Every year, in a tiny municipality nestled in the rugged landscape of Cuenca, Spain, people gather to answer a very important question: Who makes the most delicious morteruelo in the land?
There are many varieties of morteruelo, but in its most basic form, the dish is a pâté (sometimes called pâté de fois gras Manchego for its La Mancha heritage) consisting of pork liver, spices, and a menagerie of meats ranging from rabbit to partridge to quail. The name gives a hint as to the tool most instrumental in making it. Chefs pulverize cooked liver using a mortar, then add it to a large skillet along with game meat, seasonings, and bread crumbs (whose gluten transforms everything into a thick paste). Slowly, cooks add broth (or sometimes milk) and stir until the pastoral potage reaches the perfect consistency.
Residents of Villar del Humo, a small village in Cuenca, show their appreciation for the spread with their annual competition in its honor. But that’s nothing: Love for morteruelo runs so deep that one 19th-century poet committed the recipe to verse.
If you aren’t able to make it to the big event, seek out a tapas bar in La Mancha, where the hearty dish will likely arrive table-side in a warm clay pot accompanied by local bread for dipping to your heart’s delight. But remember, no morteruela is complete without a robust Spanish red to wash it down.