A very common scene in Madrid: people walking around the Plaza Mayor anytime, with a sandwich full of some fried rings that resemble onion rings. If you pay attention on it you should recognize the aroma. This is nothing less than a squid sandwich. When i was living in Madrid back in 2002, I used to go bananas for this sandwich. Actually in Spanish, it is called bocata de calamares. Every sunday, i used to go the Prado museum, visit and study an specific wing and afterwards grab a Calamar sandwich. It was my idea of a happy sunday. I will have the sandwich or two with a beer.
But what is a squid sandwich exactly is? The squid sandwich is a piece of baguette bread (or a piece of bread), cut by the middle, but not entirely cut, filled with fried squids with olive oil. It can be flavored with lemon, mayonnaise and aïoli. If you want, you can have a beer with it. Simple and delicious!. Although in Madrid, the choice of drink is a beer with this bocata, you can go against convention and have it with a white Rueda or Cava. The acidity of the Cava will refresh the palate from the richness of the deep fried squid rings. Also, the biscuit and mineral notes of the Cava will complement nicely the fried and sea like flavors of the calamar and the white bread taste.
Now, i have not talked at all about Verdejo in this blog. This grape is perhaps most well-known, if it can be considered like that at all, in Rueda, a small region north of La Mancha and the city of Madrid and just west of the Ribera del Duero. It’s actually pretty difficult to find a description of Verdejo that is not linked to Rueda. Verdejo is native to Rueda and is not planted very extensively in other regions. Jancis Robinson, in her Vines, Grapes and Wines has this to say about Verdejo: “Of all the white varieties among Spain’s official top twenty, Verdejo is probably the one with the most marked aristocratic character.” As a casual socialist, that kind of description makes me grind my teeth a bit, but what the heck anyways.
Verdejo is a very food versatile grape. It can go well with a wide variety of foods that range from cured meats to soft cheeses, salads and of course fish and seafood. The site Wines of Rueda has an interesting chart about matching food with Verdejo. You can see it by clicking on this link.
Now the secret for a perfect calamar sandwich is to deep fry your squid rings in olive oil. But not any squid, it seems. According to Alfredo Rodriguez from the Restaurant El Brillante, in Madrid you need whole squids, since they have a higher proportion of water to meat. He also states that the best squids are the ones that comes from Mediterranean waters. They have the softest and juiciest flesh. About this, it is important to go a fish store that you can trust. For the batter, Alfredo reccomends to use the highest quality flour available. He mentions that it is in fashion right now to use a flour variety that contains ground chickpeas because of its low fat content. For the oil, he reccomends extra virgin oil, heated at 220 celsius and not passing 250 degrees. If you follow these guidelines, your squid should be perfectly fried and with a nice golden hue in 1 minute. For the bread, he reccomends that it if possible freshly baked. For more information, you can read his interview to the newspaper El Confidencial. For those readers that are more visual, Here is this video on the preparation of a Bocata de Calamares.
Cava choices for the calamar sandwich:
Recaredo Gran Reserva Brut. SAQ Code: 12016288. Price: $33.50
Brilliant with light gold nuances. Aromas of yellow bruised apples with ground cherry jam. Interesting oxidative notes, nutty with chalky nuances. In the mouth, medium to full body. Retronasal flavors remind me of anis and flowers Good bubble with an amazing lenght. Refreshing acidity with lovely floral nuances. Long aftertaste. 94\100
Sumarroca Gran Reserva Brut Nature. Private Importation. Rezin. $21.60 per bottle. Case of 12
On the nose, green apple, lime and other citric fruits with toasted bread nuances. On the mouth, very mineral with a beautiful floral angle. Good acidity. Creamy and elegant with a long and savoury aftertaste. 92\100
And now for the Verdejos:
Herbis Franck Massard Verdejo 2013. Private Import. Importations Syl-Vins.
On the nose typical aromas of the variety reminding me of green apples and herbal notes. In the mouth, medium to full body with flavors that bring to mind to mind ripe peaches. Beautiful lenght with a lovely aftertaste. 90\100.
Rolland & Galarretta Rueda 2012. Price: $20.85. SAQ Code: 12244889.
Hay, white fruits with notes of tropical fruits and ground cherries. In addition, beautiful green apple nuances. Medium body, buttery and very elegant. Long and spicy finale. A classy well made Verdejo. 93\100.