I love hosting dinner parties, but most Korean-style apartments aren’t conducive to sit-down dinners, nor are kitchens necessarily equipped to prepare a three-course meal. Potluck-style dinners can take some of the pressure off the host, but I often find when I attend potlucks, the foods are mismatched and disproportional.
A great solution to the dinner party dilemma? Tapas. The exact etymology of tapas, Spanish-style small dishes, is widely debated. The word ‘tapa’ means cover or lid, and the cuisine is believed to have originated in the practice of putting a slice of bread, a slice of ham or a small dish over a glass of wine to protect it from flies. My interpretation: tapas means covering the table in delicious food!
Throwing a tapas party will require some forethought and some ingredient hunting, but fortunately iHerb.com delivers within a week and carries necessary ingredients, such as ground sage, smoked paprika, pesto, jarred anchovy filets, dried parsley and canned cannellini beans, all at reasonable prices.
Home Plus and E-mart Traders both have great wine selections, and I’d recommend a Chilean Carmenere as a more affordable substitute for Rioja and a Cava or Prosecco for white. Manchego may be hard (and pricey) to come by, but Home Plus, E-mart and Costco usually carry Pecorino Romano, which has a comparable texture and flavor profile. A platter of sliced cured meats, cheeses and olives are an essential way to round out the spread and require little prep.
Home Plus carries Tesco’s nice line of stuffed olives. Chorizo may be a bit of a stretch, though High Street Market sells sliced chorizo and Costco has a variety of Italian salami. Food& in Daeyeon carries hard salamis for around 5,000 won. Once you’ve secured your chosen ingredients, it’s time to get in the kitchen. Here are a few simple recipes that will get you started for a great night of eats. ¡Buen Provecho!
Ingredients: 4 medium potatoes, a small onion, 3 cloves of garlic, a small can of whole peeled tomatoes, mayonnaise, hot sauce, smoked paprika, rice vinegar, parsley.
Method: Dice and boil the potatoes until they are slightly undercooked. (Time saving tip: boil two extra potatoes and saute some extra onion to set aside and use for the croquetas recipe below.) Drain and set aside. Dice the onion and garlic, and saute them in oil with a tsp each of parsley and paprika until slightly brown. Add the tomatoes, a tbsp of vinegar and a tbsp of hot sauce, adding salt and pepper to taste and using a spoon to break up the tomatoes. When the mixture cools down a bit, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Coat the potatoes in the tomato mixture and bake them in the oven for 12-15 minutes on 250 C, or until crispy. After plating the patatas, drizzle with garlic aioli (mayo, minced garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper) and garnish with parsley (fresh if possible).
Croquetas de Jamon
Ingredients: A small block of ham, Pecorino Romano, two medium potatoes, butter, flour, milk, bread crumbs, ground sage, salt and pepper, two eggs.
Method: Boil the potatoes until they are soft enough to pierce through with a fork. Drain and transfer back to the pot, adding 2 tbsp of butter and 1/4 cup of milk. Mash and then whisk the mixture until it is smooth, then add 1/2 cup of diced ham, a tbsp of sage, 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino, salt and pepper. Add a little bit of flour at a time, continuing to stir until the mixture is thick and the cheese is melted. Take it off the flame and let it cool. Using floured hands, roll spoonfuls of the mixture into small patties, dip each patty into beaten eggs, then roll in breadcrumbs until they are fully coated. Fry the patties in grapeseed or olive oil until they are golden brown on both sides. Serve with a garlic aioli (see above).
Gambas al Ajillo
Ingredients: 400 g of whole, peeled shrimp, 2 lemons, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper, 5-6 cloves of garlic.
Method: If you opt for frozen, precooked shrimp, let them defrost for a bit before you start. Crush and coarsely chop the garlic. Put it into an ample amount of olive oil, and let it simmer for a few minutes. Before it starts to brown, add the shrimp, 1/4 cup of parsley, 1 tbsp of pepper flakes and a little bit of salt and pepper. For uncooked shrimp, cooking time is slightly longer and the pink color will be telltale. Precooked shrimp should be cooked only until hot. Serve with lemon wedges.
White Bean and Anchovy Crostinis
Ingredients: Baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick medallions, one can of cannellini beans, basil pesto, capers, anchovy fillets, lemon juice
Method: This one is simple and doesn’t require any cooking. Drain the cannellini beans and put them in a blender with a tbsp of lemon juice and 2 tbsp of basil pesto. Lightly toast the baguette and spread some of the bean mixture on each slice, then top each one with a few capers and 1/2 of an anchovy fillet.
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