Monday, September 12, 2011

Tapas or Pinchos?

Saturday, I had friends over for a Mediterranean-inspired meal, full of the flavors of Spain and a spectacular Italian dessert.  I kicked off the party with a traditional tapas dish: Potato Croquetas with Saffron Alioli.  The word Tapa actually means "lid" or "to cover". Apparently, bars in Spain began serving wine with a slice of bread on top of the glass to keep flies and dust out. There must of been a huge fly problem!!!  In the Basque region, the bread was topped with delicious appetizers and fastened with a toothpick.  This is known as Pincho or Pintxo, meaning "spike". Then, by counting the toothpicks, they would know what to charge. So, call these croquetas tapas or pinchos; either way, they are delicious and everyone loves them!

Potato Croquetas with Saffron Alioli

Makes 24 to 28.  Feel free to add 4 oz of chopped ham or chorizo to the potato mix, if you like.


For the saffron alioli:
Pinch of saffron threads (about 10 or so threads)
1/2 teaspoon hot water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the potato croquetas:
1 lb large russet potatoes (about 2)
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup or so all-purpose flour
1/2 cup or so Panko bread crumbs
1 quart olive oil, for frying (so don't spend a lot on the oil)


For the saffron alioli:
Mix the saffron threads with the hot water in a small cup.  Let it sit for at least 5 minutes.  Mix the saffron/water with the remaining ingredients until smooth.  Can be made up to 2 days in advance, covered, and chilled.

For the potato croquetas:
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Place in a 2-quart pot and cover with cold, salted water and boil until tender, about 8 minutes.  Drain and mash with a potato masher or fork, leaving the potatoes slightly chunky.  Let cool.

Once cooled, add 1 beaten egg, the herbs, softened butter, salt and pepper and stir until combined.  Spoon tablespoon size balls (you'll have to use your hands) onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Chill for 30 minutes.

Next, line up 3 bowls.  Fill the first bowl with the flour, the second with 2 beaten eggs, and the third with the Panko.  Roll the potato balls in the flour, gently shaking off the excess.  Dip into the egg, letting excess drip off, then roll in the Panko.  Place on the baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart pot until it registers 325-350 degrees on a thermometer.  Working in batches of 4, fry the croquetas, turning occasionally until browned. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, remove the croquetas and drain on paper towels.  Repeat with the remaining croquetas.  

I make these up to 3 hours before serving and store at room temperature.  That way, I can clean up the mess before my guests arrive.  Reheat in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes.

Keep checking my blog for the remaining recipes in this menu!