Advertising copywriters have long aimed to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” It’s a Mad Men-era way of saying that the excitement of an experience — the sizzle — can be just as inviting as the finished product — the steak.
If sizzle (literally and metaphorically) is what you’re after, then adding plancha cooking to your menu might be the perfect solution. Plancha is a Spanish word that means “plate.” Similar to a restaurant flattop, it’s a common piece of equipment and a cooking technique that’s used across Spain and the Mediterranean. These days, plancha grills have been turning up as a preparation centerpiece in many restaurant concepts, from fast casual eateries to temples of gastronomy headed by chefs including Alain Ducasse and Paul Bocuse.
Tapas and more
“What I like most about plancha cooking is that it doesn’t require much pre-planning,” says Janet Mendel, an American-born journalist and author of My Kitchen in Spain. “There are no marinades, rubs or brines required.” Mendel, who lives in southern Spain, explains that no tapas restaurant could exist without a plancha. “It’s used in cooking tiny squid, whole, unpeeled prawns, slabs of swordfish steak, pork cutlets, and small steaks. Everything is basted with aliño, a mixture of olive oil, garlic, parsley and lemon.”
While the plancha is a terrific way to prepare meat, fresh fruits and vegetables also do well plancha-style.
Mendel suggests that plancha-grilled foods should be accompanied by a sensational sauce. She likes to pair Romesco sauce with grilled shrimp. Alioli (garlic olive oil mayonnaise) goes well with griddled lamb chops or rabbit. A Piquillo pepper sauce is perfect with seafood.
Janet Mendel’s book, My Kitchen in Spain (Harper Collins)
Food Arts looks at equipment options for cooking “a la plancha”
This On Your Plate post will give you some ideas for meatless menus on the plancha.
Looking for more recipe ideas and menu inspiration?
Make sure to check out our recipe section.