Two slices of sourdough bread, tenderloin, tomatoes, spinach, grated Arla cheddar and mozzarella cheese, a touch of basil and a generous dollop of Lurpak® butter. Heat round and round in the pan so that the butter creates a crispy crust on the bread and the cheese melts, and voila! It's everything chef Mario Sandoval needs to create a sandwich worthy of a Michelin Star.
Sandoval stars in a new installment of Opening the Refrigerator, a project by the Danish dairy company Arla Foods where different famous people talk about eating well, with all the senses. What is now called mindful eating and which is based on stopping for a moment in our daily frenzy to appreciate the nuances of food.
We tend to think that every day at the home of great chefs, very elaborate dishes are eaten, snacks and dinners, delicacies with exotic and hard-to-find ingredients. Of course, this is not the case of Mario Sandoval, National Gastronomy Award 2013 and responsible for the good cuisine of the Coque restaurant. One of his favorite dishes at his house is the Roast Titi, a sandwich 'invented' by his wife Cristina ('Titi').
“It is a simple recipe to make as a family and at any time. It is reminiscent of those crunchy and juicy sandwiches we used to have as children,” she explains. The preparation does not have much science. The secret is in the ingredients, natural and quality. Especially bread, butter and cheese. “The bread is sourdough with spelled and black flour, which are endangered wheats. As for the cheese, for me it is non-negotiable: they have to be cheddar, for the flavor, and mozzarella, because it has an infinite creaminess", he points out, while cutting the tomato into slices "with skin, meat and seeds, so that it has more flavor". . Then, she carefully stacks each ingredient on the bread, without rushing, enjoying every moment.
His secret touch is to apply a little butter on the inside of the bread, to give it flavor and juiciness, and spread it generously on the outside so that it toasts. His favourite, he explains, is Arla's Lurpak®, a classic Danish butter made with milk, lactic ferments and a pinch of salt. Nothing more and nothing less. “It is creamy, natural and has the flavor I need for my recipes. I usually add a teaspoon of butter to sauces and stews because it enhances the flavor of the dish, adds shine, changes the umami and texture. Well, that's as long as the butter is natural and fresh, if not, forget about it, ”she warns.
Once the sandwich is assembled, he carefully places it on the already hot griddle. Under the watchful eye of Lidia Torrent, she reminds us that we must avoid the temptation to crush it so that the cheeses melt sooner or we will lose part of the sponginess of the ingredients. Round and round, without haste, the butter is toasted and the bread acquires that appetizing ocher tone. When it is ready, all that remains is to serve it, garnish the plate with a little basil and cherry tomatoes and enjoy it without haste.
As a food lover, Sandoval admits that he loves to enjoy food consciously and with all five senses. “That is mindful eating. You look at the plate and see the juiciness, the shine, the texture… When you cut the sandwich you see how the mozzarella stretches like the lace of a curtain. And then there is the sound of that crispy yet tender bread,” he declares, encouraging Torrent to “listen” to the food before sinking his teeth into it. Without forgetting the aroma of toasted butter and, finally, the soft taste of the bread, the freshness of the basil and the sobriety of the tenderloin. A symphony of sensations that turn a humble sandwich into a pleasure.
Sandoval is an old friend of Arla's. A collaboration that goes on for nine years, in which the man from Madrid has had the opportunity to see live how the cheeses and butters of this cooperative of farmers that produce dairy products are made with a common denominator: they are 100% natural products, without additives, colorings , nor preservatives with milk of the highest quality from their own farms. “To make a good dish you have to have natural and quality food. For me, flavor is non-negotiable and that is what I also look for when I cook for my clients”, he declares.
Despite the stress that usually exists in the kitchen of a large restaurant, when it comes to food, he tries to do things consciously. “You have to be present when you choose the product in the market, when you are cooking it and when you drink it. If you are thinking about what went wrong yesterday, or about what you have to do tomorrow, you do not enjoy the preparation or the dish. When you're pissed off, there's no one to eat the macaroni, but if you're in a good mood, you'll have a brutal dish?”, emphasizes the cook.
Inveterately passionate about food, he is convinced that mental and physical health depend on what we eat. That is the starting point of the most successful of his eight books, Better to eat well than to diet, written with Eva Celada. “The word diet was invented for when you are in the hospital and you have to follow a strict diet because you have a deficiency. It is a restrictive concept that you have to get out of. Our goal with the book was to give the reader fun recipes and encourage them to go shopping,” she says.
It stresses the importance of enjoying shopping and looking for seasonal, more nutritious and more sustainable foods. These are not empty words: his Coque restaurant has two Michelin Stars and one Green Star. “Sustainability has to go within you in your way of life. They gave us the Green Michelin Star because we had been working consciously for fifteen years to achieve a sustainable restaurant in a big city like Madrid, with local, artisan, organic products… ”, she explains.
This commitment to the natural was the link with Arla. “Like us, they are defenders of the product, good work and quality. They are natural products, with lactic bacteria that we need for our day to day and nothing else. But it is that on top of that they are rich! ”, He asserts. Taste, simplicity and sustainability, three S's that join Sandoval's capital S to close a circle of passion for good food.