A Tapas Feast
The party gets started with good sangria, the Gipsy Kings pulsing from your iPod and a table full of Spanish tapas. Tapas, which are little plates of delicious goodness, are a crowd-pleaser, creating a laid-back vibe that will inspire your guests to mingle. The key to a tapas party is setting the scene with a gorgeous theme of deep reds reflected in the tablecloth and flowers along with lots of candles. A generous variety of visually beautiful food served on an assortment of small plates will pull your party together. As a host, tapas night is one of the most enjoyable dinners since the food is laid on the table right before guests arrive. Also, there’s no need to be a hero and make everything from scratch. In fact a number of items, such as the croquettes—little fried balls filled with everything from potatoes and cheese to codfish—are best outsourced from your local restaurant. Pre-prep is key to making tapas seamless. The only work you’ll need to do is clear the tables for dancing later in the night after the sangria has set in.
There are few places in the world that can rival Spain for its variety of meats and cheeses. The stars of your cheese platter will include Manchego, a firm cow’s milk cheese, Queso de Murcia, Monte Enebro and the blue Valdez. Of course, none of this would be complete without lots of Jamon Iberico, alongside fig cake and Marcona almonds
Our version of Patatas Bravas is healthier than the traditional. Instead of deep frying, the potatoes are pan-fried and the usual mayonnaise-based Bravas sauce is replaced with chipotle hot sauce. Cilantro and shallots are added to enhance the flavor of the dish. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Coarsely cube the boiled potatoes, which should not be fully cooked. Add ½ cup canola oil to an oven-proof skillet and heat over medium high flame. Sauté shallots until softened, about 4 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer potatoes to the oven until crunchy, about 10 additional minutes, turning once. Garnish with chipotle hot sauce and cilantro. Chipotle hot sauce can be thickened with mayonnaise, at your preference.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a paella pan, sauté onion in about 6 tablespoons of olive oil for about 5 minutes. Mix in the Spanish rice, and cook until the rice is opaque, an additional 4-5 minutes. Add in the white wine and cook until absorbed. Separately, warm the chicken broth, reserving about 1 cup . In the reserved chicken broth, add the saffron. Combine the pureed tomatoes and tomato paste then add to the rice mixture in the paella pan. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook rice for about 10 minutes uncovered. Remove from heat and layer in the seafood. Cover and place in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. For the last 5 minutes of cooking, uncover and broil so that the top is slightly browned. Paella should be made right before guests arrive and will be the last of the tapas feast on the table.
Cut the French bread in half and spread with olive oil and sea salt. Lightly grill the bread for about 5 minutes until heated through and there are grill marks on the bread. In the meantime, puree the San Marzano tomatoes and about ¼ cup liquid and olive oil in the food processer until a paste is formed (or if using fresh, boil for about 4 minutes). Warm tomato mixture in a saucepan for about 5 minutes. Mash the roasted garlic clove into the tomato paste and add 6 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel. Heat for about 4-5 minutes. Spread tomato mixture generously on the lightly grilled bread. May be served at room temperature.
Heat oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallot and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and rosemary, but do not overcrowd in the pan, and continue until slightly browned. Add the parsley and cook for one minute before serving either hot or at room temperature.
Marinate shrimp in about ¼ to ½ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons sea salt and freshly grated pepper to taste. Right before guests arrive, heat up about ¼ cup olive oil in a skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, then add in the red pepper to the oil for about an additional minute. Add 1-3 cloves of roasted garlic to the oil. Reduce heat to medium low and add the shrimp. Sauté, but do not brown the shrimp, for about 3 -4 minutes each side. Add additional red pepper flakes to taste, and serve either hot or warm.