Monday, June 01, 2009

Memorial Day Tapas

I don't know why I got it my head to make tapas for Memorial Day. Not exactly traditional, is it? I thought it would be a good excuse to get out the grill and cook up the leg of lamb that's been in our freezer for a while. Not that lamb needs excuses. Nor is tapas the most popular way to accompany it. But once I get something in my head....

Since Mr Minx had to fiddle with charcoal and all that, I thought it would make it worth his while to toss some chicken breasts on it too, to eat later in the week. Then I invited my brother, which killed the leftovers idea.

The spread consisted of grilled chicken and lamb (mingling on the same plate, both marinated in lots of garlic and soy, with tomato paste on the chicken and brown sugar on the lamb), grilled shrimp, potatoes and chorizo (from José Andres' tapas cookbook), endive salad with bleu cheese, tomato and herb salad (herbs freshly-plucked from the freshly-planted garden) with goat's cheese, marinated mushrooms, and "crab" balls. There was also some red pepper mayo for dipping, bread, and Marcona almonds. Oh, and a pitcher of sangria!

Cheap sangria: 1 bottle Sutter Home "white Cabernet Sauvignon" ($5.99), 1 orange, 1 lemon, 1/4 cup leftover cheap brandy, 1/4 cup cheap Triple Sec. Fruity and boozy and a fine accompaniment to my selection of eats.

I tried to get a good combination of textures, flavors, and temperatures going and think I was pretty successful.

The endive salad was pretty basic: sliced Belgian endives, bleu cheese crumbles, balsamic vinaigrette. I usually add walnuts, but bro is allergic to them, and anaphylaxis is a real buzz kill. The tomato herb salad had pineapple mint; sweet, Thai, and variegated basil; French tarragon; chives and chive blossoms; and some store-bought cilantro (it refuses to grow in my garden). And a couple gobbets of goat's cheese. The tomatoes were the "on the vine" type, which I've been having roaring success with recently. Don't know where in the world they were grown (nobody will ever accuse me of being a locavore) but they have been juicy, red, and sweet.

The potato recipe called for Spanish chorizo, which I could not find at Giant. Go figure. However, I always have Mexican chorizo in the freezer so used one of those. Being raw, they have a very different texture, and are flavored primarily with annatto. Unfortunately, the pimenton called for in the recipe was quite masked by the annatto. The potatoes were tasty anyway, but I will endeavor to make them with the proper chorizo next time.

The marinated mushroom recipe came from a little tapas cookbook called Tapas Fantasicas that I got for Christmas a couple years back. Sherry vinegar is very...pungent...so I was worried that the mushrooms would be too tart. I used a combination of baby bellas and shiitakes, and it really was quite delicious. I'd make them again.


Marinated Mushrooms

1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 T sherry vinegar
2 T water
1/2 t dried tarragon
1/2 t brown sugar
dash Tabasco
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until softened. Add mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Continue to cook for another minute or two. add vinegar, water, tarragon, sugar, Tabasco, salt, and pepper. Cover pan and simmer on low for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Remove from heat. Cool mushrooms in marinade. Eat at room temperature.


As for the "crab" balls.... Remember the fish tacos I made earlier in the week? Weirdly, after I washed and dried the fish, my hands smelled like crab meat rather than fish. So I saved a piece of the cooked fish, for experimental purposes. I flaked it, added crab cake ingredients (Old Bay, bread soaked in milk, mayo) and made three small balls which I fried up for tapas. They fell apart, as my crab cakes usually do, but they tasted reasonably crabby. Because it had been sauteed, he meat was a little tough; if I try something like this again, I think I'll poach the fish so it stays soft.

Gotta admit - Mahi from Trader Joe's is far cheaper than crab meat, and it's no less crabby than the flavorless non-blue-crab "jumbo lump" they sell at the supermarket.