Hosting a Tapas Party: Mini bites of Spanish Goodness!
This tapas tale began with the platter below.
After dinner out one night, a couple of friends and I stopped in Crate and Barrel, where I fell head over heels for this colossal silver platter.
Now, what I was ever going to do with such a gargantuan steel tray was anyone’s guess. Undeterred and in love, I bought it anyway.
And then, once I hauled it home, where I was going to store it was yet another question. Not a single cabinet even came close to accommodating it, so I gave up and merely stashed it behind my pantry door. That’s where it has lived out its life for the last two years until Saturday night, that is, when it became the central host for a delicious tapas dinner to which I invited my same two Crate and Barrel amigas and their suave maridos.
Once the invitation was extended and accepted, I sat perplexed.
Hmm. I had people coming over for a tapas party, and I had a snazzy silver tray, but what exactly does one serve on a snazzy silver tray for such an occasion? I posed the question to Google and Pinterest and up popped scads of fantastic options.
Apparently “tapas” means “a small portion of any type of Spanish cuisine.” It originated in Andalusian taverns, and is meant to be enjoyed while strolling around with a glass of Sherry and warm conversation.
That sounded doable. We could certainly all walk, eat, drink, and be merry.
The next question became how would I possibly choose between so many incredible online recipe options? In the grand scheme of things, that’s not such a bad problem to have.
I began with a simple cheese and olive tray using the silver beast as my anchor.
First, I added the empty dishes that I knew I wanted to use . . .
. . . and then filled them with various nosh-ables: green and black olives, pickled eggplant, Manchego and gouda cheese slices, homemade Manchego cheese crackers, salami, cashews, smoked almonds, dates, and figs. Sweet and salty is a marriage made in heaven each and every time!
In addition to the olive and cheese tray, decided to make mini Beef Wellingtons, Sundried Tomato Polenta Bites, a chopped salad to add some light freshness to the selections, cheesecake-stuffed strawberries, and French chocolate Bark.
Before you begin to groan over all of the work involved, remember that, for me, making this stuff is fun!
My friends brought delicious salmon cakes with dill dipping sauce, a lemon tart, chorizo-stuffed mini peppers and Mombo Taxis: a cocktail with Margarita and Sangria swirled together – Olé!
I mean, just look at this delectable spread!
Here, let me zoom in a bit and label some of the dishes for you.
Instead of going into detail with one particular recipe like I usually do, I’ll provide links to the original recipe sites for you to click on and explore.
Okay, how about we start with a cocktail, shall we?
I had never had a Mambo Taxi before.
Frankly, I would have guessed that it was a means of transportation in Mumbai. It’s not though. It’s a perfectly delicious liquid concoction that blends Sangria with Margaritas. You can see it mixed in the glass to the right next to the pitcher of Sangria in one of the photos above. This drink is frosty, fruity goodness in a glass: so refreshing on a hot day!
Here’s the Mambo Taxi recipe. Yum! Don’t wait to make it until you have a fussy Tapas party, though. I’m sure it would enhance a simple taco dinner just as nicely.
Next up – Mini Beef Wellingtons.
I chose this particular appetizer because I knew that this meal would be our dinner, and I wanted to serve at least one substantial dish. I also chose it because it was a recipe from The Food Network’s Claire Robinson whose dishes contain relatively few ingredients: exactly what I was looking for considering I had a number of other items to focus on as well.
The gist of this dish is that you sear cubed beef tenderloin, and then lay it on a rolled out sheet of puff pastry along with a mushroom shallot mixture like this:
You then pull up the corners of the pastry, seal them tightly, and bake them seam side down until they come out looking like this.
I served mine with a mixture of sour cream and horseradish as a dipping sauce. Crispy and succulent with umami flavor galore!
Alrighty, let’s move on to the sun-dried tomato polenta bites; they’re little bite-sized morsels of fried polenta topped with pesto, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and chopped pistachios. These are a little time-consuming, but the intense flavor and varied textures on one little bite makes them well worth the time investment. They’d be a beautiful addition to a holiday table.
See what I mean?
In order to make these, I first boiled some polenta with milk, garlic and herbs. Then I was called upon to spread the cooked polenta in a pan to cool and finally cut out 1 1/2 inch circles with a biscuit cutter that I don’t even own. Well, I searched my kitchen high and low, and found the solution in the door of my fridge of all places.
Who knew that the top of a squeeze mayo bottle was so versatile? Unscrew this baby, and you have a 1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter at the ready!
Then I fried the little polenta circles in olive oil, and topped them with pesto goat cheesy goodness.
The final two recipes I want to share with you are super simple sweets: French Chocolate Bark courtesy of Ina Garten, and Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries courtesy of me.
While I’m not a fan of dark chocolate, the dark chocolate lovers at the party devoured this dish!
It’s so simple, too. Basically you melt semi-sweet chocolate, pour it on a sheet pan and add nuts and dried fruit. When it has hardened you break it into chunks, or cut it into squares and voila! You’ve got yourself a sophisticated Chunky.
As Ina would say, “How easy is that?”
The strawberries are almost as easy as the chocolate bark.
Wash and hull a pint of strawberries. While the berries are drying, blend half a block of room temperature cream cheese with a little powdered sugar and vanilla. I did it by hand because my cream cheese was super soft, but you could do it with a mixer as well. Plop the cream cheese mixture in a baggie, cut off one corner, and squeeze the mixture into each strawberry. If you find that your cream cheese mixture is too stiff to pipe, add a touch of milk before moving it to the baggie. Once the strawberries are filled, dip them in a mixture of graham cracker crumbs and sugar.
Pretty and tasty too!
So there you have it – the makings of a tapas party at your fingertips. I hope you give it a whirl one summery day. It’s a wonderfully casual way to entertain, and a great way to get your guests involved in the fun of the party prep as they research possible petite Spanish gems to make and share.
The party is done, this post is published, and now it’s time for one long siesta!
However, I’ll be ready for another one of these fun tapas nights in no time!
Who’s up for a Spanish soirée?