We all know that Spanish cuisine is delicious. But in the hands of Spanish chef Luis ‘TigretÃ³n’ Leon, it’s also cheerful and playful and pretty much guaranteed to make you happy and hungry.
Take his roast chicken (and believe us, you’ll want to have his roast chicken, all golden and tasty and drizzled with garlic aioli). The very friendly Leon is one of the three presenters of the new SBS Food show Latin cuisine (catch it at 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, or on SBS On Demand) and in an episode entirely devoted to recipes that use garlic, it not only makes a stunning roast bird, but it puts a smile on your face from start to finish – not jokes, just joy, and a wonderful way to describe what he does.
His recipe contains double garlic – in addition to the aioli, there is also garlic in the marinade. And what’s the best way to marinade a chicken? With your hands. “Massage. Everyone loves a massage, even a dead chicken loves a massage!
After marinating, the chicken goes to the âchamber of secretsâ (the oven). And when it’s done, he digs into the heap of juicy, golden brown chopped chicken pieces with his hands. “If I was in Spain, I wouldn’t need a fork and a knife, because it’s going to be my fork, and it’s going to be my knife,” he said, wiggling his fingers and tapping his teeth.
Sadness only enters his kitchen conversation when he warns against overcooking shrimp during preparation cambas al ajillo – and again, it will make you smile: “They cook very quickly, and they get rubbery.” And rubbery means sad and depressed!
His joy in the kitchen is genuine, not just something he turns on for the cameras.
” I love to cook. It’s funâ¦ which makes me laugh, dream and allow me to be myself, âLeon says when SBS Food tells him about the show. âA space where I am strong and confident. It’s like dancing. I had a difficult childhood and cooking is what saved me and made me the man I am today.
Originally from the Catalan Pyrenees, his love of cooking started very early, learning the basics from his childhood with his father, a restaurateur.
His nickname – he’s widely known as Chef TigretÃ³n, or simply Tiger – came years ago, when he was chef de partie in a Spanish restaurant and, he tells us, “fiery as a tiger … Spain is a lot of nicknames!
LÃ©on is now based in Montreal, Canada, where he is taking care of the final preparations for open a spanish croqueteria: âThe first Spanish croqueteria on Canadian soil! he says.
And while he can take a light approach to his cuisine, it is clear that he also respects Spain’s culinary heritage.
âThe reason I use tomato for sofrito,â he says in Latin cuisine, by preparing a seafood paella, âour mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, great-great-great-great-grandmothers, they have always done it. And that’s the right way to go. When we cook traditional, we must always respect the learning of our elders. “
Another traditional recipe on the show is its garlic soup.
âIn Spain, we love our garlic. We love it so much that it’s part of almost all of our recipes, âhe says. âThe sopa de ajoâ¦ is essentially a garlic soup. If you go to Spain in the winter, this is the soup you are going to eat, because it is comfort food. It’s full of flavors, textures and a lot of personality. It’s a great soup.
It’s hard not to agree, looking at a hearty soup ladle over thick slices of bread, which have been fried in oil already full of flavor from cooking ham and garlic.
It is a dish that represents a large part of the food in which he cooks Latin cuisine: hearty, full of flavor. And of course, fun (check out the very descriptive sound effects to show how stale bread soaks up all that flavor!)
Watch Luis ‘Tigreton’ Leon in Latin cuisine, while he and other hosts from Venezuela and Mexico prepare their favorite dishes weekdays, 4:30 pm on SBS Food Channel 33. The Spanish week runs from Monday July 15 to Friday July 19. The episodes will also be available on SBS On Demand after they air.
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