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Help with Spanish themed meal

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I am hosting 6 of us for a wine tasting/Spanish meal. I am not familiar with cooking Spanish food and our fresh seafood is severely lacking.

I really have no clue about Spanish food, but have some ideas here for what I want to serve:

nibbles: (I have a hunk of manchego that needs to get used up? Have made manchego/chorizo puffs in past, could do that again)

appetizer: seafood??? I would love to do clams or mussels, I may be able to order them in at my grocery store. OR should I do a salad here?

soup: chilled or hot almond soup (I need a recipe)

main: meat (chicken or beef, lamb or veal is a potential, but maybe too expensive), what starch/veg to serve?

dessert: I have no clue? Maybe a flan?

Once I have the menu, I will work on wine pairings.

definitely want to make as much ahead as possible.

NO olives, legumes, artichokes, avocado or eggplant

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  1. How about a paella, one pan wonder.

    1 Reply
    1. re: treb

      I did consider paella, but one of the guests makes paella every year for New Years, so felt it might be a little close to that. Also again, the problem with fresh seafood. Doubt I could even get squid. I suppose I could just do sausage, chicken and shrimp though.

      If I go this route, should I go salad instead of seafood app?

    2. How about a Pernil?
      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/din...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nunzio

        Pernil is a Puerto Rican dish - not so much a Spanish dish.

      2. tortilla espanola is a great starch side for a spanish menu. also makes a good main course for vegetarians. eggs, potatoes and sometimes onions. easy and can be done ahead. i serve it with romesco sauce (roasted peppers, sherry vinegar, hazelnuts or almonds). googling will get you tons of recipe variations on these simple spanish staples..

        1 Reply
        1. re: chez cherie

          Recently spent about ten days in Barcelona an tortilla espanola was a fave. And, as you mention, it can be served at room temp which for me is a plus.

        2. Look for ajo blanco recipes for your almond soup.
          Also I think pisto manchego would be a good side dish.
          Pollo al ajillo is decent if you want chicken. Breaded beef round steak would go well if you want beef.

          Dessert, there are lots of nice cakes. I like torta de Santiago served slightly warm.

          Don't bother with the tarts for nibble. Just put out the manchego with some membrillo and dried chrorizo.

          1. Garlic shrimp is a very traditional app.

            We do a lot of chicken braised with chourico or ham, braised rabbit is also popular. Salt cod casserole with potatoes is very traditional as is the potato tortilla.

            Flan is one of the more traditional desserts. There are also many almond or citrus based cakes made.

            1. Migas would be a nice first course and would move you away from seafood.

              If you are willing to eat chickpeas, you can make cocido madrileno.

              1. Here are some thoughts and a few recipes from Epicurious:

                For the nibbles, tortilla espanola is a great choice. It can be made ahead and would go nicely with sliced manchego and chorizo. Fino sherry is the most appropriate aperitif.

                If you want to do a seafood appetizer, I second the suggestion for gambas al ajillo.
                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                If you go with clams or mussels, you might be able to give them a Spanish twist by steaming them in white wine with garlic and saffron.

                Chicken and lamb are often braised in Spain. Here's a recipe for garlic braised chicken that looks pretty good and reasonably authentic: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                Flan is the obvious dessert choice, but I find it totally charmless. I usually poach pears in red wine with cinnamon, black pepper and a vanilla bean. I stuff the pears with sweetened mascarpone flavored with vanilla and a little brandy, and pour over the reduced poaching liquid as a sauce.

                I have long wanted to try this recipe for Catalan-inspired fruit-nut tart. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                And if you want to save time, I've heard that some people like vanilla ice cream topped with Pedro Ximenez sherry, though I have never tried it myself...

                10 Replies
                1. re: CathleenH

                  So many great suggestions!

                  Here is what I am starting to narrow down to:

                  Nibbles
                  manchego, chorizo, quince (probably jelly, I am sure I won't find fresh)

                  appetizer
                  garlic shrimp/crusty bread

                  soup
                  almond soup (should I go hot or cold???)

                  Main (can't decide, all sounds so good)
                  paella (if I do this should I change the garlic shrimp app?)
                  braised rabbit
                  garlic chicken
                  (I am considering serving the last 2 with the tortilla espanola, would it be too heavy? If so just roast potatoes and what vegetable??)

                  Dessert:
                  Torta di Santiago
                  Catalan inspired fruit tart (pears are still nice right now I think, leaning towards this one)

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    I think the tortilla would be fine with the meats. In case it helps, here are the directions I recorded while my friend made a tortilla a while back. Hers are delicious - I've made them since that day, using her instructions, to consistently good results.

                    Spanish Tortilla / Tortilla de Patata

                    Ingredients:

                    6-8 potatoes
                    1 med/large onion
                    6-8 eggs
                    1 cup or more of olive oil
                    ...

                    Instructions:
                    1. Slice the potatoes super-thin, maybe a quarter-inch or less. Separate them all so that they are not sticking together. Slice the onion thin, and mix into the potatoes.

                    2. Put the olive oil in a sautee pan - preferably nonstick; the one I use is 10" I think. (I use cast iron) Heat it up a bit, but not to frying-temp. Add the potatoes and onions.

                    3. Cook them in the oil, turning them over for evenness periodically, until they are soft. Your goal is soft, maybe a tiny bit browned, but not crispy. Not fried.

                    4. Drain them using a colander placed over a heat-safe bowl, to catch the oil (which you will set aside in a glass container, for future use, after it has cooled). Press them to drain as much oil out as possible.

                    5. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add a teaspoon or two of salt. Add the cooked potatoes & onions in another bowl. You want the mixture to be pretty goopy, but not too eggy. If it seems potato-heavy, beat and add one more egg.

                    6. Using the same pan, heat a little oil - a few tablespoons - over a high heat. When it's hot, pour the potato/onion/egg mixture into it. Keep it on the high heat until it seems as if it has started to cook. Then, taking a spatula, "bend" around the edges of the tortilla so that the eggy, uncooked stuff in the center can "bleed" out to the edges, little by little - more and more will be cooked this way.

                    7. When it seems reasonably solid on top (but still raw of course), and using a large plate, hold the handle of the pan in your left hand, put the plate over the pan, and *quick*, flip it over onto the plate. The raw side will be plate-down. Slide it back into the pan this way, so that the raw side will then cook. You may need to manually slip some of the eggy potatoes into the pan, tucking them in underneath/to the side that is cooking.

                    8. After several minutes, turn the heat down to med-low to ensure the center is getting cooked. Keep on that heat for maybe another five minutes, or more if you think the tortilla is thick enough to merit additional cooking.

                    When it seems done/solid, flip it out of the pan onto a serving plate. Cool for awhile (15-30 min) so that it can "set" before serving.

                    1. re: tcamp

                      Thanks for taking the time to write all that out. I'd suggest you copy it and make it its own thread. It will make it much easier for others to find it. Just a thought.

                    2. re: cleopatra999

                      That sounds like a good menu. The nibbles take care of themselves and you can attend to your appetizers and main.

                      It being winter, I would say go with a hot almond soup. To offset the creaminess of the soup course, I'd braise the rabbit escabeche style. The light vinegar sauce would wake up the taste buds and contrast with chicken in garlic sauce.

                      Tortilla as a side dish seems rather heavy. Personally I would enjoy a crusty bread to sop up the sauces of your braise and a light vegetable dish like spinach Catalan (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...). Chow also has a recipe for a delicious dressing that would go equally well draped over grains or roasted green beans and peppers. http://www.chow.com/recipes/29671-spa...

                      1. re: JungMann

                        I agree that the tortilla is rather heavy as a side dish. In all my time studying/teaching/traveling with Spain I have never once seen it served that way.

                        I think some sautéed spinach like that which is in the Spain book from that series with Mario, Gwenthyn, Claudia and mark is really good. spinach is sautéed with currants and nuts. Light and would go well with you main dishes.

                        1. re: JungMann

                          I love both of those ideas thanks Jungmann & Melpy I think the spinach is perfect. For me the tortilla seems very heavy too.

                          I cannot get good green beans, so spinach is perfect, I also like the idea of just bread, or perhaps a grain. IS there a grain specific to Spain? Do they use farro there, like in Italy? Or more of couscous?

                          This actually sounds interesting, I can often get Trout.
                          http://www.tienda.com/recipes/escabec...

                          The rabbit I have seen here in town is frozen whole, should I source out joints? or just butcher (yikes) myself?

                          Any other recipes for rabbit escabeche you can recommend?

                          1. re: cleopatra999

                            That is a good escabeche recipe except I flour before frying. The crust offers a little contrast and if it is thick enough, soaks up some of the sauce. I would also add some coriander and clove and toss in some sliced carrot with the rabbit. Fish escabeche is even better, so if you can easily get trout, there is no harm in serving that. I just don't know about mixing fish AND rabbit together.

                            If you haven't butchered a rabbit before, there are videos on the internet that can help you, though it can be tricky with those small bones around the loins. Most of the meat is in the hindquarters and these are the most desirable parts for escabeche.
                            http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2010/0...

                            1. re: JungMann

                              Perhaps I will try to source it already jointed then. I have one guest who is not sure about eating rabbit (mentally). If that is the case I will switch to trout.

                            2. re: cleopatra999

                              Potatoes would be more authentic than a grain on the side.

                        2. re: CathleenH

                          Cathleen H:

                          FYI the tart was a HUGE hit. I had a hard time finding dried pears, but finally snaked them from a mixed dried fruit bulk bin. Next time I would skip the pine nuts and add in pecans or something. that is just my taste though.

                          Thanks for the recipe. I will totally use it again and again.

                        3. If you can get serrano ham, it would go nicely with manchego, figs...for nibbles

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: pinehurst

                            Yes, was thinking that. I cannot get it in my small town, but may be able to visit city before the dinner.

                            1. re: cleopatra999

                              Does this look right for the almond soup? Most of the Ajo Blanco seems to be chilled? Can it just be served warm instead?

                              http://www.iberianfoods.co.uk/sopa_de...
                              This soup is tradtionally served in Spain at Christmas.

                              You will need
                              200g almonds, skinned and blanched
                              50ml olive oil
                              garlic
                              2 slices day old bread, crusts removed and diced
                              10 peppercorns, crushed
                              1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
                              1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
                              saffron
                              ground cumin or cinnamon

                              Fry the almonds, bread, saffron and garlic in the oil, then put them in a blender with the peppercorns and cumin. Blend with the vinegar and a little of the stock to a purée. Mix this paste with the remaining stock in a suitable pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes and serve garnished with a few slivers of toasted almonds, croutons or some chopped parsley or mint. Serves 6.

                          2. Arroz Con Pollo, very easy to do for a crowd and you can set it up the day before and bake it just before you serve it. Cut boneless skinless chicken breasts in big chunks, about 3 per half of a breast. Brown these in olive oil. Remove chicken and brown onions, red and green peppers, and mushrooms in same pan. In very large casserole (I use a lasagna pan) combine the chicken, onion, mushrooms, peppers, a bag of frozen peas, salt to taste, and raw rice. Mash up a little package of saffron in warm water or chicken stock and fill up the casserole with it to the brim. Cover very tightly with foil. Bake about an hour until the rice is done but the grains have not split. Check a couple of times to see if you need to add more liquid. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese to spoon over. (Note on saffron: yes, it is expensive, but use it anyway.Trader Joe's s a good source. Nothing else says "Spanish" like azafran (saffron)). It makes your rice yellow and has a subtle flavor. If not for your list of banned items I would present this with artichoke hearts, black olives, and strips of pimiento on the top. It is an excellent party dish, very tasty and very convenient as you can make it the day before. People always eat thirds. All you need with it is salad, wine, and French-type bread.