Eat trendy with tapas

Sep 19, 2008 at 12:03 p.m. ET

A huge trend in the restaurant world right now is to prepare small plates or tapas. Small plates give diners the opportunity to try a delectable few of the chef's specialties, and they are often cheaper than ordering entrees. For your next dinner or cocktail party, prepare a few different tapas and spend the night nibbling!

Shrimp Fritters

The evolution of tapas

The idea behind tapas originated in a Spanish region called Andalusia as a way for men to cover their drinks when they were not drinking them.

Traditionally, tapas began as slices of bread or meat that were placed on top of glasses of sherry or other sweet wines to prevent fruit flies from flying in them. In fact, the word tapa means lid or cover.

Tapas have deliciously evolved over the years from just bread and meat to smaller bites of empanadas, cheeses, olives, sardines, calamari and other tasty finger foods. In Spain, they are a pre-meal "appetizer" because the Spanish usually eat around 9pm or 10pm.

Traditionally and now, tapas are eaten in the time after work ends and dinner begins. Spaniards usually "bar hop" to the many tapas bars to socialize, drink and eat. In most tapas bars, after ordering a drink, tapas are free. In the United States, the number of tapas bars is growing and tapas have transcended from appetizers to multi-item meals.

Tapas recipes

When throwing a tapas party, it is customary to serve a tasty array of appetizers with a selection of olives, meats and cheeses.

Shrimp Fritters

Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
3 eggs
1 cup cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Oil for frying

1. Combine water and butter in a pot and bring to a boil. Add in flour, stirring continuously, until the mixture makes a ball. Take pan off of heat and let cool slightly.

2. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in shrimp and remaining ingredients. Heat oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Fry tablespoonfuls of batter until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Mushroom and Aioli Spread

Makes 4 servings

5 ounces mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced
Sea Salt
1 teaspoon sherry wine
Aioli (recipe follows)
French bread, sliced

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute mushrooms in hot olive oil with salt and sherry. Place lid in pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook about 10 minutes. Drain and reserve.

2. Lightly toast bread slices. Spread aioli on bread and top with mushroom mixture. Arrange bread on sheet pan and broil for 30 seconds.


Makes about 3/4 cup

1 large egg yolk (see note below)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced and mashed with a pinch of salt

Whisk together egg yolk, mustard and lemon juice. Combine oils and gradually whisk into egg mixture. Whisk in garlic and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Note: This recipe contains raw egg. Though there is only a small chance of salmonella poisoning, people who are pregnant, elderly, very young or have medical conditions impairing the immune system should avoid consuming raw eggs.

Croquetas de Jamon

Makes 10 servings

1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 medium green onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon butter
16 ounces thinly sliced Iberico or Serrano ham or prosciutto, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3 cups dried breadcrumbs, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs
2 cups oil for frying
2 tablespoons water

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute onions and garlic powder in melted butter for 10 minutes or until tender. Transfer onions to a large bowl and combine with ham, cheese and 1-1/2 cups of breadcrumbs.

2. Beat 3 eggs and mix into ham mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Form mixture into bite-sized balls. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dip balls into an egg and water mixture and then in breadcrumbs. Fry in oil, turning to cook all sides, until golden. Place on paper towels to drain before serving.

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