During the holidays, Joe and I are on our own and away from family, so in the last couple of years we have started our own little tradition of having friends over for dinner … see my post on Christmas Eve’s Eve 2011. Last year, we had Greek food and it was awesome! This year, we were looking for another great theme and we decided to have an evening of paella and Spanish tapas. You have to love tapas … just little bites of love … and little bites of love seem so very appropriate for friends during the holidays.
Joe was in charge of the paella … really Joe was in charge of everything, but I fought my battles and we came up with a really fun menu that wasn’t so crazy that we couldn’t have a really good time with our friends. We both love Martha Stewart’s food among others and she had some great recipes for our theme!
We started our prep the night before. We had both made a run to Publix and I had hit Whole Foods for some special items. There is always some snafu which requires another run to the store, but we aren’t fazed by that sort of thing anymore! On the menu …
- Paprika Spiced Almonds
- Fried Chickpeas
- Shrimp Escabeche
- Croquettes with Serrano Ham and Manchego
- Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Goat Cheese
- Marinated Manchego with Roasted Red Peppers
- Paella with Spanish Chorizo, Chicken and Pork Cutlet
- Patatas Bravas
- Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce
- Milk Chocolate Pistachio Tart
First off, I’ll talk about the Shrimp Escabeche. I’m not a shrimp fan or seafood of any sort really, so imagine my surprise when I participated in making this dish during a work-related team building event and found the shrimp flavorful and not rubbery at all. I think a lot of people have the tendency to overcook shrimp and the texture suffers. Not the case here … not in the class and not in my kitchen either. There was a snafu … Joe had purchased the shrimp and it was already cooked. We had a little convo and I grabbed my bag and headed to Publix for some tails on, deveined, uncooked shrimp in the medium size. And here we go …
Shrimp Escabeche (Viking Cooking School). This is a great dish for a party for a couple of reasons … people snarf it up and you prepare it the day before. The recipe is straight from the Viking Cooking School in Franklin. If you’ve never taken a class, you should! It is super fun and I always, always learn something new!
Marinated Manchego with Roasted Red Peppers. Just yum. This yet another prepare ahead dish from Viking Cooking School. Manchego perfectly compliments the strong flavors of garlic and the roasted red peppers. Plus how pretty with those holiday colors!
So this was snafu #2 … the peppers that we picked up at Publix were way, way too big and weren’t true piquillo peppers. We made the filling and put it in the frig. I had seen some at Whole Foods in Cool Springs, so Saturday I headed over there to pick them up. Surprise! The shelf was empty. Okay, Plan B … Fresh Market in Brentwood. Tah Dah! I love proper ingredients and these turned out to be delish! We put some of the extra goat cheese stuffing in the center for folks that wanted a taste on crackers.
Joe steamed some mussels in a lovely little tomato sauce … no recipe on this one. Sorry! He just gets in the kitchen and goes a little commando sometimes.
Patatas Bravas. This is another recipe from Viking Cooking School. The key here is to get the potatoes roasted nice and crispy on the outside. Then when you add the tomato sauce, you get texture and layers of flavor. These are hearty!
Croquettes with Serrano Ham and Manchego. Thank you Martha! At first, Joe wanted to make some chicken croquettes, but I steered him in Martha’s direction and, boy, I wasn’t sorry. These were my absolute favorites of all of the things that we created for this dinner party. They were crispy on the outside and then when you bit into them, they were luscious, flavorful and creamy. I’m not sure who got else to eat them because I was eating them like popcorn. They were awesome!
Joe’s Paella … it was delicious and there was nary a scrap of it left afterwards! It got a little crazy and I had to snag this photo off of Peter Rodman’s Facebook page.
So I made Martha’s Milk Chocolate Tart with Pistachio but I forgot to dust with the pistachios at the end, but I have this cute little white chocolate covered snow flake pretzel. I think that works fine. This was a great tart and it was not cloyingly sweet, just a lovely chocolate flavor without crazy sweetness. The pistachios in the tart are a great touch and I will be making this again.
Here Joe is taking a little break.
We had 13 guests and I think everyone had a great time.
Some folks hadn’t seen each other for a while and that was really fun …
And a couple of these girls I just cannot live without and I feel so lucky that I don’t have to (Beth Tune and Marsha Anderson)…
It was really fun and a perfect entry into the holidays. I love Christmas Eve’s Eve and I’m pretty sure we are going to do it again. Hmmm… what will the theme be next year?
Here are the recipes I promised earlier. Glad tidings in 2013!