Saturday, November 17

Small bites hit the spot with a Tapas dinner paired with Rioja wine

Thoughts on Thankgiving:
I don't know about you,
but my cooking for Thanksgiving is not a challenging culinary journey
but more of a tapping into history and our traditions.
My kids, who normally love to try new recipes,
want our annual turkey dinner the exact same way every year with no changes.  My son wants the Thanksgiving gramma makes.
So, we pull out the smeared handwritten recipe cards
to remember the details, and the tasks begin.
Let me impart some creativity as many of you will be in the kitchen during this Thanksgiving week with
notes from our recent Spanish-inspired Tapas dinner
When I got together with my culinary cooking group, 
we created a tapas dinner of many small dishes.  
So, when all the turkey festivities end, 
and you're ready to try something new, 
tab this post for some fabulous recipes and links.
Our hosts, Barry and Melissa, created a beautiful dinner and table
with rich maroon colored flowers and glittery gold details
 to mark the fall season and Spanish culture
The celebratory tone of socializing while eating small dishes
is quintessentially Spanish
 You may have read about my group of talented NYC friends - we cook together often and experiment with different cuisines, taking turns hosting. Each couple brings a dish to contribute and we link it up here on Nest to provide you a soup-to-nuts dinner you can make at home.
 and ended with a large, rich plate of Paella and a light, traditional orange and avocado Spanish salad.  We topped it off with delicious homemade desserts: homemade cheesecake (recipe from a La  Vina restaurant in San Sebastian), almond tart and delicious baked pears in red wine.  The times I have travelled to Madrid we sipped Cava or wine while tasting small bites, then later around 11 pm we would sit for dinner - I love the Spaniards attitude towards food, centering around socializing. 
 I contributed by making a typical meatball dish that sounded yummy, yet unusual. I also paired it with Serrano ham and lemon slices, and tomato bread.  Keep in mind the Spaniards have been heavily influences from the Moorish culture when the Arabs brought many spices and cuisines to Spain centuries ago.  Ingredients such as olives, almonds, saffron...these flavors can be found as far back as 12th century recipes in Spain.  
browning bread, whole garlic cloves and blanched almonds then pureeing in a food processor creates quite an unusual group of flavors to simmer the meatballs
or Spanish Meatballs in almond and saffron sauce
I consulted this the above recipe but changed it considerably with adding the saffron to the meatballs and omitting the nutmeg. I've read saffron included with a hefty sprinkle of a pinch of the threads.  To me, that sounded more authentically Spaniard. Most recipes call for the saffron to be added to the almond sauce, but I added it to the meatball recipe itself (actually by mistake but it was delicious). I do know from saffron in the slow cooking process of risotto that it become stronger the longer you cook it, so I suggest adding it toward the end of the cooking time.  I added the capers to give some flair. But, a typical Spanish bread is fresh French bread smeared with garlic, fresh cut tomato, sprinkled with olive oil.
our tapas treats:
olives, Serrano ham with lemon slices - there are many Spanish supermarkets throughout NYC, but I found the most delicious Spanish ham at Agata & Valentina supermarket's specialty deli section n 79th & 1st avenue when adding a squeeze of lemon then eating the Serrano ham with the tomato bread, it's a perfect combination
tomato bread - so easy just split bread in half and rub fresh garlic and cut tomato then drizzle with olive oil
apricot with Spanish cheeses
a beautiful crusty tortilla de espanol - recipe below
sauteed spicy shrimp with parsley
Rob and Irene's sauteed shrimp was cooked perfectly and lightly browned
Diana and Enrique made this hearty potato dish served in the pan

Diana & Enrique's
Tortilla Espanola
prepare this in a deep pan which can go into the oven, and serve right in the pan. 
Amount of ingredients will depend on size of pan and depth of tortilla you want to make, and I used a large about 3 " deep and I filled it to the top! 
1 whole Onion
Butter (unsalted)
 Chicken bouillon (2 tablespoons)
Olive oil
6-7 eggs
1/2 cup of cream
7 peeled large Idaho potatoes.

Use your food processor for best results. Quarter the onion then slice very thin.  Heat two tablespoons butter and as butter is just browning, put in 3-4 tablespoons olive oil.  Caramelize onions on medium heat.  Meanwhile, quarter then thinly slice the peeled raw potatoes.  When onions done. turn off heat and remove some of the onions for layering later.  Start to layer in the potatoes. Beat eggs. Dissolve chicken broth in 1/4 cup hot water.  After 1 inch of layering the potatoes, pour on a little (about 1/4 cup) of the concentrated chicken broth. Note this is in lieu of salt and for flavor, so use to taste.  Then pour in about enough egg mixture to almost cover potatoes, then pour on a little cream to cover potatoes. Then place more potatoes for next layer, and some onions, and eggs and broth and more potatoes. End by pouring on enough egg mixture to cover potatoes barely and then finish with a little circling of cream on top.

Put in oven at 400 for one hour, maybe 70 minutes or until appears golden brown on top.
Serve in pan, with sour cream dollop on side. 
Serves 10
 with glasses of red and white Rioja, Cava and Port we paired the wines with the many dishes

the paella was carefully watched (not much stirring) and simmered first with the vegetables, then the rice and chicken and chorizo, shrimp were added
this light and refreshing salad is the perfect companion
for the rich and fulfilling chicken and chorizo paella
Melissa recommends preparing paella for an easy one-dish entree.  She explains she seasoned and roasted the chicken thighs,  marinated the shrimp and chopped the vegetables earlier in the day.  During the party it was a simple saute and simmering the ingredients as the saffron broth absorbed it all.
Melissa’s Paella
    Use a 10-12 person paella pan.  The pan is worth purchasing to ensure proper absorption of the liquid.)
    1/2 cup olive oil for cooking plus extra for the marinades (I used Spanish)
    12 chicken thighs (bones and skins)
    1 pound (precooked) chorizo
    1 ½ pounds cleaned shrimp
    2 medium onions, diced
    2 peppers, chopped (I used one red and one green)
    4-6 cloves garlic, diced
    28oz can diced tomatoes
    16 oz artichoke hearts, quartered (I used frozen which I thawed prior to using)
    4 cups paella rice (I used bomba rice)
    8 cups hot chicken broth
    1 ½ teaspoons saffron
    piquillo peppers (Matiz Valenciano makes a good one, can buy at Sur Le Table)
    2 lemons, cut into wedges
Preparation Instructions:
Cook the paella in a paella pan on top a stove (I cooked it on top of one of my gas burners and raised the heat occasionally to ensure the liquid on the outer edges was simmering and absorbing properly.)
Rub the chicken skin with an olive oil, paprika and salt and pepper mixture.  Roast until cooked through.
Chop 2 cloves of garlic and mix with half a teaspoon of saffron and olive oil and marinate in the refrigerator until ready to make the paella
Heat the oil in the paella pan over med-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the artichokes, tomatoes and garlic and let simmer for another 5 minutes. Pour in the rice and stir until the rice is thoroughly covered with the tomato mixture.
Add the saffron to the hot broth and stir. Slowly add the broth to the paella. Move the rice mixture around gently until it is evenly distributed throughout the pan. DO NOT stir the rice after this point. (May need to adjust the heat to ensure the outer edges are simmering if you are cooking the pan on one gas burner.)
After about 10 minutes evenly place the chicken into the mixture one by one, then the chorizo and then the (raw) shrimp). After another 10 minutes add the pequillo peppers. Once the water has been completely absorbed, approximately another 15 minutes, remove from heat, gently cover with tinfoil and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve directly from the paella pan wedges of lemon.
prepared by Gail and Brian
photograph courtesy of
(unfortunately, my photo was blurry of these delicious pears)
touted by many as the "best cheesecake in the world" 
this San Sebastian restaurant is known for their delectable cheesecake.  
Susan and Ed made two different cheesecake recipes plus an almond tart recipe from this restaurant.  Ed noted while eating at La Vina these cheesecakes were flying out of the kitchen, and when he inquired the guests and waiters rang their praise.  They ordered the cheesecakes and became fans.

 Happy Nesting XO