One of Spain’s (and the world’s) most beautiful men, Xabi Alonso, was once my guardian angel.
He graced a billboard for an Emidio Tucci ad campaign (as in photo, right), near the building where I stayed in Madrid last November.
Admittedly, I am directionally-challenged (at best) when finding my way “home” in a big foreign city, especially at night when everything looks different! Thanks to his beautiful image always being there for me, I never got sidetracked or lost after spending splendid time in Madrid by day, and especially by night.
Even before and after all that, I have loved this man in general. He is the very joyfully devoted husband of Spanish actress Nagore Aranburu, and father of two beautiful children. He played for Liverpool in his younger years (which means that one day we can converse in English), is still holds passion for his former club. He speaks lovingly of his Basque heritage and reveres its food and family culture, making him adoration-worthy to me.
He even played football as a child at Playa de la Concha in San Sebastian, one of the most gorgeous sites I visited in Spain (photo coming soon).
With profound admiration - and gratitude - I have long wanted to be Xabi Alonso’s chef. I was delighted to learn that he is quite the food enthusiast, and especially appreciates food prepared with pleasure and affection. He has a way of just making things so easy for me!
And now, his Real Madrid club will be without their excellent midfielder for about 3 months due to his serious foot injury, which just hurts. On many levels. I just know that if I cooked something really special for this fine gentleman, that would make him feel so much better!
Torrijas is Spain’s version of French Toast, or even bread pudding, and it happens to be a favorite of my handsome muse.
If I were his privileged Chef, I would prepare an irresistible variation of torrijas, in the style of my best French toast, with a Champagne mango accent. Ataulfo mangoes from Mexico may still be available through early fall; any mango variety will work here.
This is truly one of my best dishes - always, always prepared with love and pure passion. I learned how to make this for breakfast from my own father, and I always, always include his secret ingredient: orange juice.
If Xabi Alonso has not yet enjoyed these smooth, silky mangos, he’s in for a sublime treat. They remind me of his elegance, class, penchant for fine foods and dining, and they make for very good and healthy eating. Thinking that it would be a really nice family meal, I picture them all crowded on a big bed for Sunday morning breakfast. The whole dish is homage to his being a pure class-act. On many levels.
And, obviously, to thank him for making my world more beautiful ... and, safe.
Torrijas ~ French Toast-style with Champagne Mango ~ for Xabi Alonso
1 cup milk
Juice of one fresh orange
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 day-old baguette, sliced diagonally, 1-inch thick
Butter, for frying
Honey, for finishing
Whisk batter ingredients until frothy, pour into shallow baking dish. Place bread slices in batter, turning at least once. Let bread soak while making mango butter (recipe follows). Generously melt frying butter in large skillet over medium flame. Cook soaked bread in butter, until lightly browned on each side. Distribute among four warmed serving plates, place scoop of mango butter on top, and drizzle with honey to serve. Yields 4 servings.
1 small Ataulfo mango, cut in small dice
1 cube unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of salt
Pinch each of brown sugar, and ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Puree mango dice in food processor. Add remainder of ingredients, pulse until mixture is smooth and creamy. Serve over warm French toast. (Leftover portion may be refrigerated for up to one week.)