Tapas En Su Casa

Tapas En Su Casa

Fans, followers and amateur practitioners of Spanish cuisine have been receiving a dual message in recent years. On one hand, we have been hearing and reading a lot about the trend-setting masters of modern Spanish cooking—three-star toques including Ferran Adrià, Sergi Arola, Andoni Luis Aduriz and others; we’ve thrilled to descriptions of their ethereal foams, liquefied foie gras, sparse salads of microgreens and tiny plates of exotic fish.

For most of us, however, experience with these cooks and their food is entirely vicarious. What we’ve actually been eating that is Spanish and trendy is tapas: a potato omelet, plates of cured meats, skewers of grilled shrimp or squid, toothpicks loaded up with olives, cheeses and much more.

In Spain, from Barcelona to Madrid to San Sebastián to Sevilla, rare is the bar or small restaurant that doesn’t take its tapas seriously. For that matter, Spanish-inspired tapas are, and have been for a while, quite the rage in the United States. It seems like everyone loves their tasty bites, especially alongside a copita of Sherry, a flute of Cava or a glass of Spanish table wine.

Granted, this tapas phenomenon is hardly new. History notes that the Spanish king Alfonso X of Castile recovered from illness by sipping small quantities of wine while consuming equally small bites of food; once fit, he issued a decree that all establishments serving liquor must offer small plates of food to go with the tipple. Later on, bartenders in southerly Andalusia took to serving salty items like olives, almonds, chorizo and ham in order to stimulate thirst, and with it, sales. With the nibbles came bread slices, which were used to cover, or tapar, accompanying Sherry glasses in order to thwart flies.

A trend was born. Nowadays, tapas are as popular as ever across America. Even if you don’t call what you’re eating a tapa, have you noticed how many restaurants and bars have adopted the so-called small plate method of dining, where patrons are encouraged to sample a number of Lilliputian portions all with the intent of taking in a variety of flavors, textures and accompanying drinks?

You can also do it yourself by inviting a half-dozen or so friends over to your home and serving up the following four classic Spanish tapas while queuing up music from bands like B Tribe, Radio Tarifa or Ojos de Brujo. We obtained the following recipes from a trio of talented chefs in New York. They are not difficult to execute, and they shouldn’t be; the core idea behind tapas is that they should be easy to make and even easier to pop in your mouth.

Tortilla Española with Vegetatables

Courtesy Josh DeChellis, chef at La Fonda del Sol, New York City
1 leek, cut in approx. 3-inch strips
1 Idaho potato, cubed (approx ½ inch)
1 autumn squash, cubed (approx ½ inch)
1 zucchini, cubed (approx ½ inch)
1 tablespoon duck fat
Salt and pepper to taste
A few sprigs thyme
8 eggs

Aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Clean and cut leek into small strips, then soak in water to remove any dirt, about 5 minutes. Cut potato, squash and zucchini into half-inch cubes. Melt duck fat in an oven-proof pan over medium heat, then add cubed potato, squash and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Add leek pieces to pan and lightly sauté vegetables. Sprinkle with fresh thyme.

Beat eggs in a large bowl then pour eggs into the pan. Lightly cook, turning egg-and-vegetable mixture over in the pan with a spatula. Get a little bit of color on the bottom; cook eggs to about 70% done. Remove the pan from the stove and place in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, remove and flip over onto a plate. The tortilla should be fully set. Slice into wedges and serve with aïoli. Serves 8.

Wine Recommendatations: Nothing goes better with this egg-based classic than a glass of Cava, Spain’s national sparkling wine. Look for the Juvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia Brut Nature for its crystalline bouquet and palate; for simple pleasure at $10 or under, Freixenet Brut and Segura Viudas Brut will not disappoint.

Pintxo Tutera: Canapé of Artichoke, Roncal Cheese and Serrano Ham

Courtesy Eder Montero and Alex Raij, chef/owners of Txikito and El Quinto Pino, New York City
2 cups frozen or fresh-trimmed artichoke hearts, quartered
2 cups olive oil
Salt to taste
1 cup grated Roncal cheese
Juice of half a lemon
8 slices Serrano ham or jamón Ibérico, cut crosswise in very thin ribbons
12 slices of baguette

In a small pot, cover the artichoke hearts with olive oil and cook over medium-low heat until tender. Increase heat and stir until golden. Remove artichoke hearts from pot using slotted or frying spoon, spread on a sheet pan lined with paper towels and season with salt. Discard oil. Cool artichokes to warm then pulse in a food processor. Add cheese and pulse 2 or 3 more times. Add lemon juice then remove to a large bowl and fold in the ham.

Pile portions of the artichoke mixture atop bread slices and bake at 400°F until lightly brown and hot, about 5 minutes. Serves up to 12.

Wine Recommendatations: A fresh Spanish white wine is the perfect partner for these semisalty snacks. At Txikito in New York, a great pairing is Gaba do Xil, a minerally but fruity Godello from the Valdeorras region. Another option, but one rung up the price and quality ladder, is As Sortes, a barrel-aged but impeccably balanced old-vines Valdeorras Godello from Rafael Palacios.

Montatadito de Lomo Adobado: Canapapé of Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Peppers and Cheese

Courtesy Eder Montero and Alex Raij, chef/owners of Txikito and El Quinto Pino, New York City

For the Lomo:
1 pork tenderloin, about 1½ pounds (ideally an heirloom breed with some intramuscular fat)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons kosher salt
¼ cup water
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons pimentón dulce (sweet Spanish paprika), plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon pimentón picante (hot Spanish paprika)

For the Montataditos:
12 slices of baguette
1 cup mild Spanish melting cheese such as Mahón, grated (can substitute aged provolone)
12 pieces roasted sweet pepper, preferably canned piquillos from Navarra or pimientos de cristal from Bierzo (available from Despaña: despananyc.com; alternately you can roast and peel your own sweet red peppers)
Pork tenderloin (from above), sliced ¼-inch thick

Place the whole pork loin in a glass or ceramic dish. Place the garlic, salt and water in the bowl of a food processor and process into a paste. Smear the garlic paste all over the pork loin and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Mix the olive oil and both paprikas. Rinse the pork loin and pat dry. Apply the paprika mixture by massaging into the meat. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat oven to 400°F. Place bread slices on a sheet pan and cover each with cheese and a piece of sweet pepper. Heat in oven until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a hot pan quickly sear the sliced pork on both sides. Divide the pork among the warm cheese-and-pepper-topped bread slices and dust with pimentón. Serves up to 12.

Wine Recommendatations: A crisp, affordable Spanish rosado is the ticket for these tasty open-face treats. Go with as young and fresh of a wine as possible: three widely available rosés from the Rioja region that will do the trick with these montaditos are Muga, El Coto and Marqués de Cáceres.

Squid á la Plancha with Bay Leaf and Lemon

Courtesy Josh DeChellis, chef at La Fonda del Sol, New York City
Sea salt and cayenne pepper, mixed to taste
1/3 pound fresh bay leaves
1½ pounds fresh baby squid, cleaned
3 ounces Spanish olive oil, preferably Arbequina
1 or 2 lemons

Mix a fine sea salt with enough cayenne pepper until it tastes just a little playful on the palate. In a microwave, using a medium setting, “cook” bay leaves until they are just dried out, about 60 to 90 seconds. Powder the bay leaves in a coffee grinder or spice mill, add salt-pepper mixture to taste, and reserve. Meanwhile, preheat the plancha (a flat kitchen grill) or a cast-iron pan to medium-high. Brush squid with olive oil then season the tubes and tentacles with the cayenne-salt mixture; cook on the plancha or in the pan very quickly, until squid is just cooked through.

To serve: Dress plates with a sprinkling of bay leaf powder and arrange the cooked squid on each plate. Drizzle squid with olive oil and garnish with a wedge of lemon. Serves 6.

Wine Recommendatations: La Fonda del Sol wine director Nicholas Nahigian works closely with DeChellis to come up with proper wine pairings. For these flash-grilled squid, Nahigian suggests a dry manzanilla Sherry such as La Guita or a fruity and citrusy Albariño from Rías Baixas in Galicia; options include Pazo de Señorans and Terras Gauda.

Published on April 11, 2011