Saturday, July 18, 2009

Low and Slow

Low and slow. Is there a finer way to cook pork? My argument was further cemented when I had the chance last weekend to visit Segovia, home of the roasted suckling pig. 

Segovia (about an hour north of Madrid) is an enchanting town, with twisting alleyways, pedestrian streets, and beautiful vistas. The locals are known for being perpetually happy. How could they not with the enticing aroma of suckling pig around every corner? It's not unusual to see an impromptu concert with dancers or a little parade. No special reason. It's just another day in Segovia. 

After a bit of sightseeing, I could no longer resist the intoxicating scent and begged my travelmates to stop into restaurant Jose Maria, a spot known for their cochinillo asada (roasted suckling pig). I'm not sure why the waiter even bothered with menus as it would be near sacrilege to eat something else. 

When our meal was presented to the table, it came out whole. I know it's a little piglet but I promise once you taste the succulent meat that literally melts in your mouth you're immediately transported to a happy place.  

But the true sign of tenderness is demonstrated by the waiter cutting the whole pig up table side — with a standard dinner plate. It's the signature ritual of a good restaurant. 

By roasting it "low and slow" for hours with a simple olive oil basting from time to time, the skin has the most delicate crunch to it, and the meat is incredibly juicy. I've never tasted such sublimity. 

With full stomachs, we continued our exploration of the town. Having been a trading center under the Roman Empire, Segovia reached its period of greatest splendor during the Middle Ages and is well preserved today. The Romans' most distinct mark is a still functioning aqueduct that stretches from the walls of the old town to the edges of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains, about 11 miles away. 

It was built at the end of the 1st to early 2nd century AD during their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. What an engineering marvel! It has 166 arches and 120 pillars in two levels, and is comprised of 20,400 rough-hewn granite blocks joined without mortar or clamps reaching a height of 100 feet. 

Another beautiful sight is the Cabildo Catedral, which is the last Gothic cathedral built in Spain and fronts the Plaza Mayor. Although not Catholic, I have to admit I did go inside and say a little prayer that I would one day be back in Segovia to savor its suckling pig. 

1 comment:

  1. Your travelogues of Spain are enchanting. TRAVEL AND LEISURE should hire you or, better still, the Spanish Bureu of Tourism. Truly I enjoy all of your observations. Your writing captures the country's corazon (heart)!