Paco’s Gachas Recipe

by Adrienne Matt on July 27, 2010

in Soups & Stews

We met Paco Fernandez-Ramirez at a small fiesta in Mariena. When telling him about this project, he invited us over for gachos the following day. I was thrilled. He picked us up the next morning around 11:30 a.m. and we drove to his campo. We picked a wagon-full of fresh tomatoes and a dozen green peppers from his family land.

Paco is a 3rd generation hairdresser who works in Almeria but his family home is in Mareina. He and his family come here every weekend. His adorable mother, Rosa Ramirez-Roman, was on-hand to watch, adding commentary and humor. His 8-year-old son Alejandro had just woken up when we arrived home; he had been out at the fiesta with his father until 3 a.m.! His favorite part is the crust on the bottom. He was not happy to share it!

Gachos was described to me as a flour porridge with meat. Each town and family has its own recipe. This one is Paco’s.

3 sun-dried red peppers, deseeded but keep whole
4 cloves garlic
In an 8-inch fry pan, fry the whole peppers in olive oil, just enough to release the flavor. Set peppers aside. Fry the garlic cloves until lightly browned. Set aside.

4 fresh green peppers (immature red peppers), deseeded and chopped
4 tomatoes, cored and peeled
In an 8qt pot with a lid, pour the oil from the fry pan and add a pinch of salt. Saute the green peppers until soft. Add water to pot. Gently drop tomatoes in pot and bring to a boil. Cook until the tomatoes are cooked through.
Meanwhile, put the fried red peppers and garlic cloves in a tall and narrow container. Add a little water and use an immersion blender to macerate. Add salt to taste.

In the big pot, when the tomatoes are cooked through, use a slotted spoon to take them out. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the cooked tomatoes to the pepper-garlic puree and macerate with the immersion blender.
Put a strainer over the large pot with the green peppers. Pour the red pepper-garlic- tomato puree into the strainer. Push the puree through the strainer. When no more with go through, take the strainer off and set in the sink to wash. Stir the puree into the water and green peppers.

4 green peppers
Broil or grill the fresh green peppers until blackened. While still warm (but not piping hot), peel the blackened skin off the peppers, keeping the peppers whole. Rinse them gently with cold water, getting all the skin off. From the tip upward, break the green peppers in half and lower them into the large pot.

15 anchovies, cleaned, deheaded and gutted but whole
Add the fresh anchovies to the large pot. Cook the anchovies through, about 7 minutes. Salt to taste. Turn the heat off and remove the pot from the stove.
Before you get the dough going, place the large pot in a cold water bath. You want to cool the soup to room temperature.

2T salt
3c water
3c flour
1.5c cornmeal
Bring salted water to a boil in a 12-inch, deep-sided frying pan. Don’t use a non-stick pan. For best results, use a wooden stick or dowl, ideally 1 inch in diameter and at least 8 inches long. You will be kneading dough over open flame with this wooden dowl.

Once the water has boiled, lower the heat to medium. Add a handful of flour and mix well. Add a handful of cornmeal and mix well. It may resemble porridge. Repeat until all flour and cornmeal are absorbed. Keep the wooden dowl moving. You want a bread-like consistency.
Keep kneading the bread with the stick waiting until the dough starts to stick to the bottom and the sides begin to flake like a crepe. Keep kneading. When the dough becomes one firm round loaf in the middle, you’re almost done.

Take the dough off the stove and remove from heat. Set the dough pan on a large trivet on the serving table. Gently pour half of the cooled tomato broth over the dough. Take a teaspoon and cut into the outmost edges of the dough, creating small dumplings. Continue to cut into the dough, creating more dumplings until all of the dough is broken up. Pour the remainder of the soup over the dumplings.
Serve immediately. Buen provecho!

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