Tapas party: Sangria and Papas Bravas
I turned 30 last month. No big deal. The full import of this only really hit me when I took a trip to Europe and realized I hadn’t been there in TEN YEARS. Not since I was just a young ‘un spending my junior year of college abroad in Spain. Ten years later, and I still haven’t made it back to visit my beloved Barcelona, but on this trip, I did at least eat tapas in the Netherlands… All that Dutch-style Spanish food and something about just wandering the streets of Europe made me miss sangria something awful, and inspired the menu for my 30th birthday party.
And what a menu it was… I suppose I was a little overly ambitious; I attempted a few too many dishes and ended up with a little too much food. But so what if we spent the next three days after the party feasting on tapas leftovers? I have no regrets.
Item #1 was the Alioli (or aioli, depending on your spelling preference) from the previous post, with plenty of baguette slices for dipping in it.* Item #2 was Papas Bravas (or patatas bravas), which are diced & crispily-browned potatoes topped with a spicy tomato-based (or in my case, mayo-based) sauce. Item #3 was a plateful of thinly sliced Manchego and Ibérico cheese, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh rosemary. We also had an olive platter, a salami/prosciutto platter, and some deviled eggs, brought over by a friend. Oh, and I made gazpacho soup.
Then I threw together something that my sister swears she’s ordered in at least two Chicago-area tapas restaurants: Queso de Cabra. Yes, that just means “goat cheese,” but this dish is goat cheese baked into tomato sauce, to be served with baguette slices, or spread on top of garlic bread. I had never seen anything like it in Spain, so I asked a Spanish friend, from Granada, who came to the party, and she agreed that it was “not very Spanish, but still very good.”
And then there was the sangria. Sweet, nostalgic sangria, with its alcohol-soaked fruit (and its fruit-soaked alcohol). We bought four bottles of Garnacha red wine, and made four different pitchers, just to be on the safe side. Of course sangria works well with almost any kind of citrus fruits, other tree fruits, or berries you can think of, but my personal favorites have always been oranges and grapefruit.** After the party, I had a new favorite sangria fruit, too: nectarines.
Basically, I reminded myself once again that I will use nearly any social gathering as an excuse to go all out with the cooking. And more than anything, it was lovely to celebrate while surrounded by good friends. Turning 30, like I said, is not such a big deal after all.
* Has anyone else discovered Trader Joe’s par-baked baguettes? They come only 80% baked (then are quickly cooled for preservation) so you can finish the baking yourself, in your own oven– in under 10 minutes– to your own desired crispiness. Believe me, with all the ambition that went into this party, we did investigate making our own baguettes, too, but it turns out you need your own baguette-shaped support pans for that, otherwise they’ll just spread out flat instead of staying nice and rounded. I guess until I acquire one such pan, I can never live too far away from a Trader Joe’s.
** In Spain, I’ve only seen citrus fruits and apples used (oh, and once, disappointingly, carrots). The other fruit I added this time besides oranges, grapefruit, and nectarines included lemons, apples, pears, and pineapple… but I definitely think raspberries or blackberries would be delicious. Also, my friend from Spain showed up to the party with a pretty and refreshing white wine sangria made with celery (!) and banana slices.
(Varies depending on how much you add to it; makes 1 large pitcher or 2 small pitchers)
~ 1 bottle Garnacha (Grenache) or other red wine
~ 1 cup fruit juice (I usually used orange juice; this time I used pineapple)
~ one small splash of brandy or cognac (OPTIONAL)
~ 1 grapefruit, sliced
~ 2-3 oranges, sliced
~ 1-2 lemons, sliced
~ 1 apple, peeled and diced
~ other optional fruits: pear, pineapple, nectarine, lime, raspberries, or blackberries
~ several spoonfuls of sugar, to taste (should be unnecessary if the fruit juice you add is sweet enough)
~ 1-2 cups sparkling beverage, to stretch the pitcher farther (avoid bitter club sodas and tonic waters, and use a sweet fruit-flavored soda, like orange or lemon/lime soda, instead)
How to make it:
1. Empty wine bottle into a large pitcher, and add some fruit juice, any chopped fruit of your choice, and– optionally– some brandy or cognac.
2. Stir and let stand for at least an hour (whether in or out of the fridge).
3. Serve chilled and/or over ice. You might want to serve it with straws, and have some forks on hand for eating the fruit.
Queso de Cabra
(from my sister, via Chicago-area tapas restaurants)
(Makes 1 share-able appetizer for 4-6 people)
~ 1-2 cups homemade tomato sauce
~ 4-5 oz. goat cheese (or as much as you want!)
How to make it:
1. Prepare homemade tomato sauce, but let it simmer a little longer than the 30 minutes (maybe more like 40-45 minutes) so that it gets a bit thicker. This will make it easier to scoop up with a slice of bread once it’s been baked. (This can be done ahead of time, or up to a week before you make this appetizer.)
2. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour tomato sauce into a baking dish, and place discs or chunks of goat cheese into the sauce.
3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese begins to look melty. (This can also be broiled for a few minutes, rather than baked.) Serve warm with baguette slices or with garlic bread.
(Serves about 4 as an appetizer)
For the potatoes:
~ 4 medium-large Yukon Gold potatoes, diced into bite-size pieces
~ 4-6 unpeeled garlic cloves
~ 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1 tsp ground black pepper
~ chopped fresh rosemary
For the papas bravas sauce:
~ ½ cup mayonnaise
~ 1 tsp. (or more) hot sauce, like Tapatio or Sriracha
~ ¼ tsp. (or more) paprika
~ ¼ tsp. (or more) cayenne pepper
~ pinch of salt, to taste
~ ¼ tsp. chili powder
How to make it:
(Papas bravas are typically fried in oil, but I roasted these in the oven instead.)
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the potatoes out in a large cast-iron skillet (or other oven-proof pan). Add other potato seasonings, and stir to combine, making sure the potatoes are evenly coated in olive oil.
2. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, then turn the oven up to 450 degrees and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes (until the edges of the potatoes get crispy and brown).
3. While the potatoes are baking, prepare the papas bravas sauce: stir the spices of your choice into mayonnaise, to taste.
4. Serve by drizzling the spicy mayonnaise over the warm potatoes, or dip the potatoes into the sauce as you eat them.