Tapas have become a bit of a fad in the U.S. of late. I have seen “tapas” restaurants touting all manner of Italian, Middle Eastern, and other non-Spanish food. Though delicious and these days decidedly high-end, tapas were originally just meant as simple Spanish snacks to accompany wine.
Where you think of bar snacks, something like beer-nuts or chips may come to mind. But the idea of serving something salty to make bar-goers thirstier and boost sales is centuries old. In sultry southern Spain they used to cover glasses of sweet sherry with bread of a piece of sausage or bread to keep the flies out. The word “tapas” comes from the verb “tapar,” meaning “to cover.” King Alfonso of Castile found that there were health benefits of having a bite to eat with one’s vino and decreed that no taverns could serve wine without food henceforth.
In modern Spain, this decree doesn’t always hold true (or at least not for free). There are still tapas bars that you can walk into and receive a complimentary plate of olives, chunks or chorizo, or some other succulent surprise, but, more often than not though, the bar will be covered with plates heaped high with octopus, tortilla espanola, or pate covered toasts that are available for purchase. Every ten minutes or so, some new surprise will arrive piping hot from the kitchen and be added to the mix.
When I have friends over for an informal evening, I love to serve tapas in this style. You start with a few toasts out to munch on and keep adding fresh, hot dishes from the kitchen throughout the night. This is perfect when you know that you will have several guests arriving late to the gathering.
Tapas Spread for a Large Crowd
- White Bean Mint Spread
- Bacon-wrapped Dates
- Red Pepper Walnut Spread
- Honey Rosemary Goat Cheese Toasts
- Patatas Bravas
- Tortilla Espanola
- Wine (preferably Spanish and red to stand up to the strong flavors)
Start the evening with wine glasses and an opener, a stack of plates and napkins, and some goat cheese toasts already set out on the table. You can use a mix match of beautifully patterned or brightly colored plates and bowls to serve the different tapas, or go traditional with clay cazuelas and wooden bowls for a more subdued look.
- mins 1-5: Chop the onions and potatoes for the tortilla and saute.
- mins 6-9: Cut bread and toast quickly in the oven. Arrange the goat cheese toasts and set out.
- mins 10-15: Assemble the bacon-wrapped dates and pop in the oven. Add egg to tortillas.
- mins 16-22: Chop and fry the potatoes for the patatas bravas and start the sauce.
- mins 23-26: Blend the red pepper spread and set out. Flip the tortillas.
- mins 27-30: Blend the white bean spread and set out. Add remaining ingredients to bravas sauce.