A Very Tapas Christmas
The snow has fallen and Holiday music has started everywhere. It is a wonderful and exciting time. Why just stick to the same old menu? Let’s kick it up a bit with your new pantry and new cooking knowledge.
Tapas are a fun and new way to start off your Christmas traditions. Originally they were small bites served free with beer and cocktails in Spain, typically on top of the glass. There are several explanations why, but the one that makes sense to me is to cover up the top for flies and to prevent the drink from blowing over. Now, in America, they have become more hardy and a total meal at times. You can have fun deciding which way to approach your menu. Also, Tapas are not necessarily Spanish. We are going to go the Mexican way. Here are some great ideas to utilize your organized pantry.
TEQUILA AND MALIBU RUM GRILLED SHRIMP
16/20 shrimp (at least two per guest and fresh, preferably)
¼ cup of your favorite tequila (Don’t go too high end. It will overtake the shrimp flavor.)
¼ cup Malibu Rum
Fresh chopped cilantro bunch
½ tablespoon minced garlic
Clean your shrimp carefully and place in a Ziploc bag. Use two Ziplocs and double the recipe, if necessary. Simply combine the tequila, rum, cilantro, garlic and squeeze one lime in the mixture. Pour over the shrimp. Slowly add olive oil until partially covered. Shake and let sit in the refrigerator for no more than two hours. After that, the shrimp will begin to cook ceviche style and the alcohol will over power your desired flavor. Pat off the extra marinade. Do not rinse. Get your grill going and make sure you pull them off just as they turn pink and begin to curl. Do not overcook. This recipe is a show stopper. Finish with your extra lime sliced as garnish.
INDIVIDUAL PITA PORK LOIN AND CILANTRO CHILI DIP NACHOS
Pita bread (not pita pockets)
Grilled and sliced pork loin
Mexican cheese blend
2 bunches of cilantro (use your judgment because it is a 50/50 on whether people like cilantro)
½ tablespoon minced garlic
Jalapeno or Serrano chili roasted (depending on the heat level you wish)
Salt and pepper (preferably lime flavored salt)
Cut your pitas into fours and place on a baking sheet. Brush with EVOO and shake your desired amount of taco seasoning, and a little smoked paprika. A little goes a long way. Cook until turning barely brown at 400 degrees. Set aside to cool. Take one bunch of cilantro (leaves only, although the stems have lots of flavor) chopped fine and put in a bowl. Chop fine your roasted pepper. Take away the seeds and the membrane if you wish a mild spice level. Also, make sure the pepper’s skin is peeled off. Add the garlic. Slowly pour the EVOO in until it begins to emulsify (turning a little cloudy and becoming thicker). Do not over use your oil. Taste before you think you should. The old rule applies= you can always put more in, but you can’t take it out. Add pepper to taste. You will add the salt at the end. If you have not reached your desired hotness, I like to add a bit of Harissa. Pour your mixture into a dip bowl for service. This can be served at room temperature. Take each individual pita that was baked and place a piece of pork loin. Top with the cheese blend. Place back into the oven until melted and bubbly. Serve warm. Sprinkle the lime flavored salt on each piece. A side of Mexican crème is an excellent addition. This can also be a wonderful vegetarian dish by deleting the pork and adding a fresh slice of tomato. Make this recipe your own.
I think you can see how easy and fun tapas can be. The recipes are very open to your own touches. Always be sure to restock your pantry and record your changes. Your organized pantry makes things so easy, and you always know exactly what you have on hand for unexpected occasions. Make sure to add a small edible garnish to each dish such as, lime zest, lime and lemon curls, cilantro sprinkles, edible flower, etc. If you have any Mexican plate ware or items, add them to your table scape. One of my favorite presentations is to serve our signature salsa with a small scoop of our house guacamole, cilantro sprinkles, and tri-colored chips on one side in a margarita glass. It is a fun and easy way for an individual to eat salsa and guacamole instead of getting it on themselves or on your clean floor. You can also do this with lump crab or chopped shrimp combined in the salsa.
The Holidays are a time to create warmth and fun. For us, Mexican really fits our appetizer course. Yes, we still have our traditional part, but I think every year we will try to bring something new to our table. From all of John’s Angels Catering, we wish you the best Holiday season and a very Happy New Year.
Originally written for 406 Woman Magazine.
By Kristen Ledyard Owner/Executive Chef of John’s Angels Catering LLC