Friday, April 25, 2008

Terrific Tapas Dinner

Last night, we hosted our monthly wine dinner, this month featuring the wines of Spain along with tapas. I've never worked on such a short deadline before. I finally tasted the wines two days before the event and then threw together a really quick menu, one that customers were apparently pretty happy with. It's a shame that we were too slammed—we were full, in addition to the wine dinner—to get photos of the plates.

Mussels with Parsley and Garlic; Mayonesa Verde
Shrimp in Escabeche on Rustic Olive Bread

Cavas Castillo de Perelada Blanc Pescador NV

The Blanc Pescador is a delicious, slightly sparkling vino de aguja that is a slam dunk with shellfish. I cannot eat tapas without eating mussels, so I made this dish of marinated steamed mussels for me. After steaming the mussels, I reduced the mussel liquor with garlic and parsley, then used it as a base for a light vinaigrette. The green mayonnaise brought a fresh herbal quality to the dish.

Tapas, at least here in America, are no longer totally the province of Spain, witnessed by this classic Peruvian escabeche of shrimp, shrimp poached in a court bouillon and marinated in a red wine vinaigrette with sweated carrots and onions, oregano and parsley. I love cold seafood salads when the weather turns warm and the weather just turned warm.

Wild Mushroom Canapés
Tortilla Española with Porcini Mushrooms; Herbed Goat Cheese Mousse
Cavas Castillo de Perelada Tinto Crianza Empordà 2004

Originally, the wine distributor wanted to place this wine near the end of the tasting, but it is a very light-bodied red with black and red cherry fruit, reminding me of a Burgundy or Sangiovese in weight and texture. I detected a slight smoky note in the wine and thought to amplify this by pairing it with mushrooms.

Canapés are a classic tapas form. I sautéed a big batch of Yellowfoot Chanterelles with shallots and thyme and topped grilled slices of baguette. For the tortilla, I riffed on the traditional potato tortilla that you will find in every tapas bar in the world. In my reworking of the dish, I rehydrated dried porcini, then strained and reduced the porcini broth to a few tablespoonfuls. I mixed this broth in with the eggs and lots of fresh thyme. I built the tortillas by layering potatoes, porcini, thinly sliced yellow onion, and local Everona Dairy Piedmont sheep cheese.

Paella Cake; Pimentón Sauce
Piquillo Pepper Stuffed with Spicy Chickpea and Olive Salad
Finca El Paso Monastrell Jumilla 2005

This Monastrell is a full-bodied, fruity red that can stand up to pretty much any red wine food that you can throw at it. I thought that the fruit would like a little spice to play against, so I spiced up the Piquillos del Lodoso just a bit.

The best part of a paella is the socarrat, the crust at the bottom of the pan, so I devised a way many years ago to get lots more crust. I make a basic paella, without the large meat ingredients, bind it with eggs and grated sheep cheese, form it into cakes, and crisp both sides in a pan. The inside is creamy and the outside is crunchy: irresistible.

We are well known for stuffing piquillos—I say they are the world's best sweet red peppers—with just about everything imaginable. Customers had requested bacalao, salt cod, picadillo dulce de cordero, sweet and sour lamb, and just about everything in our repertoire. I wanted to do something that none of the regulars had tasted before and I needed to keep this course vegetarian, so I made a salad of chickpeas, red onion, and green olives dressed with pimentón, olive oil, garlic, and chile paste.

Grilled Banderilla of Potato, Olive & Chorizo; Picada
Albóndigas of Wild Boar Picadillo Dulce in Romesco Sauce
Ribas del Cúa Adras Roble 2004

The Adras is another full-bodied red, so I decided to throw some flavor its way. I've been making banderillas (anything on a small skewer, designed mainly to be eaten as a single bite) for years, but have only recently been designing banderillas to be grilled. These were a tiny local fingerling potato, a large queen olive, and a round of chorizo. The picada is a green sauce that I associate with the Basque regions of Spain (as opposed to France).

And here's the picadillo dulce that customers were clamoring for. The twist this time, wild boar rather than lamb, and rather than stuff it into piquillos, I formed it into traditional meatballs and slow-cooked them in romesco sauce, a roasted red pepper sauce. I wing my picadillo each time that I make it, but the basic idea is that ground meat is seasoned with garlic, herbs, onions, Poblano (green) chiles, sweet spices, almonds, white raisins, and made sweet and sour with brown sugar and apple cider vinegar.

Pinchitos Morunos of Wild Boar; Blood Orange Picada
Smoked Duck with Rioja Blood Orange Risotto
Finca La Emperatriz Rioja Crianza 2003

My first impression on tasting this Rioja was of orange peel, so I decided to emphasize that in the tapas. I boned out a boar shoulder, cut it into bite-sized cubes (pinchitos), and marinated it in various herbs, spices, blood orange zest, and olive oil. We then grilled little skewers of the pinchitos and drizzled them with a green sauce augmented with blood orange juice and zest.

The smoky flavors in the duck were a natural for this elegant and restrained wine. I used the same wine to make a risotto (yes, once very Italian, but increasingly well known throughout Spain) flavored with blood orange juice and zest. I actually had to add just a touch of sugar to tame the acid in the wine and orange juice. To serve, we placed a fan of duck breast down on the plate with a quenelle of risotto over.

Local Everona Dairy Piedmont Sheep Cheese; Dried Cherries; Membrillo
Cavas Castillo de Perelada Cava NV

With a sparkling wine coming last, I had to keep the sweetness down or the wine would come across sour. Here, I riffed on the classic French Basque brébis (sheep cheese) with black cherry jam. I didn't want the sweetness of the jam, so I substituted some perfectly balanced dried sour cherries, and then added a slice of quince paste for just a touch of earthy sweetness.

1 comment:

  1. The dinner was excellent. We had a great time with the folks we were seated next to as well. Great company and great food were a great pairing. The smoked duck is easily one of my favorite dishes ever. The chorizo was second favorite which Lisa loved as well. Slammed or not the team delivered wonderfully!