Clams cooked with plenty of garlic and white wine are easy to make for a large group.
Image source: Flickr CC user Quinn Dombrowski
Have you ever had one of those nights when you just can’t decide what you want to eat? It’s not that you are not in the mood for anything in particular, but rather that you just want so many different things. In my life, we call that tapas night!
Tapas are always better when you have a group of people, so that you can each pick a couple of different options and share the dishes among the group. It’s a surefire way to ensure that you don’t have a disappointing meal. Even if one of your choices turned out a little ‘meh’ there are still all those other fantastic dishes. This makes a tapas party the perfect way to serve a large group--you can make several dishes, none of them need to be huge, yet everyone gets a taste of every dish.
A Seafood-Based Tapas Party
I’ve mentioned before that a dream of mine is to retire in Barcelona. Tapas are big in Barcelona, which is part of the reason this type of dish is near and dear to my heart. Barcelona is also right on--and I mean right on--the Mediterranean Sea, making seafood a huge part of any Barcelonian’s diet.
For me, the combination of incredible seafood in the format of flavorful small tapas plates is heaven. There are so many amazing seafood tapas recipes that it would be hard to limit the best to just 2 or 3. In an effort to not deprive you of any of my favorites, I will just jump right in.
Artichokes with Clams
It is very common to see artichokes incorporated into various Spanish dishes (the country loves artichokes and grows about 30% of the world’s artichoke supply) and seafood dishes are no exception. This recipe is simple to create and is very forgiving in terms of margin of error.
Gently cook the garlic in a sauté pan with olive oil, add white wine and stock, and bring to a simmer. Once you have a steady simmer going, you will want to add your clams. Fresh Manila clams don’t need much cleaning and are also sustainably farm raised. Once the clams start to open (about 5-7 minutes), you can add your artichoke hearts. Let all the clams finish opening, and then serve.
Clams are a bit of an obsession in Barcelona--they’re particularly fond of razor clams there--and like most seafood in Barcelona, their clams practically go straight from the water to get a quick saute before being served up for dinner. To capture the true Barcelonian experience--and to make this simple dish taste as good as possible--it’s crucial to start with fresh seafood.
Another fresh shellfish favorite is called mussels vinaigrette. Aside from the great flavor and refreshing taste of this dish (it’s served cold so it makes a great choice for an outdoor gathering on a warm night), it is also ideal for entertaining since you can make it ahead of time.
Use a quality, grit-free mussel like a PEI mussel, to make things easier on yourself. This means you won’t end up with mud or sand in with your mussel meat.
Once you’ve got your extra clean PEI mussels, all you have to do here is steam them just until they open, discard the empty half of the shell, and refrigerate. Mix together the remaining ingredients. When you are ready to serve, top each mussel with a spoonful of the mixture. If you want to give it a little kick, you can add in some red pepper sauce like tabasco. It’s a simple, fresh dish--it almost feels like eating a salad--and the shell acts as a utensil for it, which I think makes it even more fun and elegant.
Shrimp and Chorizo Boats
This recipe is not an adaptation of a traditional Spanish dish, but rather something that I made up thinking about everything that I love about Spanish food. It’s become one of my favorite tapas dishes to make.
Here is what you will need:
I always start this recipe by fire roasting my peppers over the stovetop and then setting them aside for later. The best way to do this is by setting the pepper over the flame on a gas stove until the outside becomes charred (you’ll have to keep turning the pepper as it chars).
Next you will want to sizzle your garlic and onion in a sauté pan with olive oil for a minute or two. Keep moving it around the pan on a medium heat to ensure you don’t burn the garlic. Next, add in your chorizo, making sure to break it up in the pan. After about 3 minutes, add your shrimp, quickly followed by salt, pepper, paprika, lemon juice and the splash of wine. Cook until the shrimp are no longer opaque.
Now remember those fire-roasted peppers you had set aside? Cut them into quarters lengthwise to make a boat of sorts, then spoon your shrimp and chorizo mixture into each boat. The combination of flavors--salty, spicy, and smoky--is what makes this dish so easy to love.
Chile and Garlic Shrimp
I know we already had shrimp but let’s be honest about it, shrimp is a favorite for most people, so why not have more than one option on your menu? Besides, this recipe is so easy that it wouldn’t even feel like you are preparing an additional dish.
Heat olive oil in a pan and sizzle garlic and the ground dry red chiles. Next toss your white shrimp into the pan (cleaned and deveined, tails removed) and finish it off with a glug of white wine and fresh parsley. Be careful not to add too much wine because you don’t want to cool the pan too much or you won’t be able to get a good sear on the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp is pink and opaque and sprinkle with parsley. With the simplicity of this dish (seriously, only 6 ingredients and that includes the garnish!), the fresher the seafood, the brighter and better the flavors will be.
When it comes to choosing seafood, we also need to be conscious of how the seafood we’re choosing was caught or farmed. Buying sustainable seafood supports fish and shellfish populations, which means more great seafood in the future for everyone. Moreover, when seafood is overfished, you’ll find it being caught and shipped farther and farther away from its destination as local populations dwindle. I suggest ordering the freshest, most sustainable seafood possible, which, believe it or not, is as easy as a click on the computer through Daily Fresh Fish. They’ll send any amount of seafood to you overnight, and it’ll be fresher than the supermarket.