El Cisne Azul : Mushroom lover’s heaven in Madrid’s Chueca neighborhood

cisne azul

Once in a blue moon, you come along a little slice of heaven.  This is just what happened to me and two good friends yesterday.  After a weekend full of food debauchery, sampling some of Madrid’s best tapas bars, we never thought it could end on a better note than it did.  That is El Cisne Azul, easily discarded as a shabby bar in this vibrant neighborhood full of modern and beautiful bistros.  You will be very sorry if you do, though.  A true diamond in the rough, this little bar probably hasn’t changed its appearance in many, many years.  You know what though, I am kind of glad.  I much rather they keep spending their hard-earned money on quality ingredients rather than jazzing up the place.  And this shows.  Their specialty is wild mushrooms, proudly written on the front door, “Fresh Wild Mushrooms all year round”.  You walk in, and it’s a small place, with only about 4 tables and 2 high tops, with a very large bar for standing room only.  On one end of the room is a large refrigerator/display cabinet that holds the prized bounty, only the freshest wild mushrooms and vegetables.

We were lucky to grab a table, as 10 minutes passed the place was jam-packed with people waiting to eat their delicacies.  One man was at the grill, proudly and rapidly serving up all the goodies.

The menu is quite extensive, you have your house specialties, sautéed mushrooms, Revueltos (scrambled or fried eggs) with mushrooms, Foie gras with mushrooms, and then some Chuleton.  But we came for, yup, the mushrooms.

We started our bacchanal with some beautiful house wine and a plate of sautéed Amanita Caesarea, which is known as Caesar’s Mushrooms, because it apparently was a favorite of the Roman Emperor Claudius.

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This mushroom has an orange cap and a white stem, with a slight nutty flavor.  It can be eaten raw, like a carpaccio with some oil and parmesan shavings, but we decided on the sautéed version.  Lightly salted, it was a fantastic started, since it really has a very delicate taste.  Mind you, the servers know what they are doing, because they chose the order!

Next up was Zucchini Flowers sautéed with Truffle Oil.

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This was very nice, but call me crazy.  I prefer the Italian version, where they are stuffed with cheese and fried.  Nonetheless, they were very, very good.

Our next dish was a Fried egg with Black Trumpet or Black Chanterelle mushroom.

 

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I am sure you know my love for eggs, so there is nothing more delicious than a plate of eggs with wild mushrooms.  Black Trumpets have a deeper, earthier taste.  They can also be made in stews with beef or venison, since it really handles red meats very well.  But, a risotto or pasta with them is equally delicious.

The star of the day, was the Porcini mushrooms with Torta del Casar Cheese.

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Torta del Casar is a sheep’s milk cheese from Extremadura region in Spain.  It is a nutty, slightly strong cheese, which is traditionally eaten from its rind, since it is quite creamy.  We knew this had to be good, but it was a religious experience, really.  The two combine so perfectly, and quite frankly, really balance each other out.  I could eat this every day, but then I would also have to run a half marathon every day to compensate.  I really don’t have words to describe how good this is, so I will just leave you to look at the picture and imagine it.

So, after this the server asked us if we wanted anything else, and we thought that we should leave a good thing be.  But, he told us that to finish off our meal, we should try the “Majorero” cheese from the Canary Islands, that is grilled and served with onion marmalade.  YES PLEASE!

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This cheese is similar to Manchego, sheep’s milk, and can be cured, semi-cured and soft.  I imagine this was the last variety, because of it’s ability to melt.  This reminded me so much of our queso tierno in Colombia, which we also grill to get that beautiful crispy crust and gooey center.  But props go to the boys at Cisne Azul, who paired it beautifully with the onion marmalade.  We were crazy about this.

So, then the server asks us if we wanted dessert.  We thought we had already had dessert, thinking the grilled cheese with jam was our last plate.  So, we said no, we were fine.  Then he told us that they had some house made Macarons, with Porcini cream custard filling.  What the what?  It was so odd sounding, we just had to try it.

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Upon taking the first bite, we all looked at each other with this perplexed look on our faces.  Our mind couldnt’ really process the incredibly weird combination of sweet porcini’s.  But as we kept chewing, our faces started contorting in these orgasmic expressions.  Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?  It is a spectacular flavor combination!  I can’t get enough of these, and I will order them every time I go!

So folks, if you are in Madrid, you cannot afford to miss this place.  Good service, authentically kitsch decor, exceptional quality food.  Who could ask for anything more?

El Cisne Azul

Calle de Gravina 19,

28004, Madrid

Metro:  Chueca Line

+34 915 21 37 99

Beef and Wild Mushroom Stew with Pearled Barley

Beef and Wild Mushroom Stew with Pearled Barley

It’s wild mushroom season here, but unfortunately, it hasn’t rained much so there aren’t very many wild mushrooms.  Nevertheless, I was craving a stew, a beef stew.  There is a typical dish here called Fricando”, where you make a gorgeous stew with Moxiernon mushrooms.  I think the translation is St. George’s Mushroom.  It’s small, dark brown with a thin stem and perfect little cap.  I bought the dried variety, because for stews, I find that the umami  is more enhanced and concentrated.

I love making stews because once you have done some minimal prep work, and you start to simmer it, all you have to do is sit back and relax and let nature do its magic.  Mine was on the stove for about 3 hours, so your beef is succulent and completely melts in your mouth!  I added a whole bottle of Ribera del Duero wine, to make it even more luxurious.

Instead of potatoes or rice, I opted for barley.  I love the nutty taste of it, and also the texture beats rice or potatoes any day in my book!  Apart from that, it is a powerhouse of nutritional value.  Great source of fiber, filled with vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals, which we all by now are great cancer fighting properties.

So why not make this dish and luxuriate, knowing that your taste buds and your health will thank you!

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

1 lb beef for stew

4 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 large celery rib, chopped

1 swede, chopped

1/2 leek, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 carrots, sliced

1 parsnip, sliced

200 g dried wild mushrooms, rinsed and soaked in warm water for 20 minutes

1 good bottle of red wine

2 bay leaves

Salt and Pepper to taste

3 tsp bisto mixed with a 1/2 cup water

1 tsp gravy master

2 tsp white wine vinegar

In a large stock pot over high heat, brown the beef on all sides.  Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, and set aside.  Add a touch of the wine to deglaze the pot, stirring so all the brown bits are incorporated into your oil.  Once the wine has evaporated, reduce the heat to low, and add the onion, celery, swede and leek.  Cook until translucent, about 15 minutes.  Add the garlic, carrot and parsnip, and cook another 5 minutes.  Return the beef to the pot, and add the mushrooms with the water they were soaking in, the red wine, bay leaves and salt and pepper.  Raise the heat to high and let come to a boil.  When it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, covered.

Let simmer for about 2 and a half hours covered, stirring from time to time, and in the last half hour, add the bisto, gravy master and white wine vinegar.  Let simmer uncovered for the remaining 30 minutes.

Boil the barley according to package directions, and serve hot with the stew.

From my kitchen to yours,

Carla