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help with tapas party

Hello hounds! I'm a longtime lurker but this is my first post. I'm having a tapas party over the weekend and could use some help with planning, advice with the menu, etc. Here's what I'm considering so far (though this may well need to be whittled down!), with some questions interspersed:

-tortilla Espanola: This can be made ahead and served cold or room temp, right? I've always just had it by itself, but should it be served with a sauce (e.g. aioli or romesco)?

-pastéis de bacalhau (codfish fritters): Obviously these will need to be fried at the last minute, but can the batter be prepared in advance?

-lamb meatballs: Found a recipe on Chowhound (courtesy of MMRuth). How far in advance can these be prepared?

-pan tomate: I just tried making these last night and they were delicious! Must they be served warm/freshly toasted, or can they be assembled ahead of time?

-chickpea & spinach stew: I found a recipe here (attributed to The New Spanish Table) that uses frozen spinach. I always use fresh, but it would be much easier and less time-consuming to use frozen. I assume with all the spices the difference in the end result will be negligible. Thoughts?

-mushrooms w/ garlic & sherry

-deviled eggs w/ Spanish paprika

-bacon wrapped dates and/or goat cheese stuffed figs

-manchego & quince paste

-olives: I'm intrigued by this recipe (http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...), but thinking about just using the marinade... although I do have a jar of piquillo peppers and was not sure what to do with them.

-almonds: Given the cost of Marcona, I think I'll just put out a dish of regular roasted almonds.

I had also thought about: patatas bravas (but is that too much potato with the tortilla and cod fritters?), gazpacho, jamon serrano or chorizo, vegetables with romesco, or shrimp with garlic sauce. Re the latter, would frozen shrimp--say from TJ's or Fairway--be up to par?

Many of the dishes require Spanish paprika. I remember reading something in the NY Times mag recently about La Tienda's paprika, but I don't think I have time to order it. Would whatever brand is available locally (meaning at Sahadi's, for New Yorkers) be acceptable, or should I go to Penzey's? Also, there seem to be several varieties available. I was planning to buy both hot and sweet. Right?

Finally, I'd like to make both white and red sangria. Any recommendations for decent cheap wine to use, or any favorite recipes?

I greatly appreciate your feedback and suggestions!

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  1. For pa amb tomàquet (what all pan con tomate aspires to be, hehe), you can toast the bread up to an hour in advance (half an hour if the humidity is > 60%), and you can even rub the garlic on in advance, but don't rub on the tomato until you're ready to serve, or it'll get soggy.

    Combine your fig/date dish -- goat cheese-wrapped figs with Serrano (or other country-style) ham rolled around it.

    An easy one to do is peas with onions and bacon.

    If you're going to tart up your wine as sangria, honestly, use Two-Buck Chuck.

    Good luck!

    1. well, for the sangria, lambrusco, although italian, is a good one. the brand i ussually get is about $6 for a larger bottle. comes in a screw top, fruity, would work excelently. you can indeed make up the fritter batter ahead of time; we do it in restraunts all the time- it will keep for a couple of days. serrano ham wrapped around just about anything tastes good- tomatoes, melon, asparagus, figs, whatever. tomatoes are in season now, so make sure to use them. a gazpatcho would be in order. you can make it the day before, and then put it in plastic shot glasses, garnish with chiffinoded basil, and serve them as 'soup shooters.' the normal hungarian paprika should be adiquate. the manchego, on the other hand.... wouldn't recomend it w/ quince puree....i would bread it in panko, drizzle it w/ olive oil, and bake it, serving w/ bread and either a citrus or sherry vin glaze. for the shrooms, try this: steam the mushrooms with the vinagear, then marinate with the other stuff(onions, or whatever), and olive oil for at least an hour. meatballs can also be done ahead. you could mix up the actual meat balls and bake them even the day before, and then warm them in the sauce the day of. deviled eggs sound wonderful. for any spanish food though, just remember to use lots of bread, and lots of olive oil. hope it turns out great!

      1. Welcome! Your ideas for a tapas party sound great. What time should I be there? :-) Seriously, I have a few tips and thoughts:

        - tortilla Espanola: Don't refrigerate the tortilla - the cold makes the eggs go rubbery. Make it earlier that day and let it sit. (Make sure it has time to get to room temp; it really is better when it's not hot.)

        - chickpea & spinach stew: I've never made this, but I'll bet frozen spinach would be fine.

        - olives: This recipe sounds great! I'm betting you can make it a day or two ahead. I often marinate olives with orange juice/rind, garlic, and fennel seed; the longer they sit, the better they are. (I do mine at least a week ahead.)

        - manchego & quince paste: Crazy simple, but always wildly popular when I serve it. Don't skip this one.

        - almonds: Warm them in the oven with salt and a drizzle of Spanish olive oil before serving them, and no-one will notice that they're not Marcona almonds.

        - shrimp with garlic: If you do this, go for the fresh shrimp. Frozen is never as good.

        - paprika: There is a unique taste to Spanish smoked paprika, whether from La Tienda or elsewhere. (Are you in New York? Surely someone sells smoked paprika somewhere nearby...) But if you can't get that, any good paprika would probably be an OK substitute. Me, I'd go for Penzey's over Sahadi, but that's because the Sahadi's stuff that makes it to the midwest is usually pretty old...

        Most importantly, it's worth splurging on a few good ingredients, especially some Spanish olive oil - there's nothing better for making things taste "Spanish". And top-notch anchovies are worth the price.

        Have a great time!

        Anne

        1. Sounds wonderful. What a great mixture of tastes. Sorry, I have no suggestions. I'll just sit here and drool...
          My husband makes the best smoked almonds though! Just smoked, no salty, sweet, dusted stuff. Just smoked in the smoker. Good luck and enjoy. Again, your menu sounds great.

          1. Your party soiunds like it will be a big hit!

            For the stew...I might suggest going with your latter idea of doing a gazpacho. This is for three reasons:

            1. It is summer time and tomatos are so delicious right now! Take advantage of that and make a delicious seasonal gazpacho!
            2. If it is hot where you are gazpacho will be cool and refreshing.
            3. You don't have to worry about it sitting and getting cold. Just prepare in advance sit it in the fridge and you coiuld serve it punch style with a laddle in it and just let it sit.

            I also have a question...I love manchego and quince when I had it but for a party how do you serve it? Is it quince paste? Do you just lay it out on a platter for people to mix themselves?

            Jenna

            3 Replies
            1. re: j2brady

              For the Manchego-Quince tapas, I usually just thinly slice the cheese and quince paste (about a 1/4-inch or thinner) and layer one of each, cheese on the bottom. If I'm feeling super-fancy, I cut triangle shapes. Then I arrange them nicely on a plate.

              Here's a visual aid, courtesy of Dean & Deluca:
              http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/imag...

              If necessary, I put a knife on the plate so people can scoop up a slice, but if they're layered well, you can just reach in and grab a piece.

              Sometimes, I put the cheese-and-quince on a thin slice of bread (usually a baguette). It's a bit easier to pick up, but doesn't really add anything; in fact, it detracts from the intenseness of the cheese-fruit combination.

              One more note: It's worth splurging on the cheese - get real Spanish Manchego, not the Mexican or American version. But to my taste, at least, it's fine to use the supermarket quince paste (aka mebrillo) from any good Hispanic grocery. (Note that quince paste isn't jam, but is a very firm substance that can be sliced and picked up pretty easily, although it's a bit squishy.

              )

              Oh, now I've gotta get some Manchego on my way home tonight. Luckily, I have a three-year supply of mebrillo in my cupboards.

              Anne

              1. re: AnneInMpls

                Thanks for the great picture!

                I am planning a tapas diner for my favourite guinea pig..my boyfriend. I have been recenlty inspired after reading about the tapas made on the Amateur Gourmet site.

                I love tapas! Luckily I spoilt for Mexican/Latin grocers here in Toronto.

                Jenna

                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  Oops - the Spanish term for quince paste is "membrillo". I can't type (or proofread)...

                  Anne