Enamored with Spain

I remember my father and grandfather always had an affinity for Spanish cooking, music and girls. There was something about the music(that only Sarasate could compose) that was lively and personal, and the other two followed suit. That reverence made me think of various culinary tastes with that Spanish accent, and my favorite food of the region can be found in the lowly, inexpensive Tapas bars. You know, where the Spanish girls gather…..
Tapas, like Scampi, is a word of veritable confusion. Many culinary experts have their own idea of its’ originaltion and meaning. Would you be so kind as to allow The Yankee Chef to explain, inform and make the final verdict? Thank you!

A Tapas Bar in Barcelona

Tapa, as it should be said, means cover or top(as in a lid) in Spanish. That meaning alone should tell the “food Historian” what the true origin and meaning is, but there are still many who are debating. Many centuries ago, most likely during the 17th century, flies were a monstrous nuisance. Everywhere you go, flies here and flies there. Remember, plumbing was crude, disinfectant was nonexistent and sticky rolls of paper weren’t even unrolled that far back. So it was necessary to cover your drink and food with whatever you could. Even though no-one knew the danger of germs and such, just the sight of those little winged insects tasting the food and drink with that long snout was enough to disgust many. Whether they used another trencher, napkin, bolt of cloth or a large slice of bread, it was called the Tapa.
Over time, because in the Taverns of old, slices of bread were used extensively to cover their mugs of liquor, this bread was referred to as Tapa. Well time goes on and so does this story. To make it brief, the next generation or two, this bread or any other finger food that was served to tavern guests to get them thirsty(thereby selling more alcohol) was referred to as Tapa.
You have noticed I have used the term Tapa, not Tapas. Tapas is plural, but that too has been changed through time. Even today, taverns all over Spain have finger food(much like Happy Hour here in America) and is referred to as Tapas. Here in the U.S., common food served during Happy Hours would be Buffalo wings, Cheese and crackers, Meatballs, mini-sandwiches….In Spain, they too have their own popular Tapas, such as these listed below.

Sherry Glazed Chorizo Sausage

I don’t believe you will find a better tasting, spicy Chorizo sausage that even compares to W. A. Bean’s and Sons in Bangor, Maine. I have had the privilege on many different occasions to enjoy this perfectly spiced Spanish sausage but I have yet to find one that compares to the freshness and quality of “Bean’s Meats”. So that all of you can enjoy the same flavor I enjoy, visit them at beansmeats.com where you can find so many other smoked products and a great variety of sausages in which to choose from to have delivered right to your doorstep.

5 Bean’s Chorizo Sausages
2 T. olive oil
1 c. sweet sherry
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. your favorite BBQ sauce
1 t. paprika
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1 T. olive oil

Remove the casings from the sausages and, on a chopping board, slice fairly thick on a 45 degree angle(on the biase). Place the sausages to a skillet with 2 T. olive oil and brown the slices on each side. Sprinkle paprika and cayenne pepper, add sherry, Worcestershire  and BBQ sauces, and cook on high for 3 minutes until the liquid has thickened and caramelized. Serve on its own with some crusty bread and salad or as part of a larger tapas spread.

Another Tapas delight.

Chorizo Chomps
Bet you have never had sausage “fritters”. You are about to have some deliciously fragrant fritters here and I guarantee you will be making these again.

2 lbs. potatoes
1/2 lb. Bean’s Chorizo Sausage
3/4 c. queso fresco*, crumbled
5 eggs, divided
2 c. milk
3 c. bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying

Remove sausage from its’ casing and finely mince. Peel the potatoes, then roughly chop them into large chunks. Place them in a big pot of water, and generously season the water with salt. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes, until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and spread them out on a sheet pan. Mash them well with a fork.
Heat up a large skillet over medium high heat. While that heats up, add the chorizo to the pan. Brown the chorizo for about 5 minutes, until fully heated through. In a large mixing bowl, stir to combine the mashed potatoes, chorizo, and queso fresco. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in eggs and combine well.
Portion this mixture into 2 T. scoops, using a spoon if need be, and shape them into balls with your hand. Set them out on a sheet pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (and up to overnight), so they don’t fall apart when we fry them.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 eggs with the milk for the egg wash. Dredge these balls in plain dried bread crumbs once, into egg wash and then back into the crumbs. Deep fry in 350-degree F oil until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.

*Queso Fresco is a soft, white Mexican cheese. If you can’t find it in your supermarket(and I believe you will be able to) then substitute it with your favorite white cheese, such as Edam, Brie or even Queso Blanco.