time we served the chicken, it was super tender and falling off the bone.
Our other spanish entree was albondigas, or meatballs. To make the meatballs, we mixed together ground beef, a puree of onions and garlic, and fresh pieces of diced onion. We used salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika to season the meat. We rolled and shaped the mixture into bite sized meatballs, then seared them off in a large pan. In a large pot, we sauteed some onions in garlic oil and added a big can of crushed tomatoes. When the meatballs were all seared, we added them to the pot of sauce and gently simmered them for a few hours. They were also super tender by the time we served them, and the flavor of the spices really shined through.
Our Dutch entree was Gestoofde runderlappen (try pronouncing THAT!), or braised steak. It was essentially a beef stew cooked entirely in beer. Simple, yet deeply flavorful. The recipe we followed came from here. The beef fell apart with a touch of a fork, and the carrots and onions added a nice heartiness to the dish.
We didn’t forget about dessert! For the Dutch side, we tried to be a bit playful and decided to make herb brownies. The herb? Mint, of course. Josh and I had an argument about the brownies because I just wanted to use ones from a box, but he insisted on making them from scratch. He won out in the end by convincing me that it would be embarrassing to say on the blog that we made brownies from mix. It was kind of a victory for both of us, as he ended up being the one to make them at 5 am while I sulked on the couch nursing my aching knife arm. He used the cocoa brownie recipe from Alton Brown’s Good Eats: The Early Years, which is similar to the recipe posted here. The mint was our own addition (add a handful of fresh leaves to the butter as it’s melting, then strain). The brownies were intensely chocolatey, had a fudgey texture, and just a hint of mint in the background. They were super rich but I thought they were really good, so kudos to Josh.
The Spanish dessert was all Josh as well (he’s the real baker in the family). Using another Alton Brown recipe, but substituting real vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, the flan was a risky endeavor but a huge success. He also made his own caramel sauce, courtesy of Mr. Brown as well. The flan had the perfect texture, creamy and smooth, and the caramel sauce was thick and rich.
So the verdict? I think based on the entrees, Spain had the narrow victory. And not because we’re biased or anything. But the Dutch food was surprisingly really good, and I’m eager to try it for real next year when we head to Amsterdam in honor of Josh’s 30th birthday. Aside from the food, the game was really exciting as well. La Furia Roja eeked out the win in extra time, and we’re glad it didn’t end up going to penalty kicks. All in all it was a successful day, and totally worth the lack of sleep we endured. Plus we have oodles of leftovers to feast on for the rest of the week!