Tapas for Dinner

One of the greatest pleasures the table offers is a leisurely couple of hours spent snacking over wine: embracing the Spanish concept picar – just a nibble here and there. For something so delicious and satisfying, a dinner of tapas is also easy to prepare: we already had a chorizo in the fridge from Olympic Provisions in Portland, OR and a quick trip to Surdyk’s yielded a wedge of Chabrin cheese (French, true, but near the border), some Basque-style olives and a bottle of fruity and spicy Spanish wine (2007 Peñascal Tempranillo-Shiraz).

I happened to have a loaf of bread baking in the oven, but it would have been just as well to buy bread. Cured meat, cheese, olives, bread and wine; something about these foods seems very elemental to civilization. It would have been enough to stop at the essentials, but since it was Saturday and Saturday compels me toward more ambitious cooking projects, I also made patatas bravas, my favorite Spanish bar food.

Two hours passed picando with one, two, three glasses of wine is a fine way to spend the evening.

Patatas Bravas

Take whatever quantity of potatoes suits you and cut them into irregular chunks. Peel the potatoes if desired. A recipe I read suggested starting them slow in oil and gradually increasing the heat until they are deeply golden. My own technique was to par-cook the potatoes in boiling water until a fork could just be inserted, then drain and dry them. I then fried them in 350°F oil until they were golden – unfortunately our stove’s rather pathetic BTU output meant this took too long and the potatoes got a bit tough. Probably the best technique is to follow french-fry procedure: blanch the potatoes in 325ºF oil until blond and then finish them at 375ºF. The goal is to have crispy potatoes with creamy interiors. Salt the potatoes after removing them from the oil.

Serve hot with salsa brava and alioli.

Salsa Brava

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups tomato puree, fresh or canned
  • 1 t paprika (pimentón dulce)
  • ½ t cayenne
  • 1 t salt

Heat the garlic and olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat until the garlic turns golden. Add the tomatoes and fry until the color darkens slightly. Stir in the paprika, cayenne and salt and simmer a few more minutes. Taste for seasoning: the sauce should be slightly spicy and taste clearly of paprika.


  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • ¼ t ground mustard
  • 1 t salt
  • ¼ t black pepper
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½—¾ c olive oil

Whisk together garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice and egg yolk. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly, until desired thickness is reached. Adjust seasoning.

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One comment on “Tapas for Dinner”

  1. Amy 27 October, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Oh, Tom, looks so good. Wish we could have shared the experience. What a nice way to spend the evening.

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