The Oscars are all about glitter, glamour and gowns. If you are looking to bring a bit of the Oscars home to your friends and family, don your most resplendent gear and turn your home into a RED CARPET PARTY. Choose a theme that allows you to prepare all the yummy dishes in advance, so you’re dressed-to-kill in time for the opening act.
One of my favorite do-ahead party themes is a Tapas Party. Why tapas? Wellllll…..You can make the dishes in advance and offer a huge variety to satisfy your guests for the entire show! Tapas are the small bites served in the restaurantes and tabernas in Spain. Patrons travel from tavern to tavern, sampling the specialties of each chef. For this party, we’re going to offer all those specialties on one buffet table.
To set the scene, create a tablescape using brightly colored flowers in small vases of various heights. Add bowls of fresh peppers to highlight the spice of the evening. I like to use small chalkboards to identify each dish, so that your guests can choose easily. Set a tower of small plates on the table, encouraging each pal to take just a little taste of each dish you’ve prepared.
And don’t forget a specialty cocktail! My favorite for this party is Sangria. I marinate a diced apple and peach in rum overnight. Then I place the marinated veggies into a large pitcher and cover with equal parts rosé wine and orange juice. Chill in the fridge for several hours (before the party!!) and pour over ice.
And, the envelope please!
Here are a few of my favorite tapas party dishes, taken from blogs that call for recipes during the most festive times of the year! I finish off with a recipe for the star dish, TORTILLA ESPANOLA!
Garlicky Shrimp and Shishito Peppers. Cook slices of garlic in olive oil over low heat until the garlic is just golden. Remove the garlic and use this oil to cook shishito peppers and jumbo shrimp until just opaque. Serve the shrimp at room temperature.
Gazpacho Soup with Guacamole. Prepare your favorite guacamole and your best gazpacho soup. My new favorite gazpacho adds a roasted beet that gives the soup a rosy red color. Place a scoop of guac into the bottom of a martini glass. Cover with gazpacho. Garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Croquetas De Jamón. I love these little fried bites of ham and cheese. Well, not just any ham and cheese. These blend famed, Iberian ham (you can substitute with smoked ham) and Manchego cheese into a rich, creamy béchamel sauce. You can make them days in advance and finish them in a fryer, or fry pan hours before the party. Keep them in a warm oven and serve at room temperature.
Tequila Spiked Berry Shortcakes. Nothing says winner like berries spiked with tequila and served over sweetened biscuits with a scoop of lime sherbet and a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Pisto. For your veggie loving friends, this is the perfect dish. Simply sauté onions, garlic, peppers (hot and sweet) with eggplant and zucchini. Stir in diced tomatoes, a little veggie stock and season. Garnish this veggie stew with fresh parsley.
Tortilla Espanola…in progress!
A staple on most tapas menus, this torte is a reminiscent of potatoes gratin and potato frittata. Thinly sliced potatoes are fried, then gently tossed in beaten egg and finally cooked in a shallow sauté pan. You have to flip the torte halfway through cooking, which is just a tad tricky, but not impossible. Keep the torte warm until your ready to serve. It’s perfect warm and at room temperature.
Tortilla Espanola (Potato Torte) Serves a crowd 40 Minute Cuisine
Kinda like potatoes au gratin, but more like a potato frittata; this torte is a yummy comfort food, perfect for your tapas buffet table!
5 to 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 large yellow onions, diced, about 3 cups
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 3 tablespoons
6 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
Chopped, fresh parsley
Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to slice the potatoes into thin rounds. Place the potatoes into a colander and toss with salt. Pour enough oil to come halfway up the side of a deep skillet. Heat the oil over medium high heat. You will know that the oil is ready when you place the end of a wooden spoon into the oil and you see bubbles. Fry the potatoes in the oil until they are tender in the middle and just beginning to brown on the edges, about 5 to 8 minutes. You can do this in batches, so that you don’t crowd too many slices into the pan. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer the potatoes onto a paper lined baking sheet.
Carefully add the onions and garlic to the oil. Lower the temperature to medium low and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to turn golden, about 5 to 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or wire skimmer to transfer to the baking sheet holding the potatoes.
Remove the skillet from the heat and carefully pour all but 2 tablespoons of the oil into heat resistant bowl. (When cooled, you can strain and re-use the oil for another recipe.)
Place the eggs into a large bowl using a fork to blend. Gently slide the potatoes, onions and garlic into the bowl. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper and gently blend trying not to break the potato slices.
Heat the oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Pour in the potato and eggs using a spatula to spread evenly in the pan. Cook for 30 seconds to brown the (soon to be top) of the torte. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the center is set, about 5 to 8 minutes. Use the spatula to gently loosen the edges from the pan as it cooks. Shake the skillet to make sure the center is setting. Turn off the heat. Take a plate, that is larger than the skillet, and place it upside down over the skillet. With one hand on the plate and the other on the skillet handle, invert the pan so that the torte comes out and onto the plate. There might be a little loose egg around the edges. Use your spatula to scrape any bits back into the torte. Gently slide the inverted torte back into the pan and turn the heat to medium. Cook until a tester inserted into the center of the torte comes out clean, about 5 to 6 minutes more. Garnish the torte with chopped, fresh parsley. Transfer the torte to a clean platter and keep warm. The torte can be served warm or at room temperature.
close-up view of wide variety of Tapas in restaurant at spain
One of the coolest outings we arranged was on a family trip to Madrid; it was a tapas crawl! Our guide met us at our hotel and then took us on a walking tour of the local bars and pubs. We sampled small plates of paella, shellfish, specialty croquettes, and rich tomato soups, both hot and cold. We ended the evening at a coffee shop that served warmed churros directly from the fryer to the middle of your table, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and accompanied by a rich, deep chocolate sauce for dipping. To say the evening was yummy would be one of the biggest underestimates of the century!
For a recent dinner party, I decided to incorporate the tapas theme into the evening. My BIG plan is to think SMALL! Small plates that is. Rather than a soup to the nuts four-course menu, think small plates all the way through the meal.
I started the meal with an antipasti plate that included plums wrapped with prosciutto. The specialty drink was Sangria, which blended a bottle of dry red wine with brandy, triple sec, lemon and orange juices, and ginger ale.
The secret to a successful small plate dinner party, is to have the plates stacked for each item, and the food prepped and ready to go. The rest of the meal went like this: Croquets de Jamon, which is a fried ham and béchamel croquette, served with a dipping sauce of spicy aioli. Chilled gazpacho shooters served in juice glasses came next. A small dish of garlicky shrimp and shishito peppers followed the soup. In place of traditional paella, my Americanized version was made with shredded chili roasted short ribs, peas, and Portobello mushrooms. The final small plate presented warm churros with individual small bowls of chocolate sauce for dipping. Hungry yet?! If any of these tapas ring your bell, let me know. I have the recipes!
I canvassed my guests, and by far the favorite dish of the evening was the shrimp. It’s not only terrific as a small plate, but it’s also an easy, one-pan meal that is perfect for a busy weeknight dinner. Shishito peppers are only in season for a short time, so feel free to substitute with slices of poblano peppers, snow pea pods, green beans or asparagus. They all work well, with the garlicky olive oil and shrimp.
Garlicky Shrimp and Shishito Peppers
Serves 4 as main 6 to 8 as appy
30 Minute Cuisine
Slow cooking garlic in olive oil does double duty. The oil becomes fragrant, while the garlic becomes soft and sweet. Add the bite of whole shishito peppers and delicate shrimp, and you have a simple one-pan meal that come together in minutes!
1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled and thinly sliced, about ½ cup
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon paprika
10 to 12 shishito peppers
1 bunch green onions, tops removed, halved, and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 pound fresh extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined, about 26 to 30
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and paprika and cook until soft, and just beginning to turn golden on the edges. Be careful not to burn the garlic! Add peppers, green onions, and shrimp to the pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Toss the veggies and shrimp in the garlicky oil, until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked for about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
What’s worse than a bunch of gals getting together to kibbitz? It’s a bunch of gals getting together to draft their fantasy football team. It’s a trash talkin’, elbow diggin’, name callin’ scene right out of the movie Sweet Magnolias. I mean it’s “bless her heart” on steroids.
Oh, the catcalls from the table when I drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first round (especially when ESPN claimed he was at best a top second round choice)! Oh, the high fives that went around the table when I picked up Robert Woods in the 6th round when he should have been snatched in the 4th. And, the simultaneous, gentle nods of understanding when our dear friend picked up Baker Mayfield in an early round. We all understand her husband’s devotion to OU…. Bless her heart – now that’s love!
The only way to bring our fragile (fantasy football) bonds back from the edge of friendship destruction was to create a spread that satisfies both the winners and the losers. And, that I did.
Ladies and gentleman: the draft party!
My draft party fare included my favorite pimento cheese with seasoned crackers. I added sun-dried tomatoes instead of pimentos and brushed the crackers with seasonings stirred into melted butter before I toast them in the oven. It’s a TD!
I included blistered shishito peppers that I cooked in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, garlic and pepper. I made little skewers of baby tomatoes, mozzarella and globe basil leaves from the farmers market. These were drizzled with just a bit of aged balsamic vinegar. I roasted shrimp with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper and served them at room temperature with a spiced remoulade sauce.
But the dish that tamed the angry fantasy football beast and totally scored in overtime, was my sausage and refried bean nachos. I mean these are truly a punched up bit of nacho cheesiness. I serve these on every game day, regardless of the success of my quarterback.
Just a little note of confession here. I am in two fantasy leagues, one with the girls and one with the family. Having scored a loser C- in my draft evaluation with the gals, I promptly drafted Baker in round two of the family league. Let’s just see how it goes… and bless my heart!
Sausage and Refried Bean Nachos
serves a crowd
30 minute cuisine
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 poblano pepper, deveined and finely diced
1 pound Italian sausage
1 (15-ounce) can refried beans
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper.
1 package tortilla chips (such as Scoops®)
1 (15-ounce) jar medium salsa
¼ cup pickled jalapeno slices, drained and chopped
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Hot pepper sauce
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the sausage to the pan. Use a potato masher to break up the sausage into very little pieces. Cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat.
Lay the chips onto a microwaveable plate or platter. You will have enough ingredients to make at least two plates full of chips. Spoon the sausage and cheese filling into the chips. Spoon some of the salsa over the chips. Drizzle the jalapeno pieces over the salsa. Cover with shredded cheese. Place the plate into the microwave oven and cook on high power until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Remove (the hot!) platter from the oven. Top with dollops of sour cream and chopped cilantro. Offer hot pepper sauce on the side.