Madrid Fusión Day Two – The Canned Fish Contest

Madrid Fusion 2009 by Docsconz - All Rights Reserved 789 - 2009-01-20 at 09-37-24

We are not talking about Star-Kist or Bumble Bee. Spain is legendary for its "conservas" of seafood. They are masters of the fine art of canning seafood of all sorts from cockles to mussels to ventresca de tuna (tuna belly). A panel of culinary luminaries including American chef, David Chang, was brought together to judge dishes created by Spanish chefs centered around various canned seafood products.

Madrid Fusion 2009 by Docsconz - All Rights Reserved 790 - 2009-01-20 at 09-37-32

Madrid Fusion 2009 by Docsconz - All Rights Reserved 792 - 2009-01-20 at 09-37-39

The contestants were:

  • Hector Cancho, Bocadillo de pulpo en conserva
  • Iñigo Gartzia, Ravioli de conservas de mejillón en escabeche 
  • Alejandro Cebrián, Ensalada de tomatitos, alcachofitas y sardinillas en conserva  
  • Jaime Renedo, Wan ton de mejillones en conserva con Sopa Balinesa y germinados aromáticas
  • Esteve Ramirez, Ventresca en conserva de xof de marmitaco y brioch de alcachofa
  • Alberto Gómez de Letón, Atún claro en aceite de oliva con pil – pil de tomate
Madrid Fusion 2009 by Docsconz - All Rights Reserved 796 - 2009-01-20 at 09-39-01  Madrid Fusion 2009 by Docsconz - All Rights Reserved 797 - 2009-01-20 at 09-39-08 Madrid Fusion 2009 by Docsconz - All Rights Reserved 798 - 2009-01-20 at 09-39-13 Madrid Fusion 2009 by Docsconz - All Rights Reserved 799 - 2009-01-20 at 09-39-21

The winner was Alberto Gómez de Letón,  of the Aris Bar in Madrid, a casual tapas offshoot of El Chaflán, for his Atún claro en aceite de oliva con pil – pil de tomate. Runner-up was Alejandro Cebrián of the Taberna del Gourmet in Alicante, the informal restaurant associated with Maria José San Roman's Monastrell.

A contest like this is not likely to elicit much excitement in the U.S, simply because the quality of our canned seafood is nothing special, unlike that from Spain, where it is an art just to place the seafood in the cans as these two photos taken at Madrid Fusión 2008 attest:

IMG_8818.CR2 - 2008-01-21 at 14-28-18 IMG_8821.CR2 - 2008-01-21 at 14-28-42

Given the quality of the product, it is no wonder that Madrid Fusión started this contest to highlight these wonderful products, that have a magic of their own, different from the fresh product, but only slightly less enticing (to some, they are no less enticing). Imagine a contest like this in the U.S.? Me neither.

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2 Responses to Madrid Fusión Day Two – The Canned Fish Contest

  1. chad says:

    Maybe there is a place for it in the US. We’ve had a ‘canned tuna’ dish on our menu for almost a year now (time to revise it), and I know we’re not the only Miami restaurant doing so. With sous-vide and other modern methods of cooking, we can take great seafood and fish product and transform their flavors and textures into something wonderfully comforting (in a strange way)… sure, it’s not authentic ‘canning’ but it’s a step away.
    Do you have the English translations for the dishes in your post?

  2. John Sconzo says:

    Chad, I think if we consistently had access to the quality canned seafood that the Spanish do (One of the grand tapas bars of Barcelona, Quimet y Quimet, makes much of their food using various conservas), there definitely would be a place for this in the US. The problem is there isn’t a tradition of excellence for commercially canned products in this country. Privately canned goods represent another question entirely.
    Here are my translations of the dishes presented in the same order as above:
    1. Snack of Preserved Octopus
    2. Canned mussel ravioli in escabeche sauce.
    3. Salad of small tomatoes, baby artichokes and canned sardines.
    4. Won ton of canned mussels with Balinese soup and aromatic sprouts.
    5. Canned tuna belly with (xof?) of tuna stew and artichoke brioche. I have no idea what the word “xof” means. I believe that it is Catalan, but I could not find a definition on line in any language. Anybody?
    6. Clear tuna with olive oil and a tomato “pil-pil.” A pil-pil is a classic basque preparation in which a thick, gelatinous sauce is made from the cod itself in a cazuela or clay pot.
    Other than the octopus and the sardine dishes, I can’t be sure which dish is which in the photos, though they all came from that competition. Obviously some were more elaborate than others. This was the initial competition. It will be interesting to see where this goes from here.

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