Sergio Bastard, from La Casona del Judío, shows that essential cooking can be the most complex.
“It is one thing to cook and another thing entirely to explain it”. That is how Sergio Bastard, from La Casona del Judío (Santander), began his presentation, in which essence took over the kitchens of Reale Seguros Madrid Fusión “My cooking has soul and responsibility and what I like best is when my customers say that when they see a dish they automatically know whether it’s mine or not”, he said proudly. Because for this chef, diners are the key and the foundation of his cooking. In fact, he walks around the tables to interact with them, looking for the right flavour, and he is able to adapt the order to what will make each customer happy, without ever giving up his identity and extreme flavours. But this all comes from the simplicity of the essential.
Cooking in which you can taste Cantabria. “I like to give identity to where I am and you can breathe the mountain and the sea in my dishes”, he acknowledged. But his memories and his experiences over 40 years have also helped him to create and prepare his cuisine. “I like to show who we are and how we cook through my dishes”, he said, before putting on his jacket and starting on a carousel of dishes where less is more. A few elements bring complexity to the mouth. A pepper from Isla was the first to come on to the stage, simple, with vegetable water from the pepper itself, covered with an emulsion of roasted garlic and spheres of Modena vinegar. The pepper gave way to tender baby beans with a Tudanca cow bouillon, to which smoked meat was added for greater contrast.
The sea and the mountains could not be missing from this ode to simplicity and the essential. From the former came succulent glaciera (a species of sea grass), very rich in iodine, very reminiscent of spaghetti, which made him think of accompanying it with a carbonara, but only with yolk and pepper. On top, some black chanterelles to round off a black dish “with subtlety and undertones in the mouth”. And is there anything simpler than dipping bread? This is how pickled lentil vegetable toast came about, with a cream of lentil and sea radish and a stick of honey on top to stimulate the taste buds. A “rich, intense, appetising dessert that sticks in your mouth”, said the chef.
The creative capacity of Bastard seemed to have no end and he presented a brown crab tartar with slices of mestizo cheese from Liébana and a brown crab emulsion on top. And in the middle of the Cantabrian Sea, sole confit a la meuniere, without flour, but with a hint of acidity from fennel and dill. And then, squid in brine brushed with its own sauce, and a pine nut dessert as a tribute to his grandmother. “And to the fireplace, where I ate them after picking pineapples in the village”, he recalled. To end with, a pea wafer with a coffee meringue to remind those of us that “ate wafers as children”. As I said, basic products for huge dishes. The easy to do the hard.