Spanish Tapas

By Beacon Staff

In Spain dinner is typically served much later than here in America, sometimes as late as 9 or 10 at night. In the hours leading up to their main meal of the evening, many Spaniards take part in the long-standing tradition of tapas. While tapas are considered a type of cuisine, it is also a style of eating which usually takes place in bars or pubs and is done standing or casually seated. Small bites of food that accompany your after-work cocktail, tapas cover a wide range of ingredients and preparations with a unique Spanish flare. Recently at an event at Luna’s Coffee & Wine Cellar in Bigfork, I put together a fabulous combination of classic tapas and they were paired with some wonderful Spanish wines, many of which are available locally at very reasonable prices. An assortment of these simple yet elegant dishes is perfect to serve at your next cocktail party. Here are a couple recipes to get you started:

First off, tortilla Espanol. Essentially, tortilla Espanol is an omelet of thinly sliced potatoes and onions and it is one of the most common dishes found at tapas bars throughout Spain. For the tortilla you will need to gather together the following ingredients:

2-3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1 large yellow onion, julienned
6-8 large eggs, beaten
1 bunch scallions, green parts only, sliced thin (for garnishing)
salt
pepper
olive oil

This recipe will make two tortillas. To get started, in a non-stick frying pan, saute the yellow onion with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper until they are soft but no color. Set aside. Next, in the same pan over medium heat, add four tablespoons of olive oil and working in batches cook your potato slices on both sides for about 2-3 minutes until just tender. Remove them from your pan onto a paper towel to soak up any excess oil and season with salt and pepper. Do this until you have cooked all the potatoes. Finally, lightly oil your pan and arrange one layer of the potatoes on the bottom. Now add a layer of the onions and then a final layer of potatoes. Place the pan over medium heat and ladle on some of your egg until it just covers your potatoes. Cook slowly until you can feel the bottom of the tortilla release from the pan. Place a flat round plate over your pan and invert your tortilla onto it and then carefully slide it back into the pan and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan to a cutting board and repeat the process for the remaining ingredients. To serve your tortilla, cut it into wedges and garnish with a sprinkle of the green onion and maybe some salsa or sour cream.

Now for our next dish, gambas al ajillo or garlic prawns. This recipe makes about four servings. For this you will need the following ingredients:

1 pound of 16-20 shrimp. I prefer shell on, but you can use shelled if you like.
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. sweet paprika
2 tsp. chili flakes (optional)
1/3 cup dry sherry wine
olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
2 lemons, zest and juice
salt
pepper

In a saute pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until they just start to brown or caramelize. Raise the heat to high and add the shrimp, lemon juice, sherry and paprika. Stir a couple of times to prevent sticking, then saute, stirring briskly until the shrimp turn pink and curl a bit. Remove from the heat and place them on a large dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fresh parsley and some lemon wedges.

Tapas can be a fun way to entertain and after you have tried these first two delicious dishes hopefully you will want to search out some other exciting recipes. Cheers!

Josh Auerhammer is chef/owner of Culinary Design Studio in Bigfork.

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