A Catalan bubbly: it doesn’t have to be out of season!/Schunichi Kouroki, CC BY2.0
A GUIDEPOST Reprint
By Bonnie Rosenstock
20 April 1990
The Christmas season and New Year’s are long gone. . . Your bodega, however, is still brimming with leftover bubbly. Now’s a good time to make use of your remaining cava, subtly tantalizing the tastebuds in the more tranquil days ahead. Try cooking with it, keeping your family and friends guessing, and adding “sparkle” to both favorite and new dishes.
But, first, what is this thing called cava? Through an accident of birth, the name “champagne” applies only to those wines produced in that region of France. “Cava”, on the other hand, is distinctly Spanish, and comes mainly from four provinces in Catalunya, especially Penedes. It is made according to the “champenoise” method based on a special elaboration which produces carbonic gas, thus giving it its special nose-tingling sensation.
The wines that are used for the production of cava must be neutral, light, fruity and with an acidity no less than six grams per liter, and an alcoholic content not more than 11%. The elaboration of a good cava begins by filling the bottle with the appropriate wine to which the necessary yeast and sugar for the second fermentation are added. The bottles are then hermetically sealed, dated and maintained in a horizontal position for at least two or three years to produce the second fermentation. This process frequently generates sediments that must be removed regularly. Finally, “el degüelle”, the process which eliminates the sediments so that the contents of the bottle become transparent.
There are various types of cavas, depending on the treatment. Brut Natural doesn’t require any additional ingredients, but dry, semidry and sweet need the addition of wine and sugar in the form of liquor. The sparkling wines denominated cava must pass through a series of controls set forth by the Instituto Nacional de Denominaciones de Origen, under the Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentacion. The defects that are looked for are the presence of cristaline deposits, the existence of any unusual odors and tastes and the formation of sediments and other turbidites.
The good news about cava is that given the same qualities of wine, it is even more digestible. In moderate amounts and accompanied by good food and companionship, it has a beneficial effect on the stomach and intestine. Cava can be used in meat, wild game and fish dishes, and even added to desserts and pastries.
It should be stored horizontally and not chilled until it is ready to be consumed. Don’t keep it in the fridge or freezer for more than two days as it will lose its flavour. Serve in a long narrow wine glass to minimize gas loss and to preserve its bouquet. To chill rapidly, place in a bucket with ice cubes and some water and chunks of salt. Pour a little extract of cassis in a glass and add well-chilled cava for a delicious and colourful variation.
The not-so-good news is that cava is void of any nutritional value and has a high caloric content: 95 calories per 100 c.c. it’s average price of 600 pesetas a liter will cost you 63 pesetas per calorie. However, the following recipes are low in calories, easy to make and high in tastebud delight. Cheers!
CREAM OF SHRIMP A LA CAVA
Ingredients: ½ kilo fresh raw shrimps; 50 grams butter; 3 tbs. flour; 2 liters chicken broth (can be
cubes); 2 tbs. concentrated tomato puree; 4 tbs. of good cava;
a wineglass of cream; salt and pepper.
Put aside about 100 gr. of shrimp tails for garnish. Put the rest of the tails in a blender along with the shelled shrimp, adding 3 tbs. of cold water. Melt the butter in a medium-size pot, add the flour, stir with a wooden spoon until mixed well. Add shrimp puree and tomato concentrate, stir and add warm broth. Cook for 30 minutes on low heat, removing from time to time. Strain through a sieve. Then add cava, remaining shrimp tails, salt and pepper. Right before serving, add the cream to the soup tureen, pour the hot soup over it slowly so as not to curdle the cream.
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Calories per serving: 300
ICE CREAM A LA CAVA
Ingredients: ¾ liter of milk; vanilla stick; 6 egg yolks; 100 grams sugar; 1/10 liter of
good cava; 100 grams heavy cream.
Put the milk and vanilla in a saucepan. In separate bowl beat egg yolks, add sugar until you obtain a spongy consistency. Pour the milk into the mixture and then return everything to the heat, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture into a mold and freeze. Eight minutes before eating, remove from mold.
Serve with cookies or “lenguas de gato”.
Preparation time: 35 minutes, plus 2 hours in the freezer.
Calories per serving: 363
FILETS OF SOLE A LA CAVA
Ingredients: 1 and ½ kilos of filets of sole (or kitchen), keep bones aside; 120 grams butter;
3 small onions; 2 tomatoes; spray of parsley; 1/10 liter good cava; one
leek; bay laurel; thyme, fresh garlic; water; pepper and salt.
In a pan, add ¾ liter of water, fish bones and skin sliced into 3 or 4 pieces. When the water begins to boil, remove the foam, add one onion, sliced leek, laurel, thyme garlic, dash of pepper. Cook for 30 minutes, then strain through sieve. Peel the tomatoes, remove seeds, cube and put aside. Lightly tap down filets, make incision with finely bladed knife on the skin side. Butter a baking pan, add salt, pepper, sprinkle with chopped onion and place filets on top. Sprinkle with cava and cover with buttered aluminium foil. Bake 10 minutes. Remove baking pan, spoon out juices, and put them in saucepan, reduce to half. Meanwhile, keep filets warm covered with the foil. Add dots of butter to reduced juices, the cubed tomato. Place filets in warm plates, top with the sauce. Garnish with parsley.
Preparation time: one hour
Calories per serving: 527