Tapas: Spanish Beer Food

Cooking with Beer by | Jun 2009 | Issue #29

Tapas are an amazing culinary treat. First, they satisfy the craving to try multiple items and not have to eat a huge portion. Second, they work great with crowds, as everyone can find something they will love. And third, the unique cuisine of Spain lends itself to beer pairings, especially when the weather is warm and the flamenco music is pouring from the speakers.

Bière Paella
Traditionally cooked over a fire, this is the perfect one-pan dish. The large paella pan can be placed on a barbecue grill or a kitchen burner.

Serves: 8 people

1/2 cup olive oil
1 each chicken, about 4 pounds, washed and dried
2 each yellow onions, peeled and sliced
4 each Spanish chorizo, sliced into rings
4 each garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 1/2 cups short-grain white rice (El Arroz de Valencia) or pearl barley
12 oz Pale Ale, Red Ale or Dunkel
6–7 cup stock, chicken or vegetable (tomato, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf)
1 1/2 tbsp. smoked paprika (pimentón)
2 pinch saffron
1 lb. PEI mussels, de-bearded
1/2 lb. clams
1 lb. prawns, shelled and de-veined
1 cup fresh peas
1 each red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and julienned
sea salt and pepper

Paella Directions:
Start by semi de-boning the chicken, removing the back, ribs and wing tips, and cutting the leg/thigh apart, and the breasts into three equal-sized pieces. Save the bones for the stock. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and set aside.

For the stock, store bought can be used, but all the ingredients are here to make a better one. Add the chicken bones to a medium-sized pot. Add a few cut-up tomatoes, carrots, celery stalks and onions, plus a garlic head, a bay leaf and shrimp shells, covering with cold water by about 3 inches. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Let cook as the rest of the dish is prepared.

In a paella pan or using two 12-inch skillets over medium-high heat, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the chicken pieces. Cook for 6 minutes on each side. While the chicken is browning, prep the rest of the ingredients. This will make cooking the dish much easier. Once the chicken is about halfway cooked, remove it from the pan and set aside. Add some more oil if needed, and add the onions. Cook the onions until they are transparent, about 4 minutes. Add the chorizo and cook for another 4 minutes, browning the sausage. Add the garlic and the chicken pieces back to the pan. Cook for another 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Deglaze with the beer and ladle the stock to just cover the ingredients. Add the paprika and saffron, season with salt and pepper, and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat to medium and lightly mix the paella. This will be the last time you stir the dish, as the paella will cook slowly for about 20–25 minutes and will form a golden crust on the bottom of the pan.

After about 15 minutes, arrange the mussels, joint side down into the rice. Next, add the clams, again arranging them in the same pattern. Finally, add the prawns. Sprinkle the peas and red pepper over the pan. Continue to cook until the prawns are pink and the liquid has almost evaporated. Test the rice to see if it is al dente. Add a touch more stock if the dish requires more cooking time. Then, just before serving, increase the heat to high for 1 minute, toasting the rice and creating what they call “socarrat” (or crust to the bottom of the pan). Once done, bring to the table and serve family style.

Variations: When I was in Spain, I must have had paella every day in each city I visited. Each one was unique in its own right, using local ingredients found in the area. Along the coast, I found that more seafood was added: squid, fish, mussels and clams, in contrast to being in Madrid, more inland, where more variations of meats such as sausages, chicken and rabbit were used.

Spanish Tortilla
When you hear the word “tortilla,” it’s hard not to associate it with a flat disc of bread used for wrapping a burrito. This tortilla is more like a French frittata, made with a touch of ale.

Makes: one 12-inch round tortilla that feeds 8 people

1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup potatoes, your choice, peeled and diced
1 each yellow onion, peeled and sliced
5–6 each eggs, duck or chicken
1/4 cup Hemp Ale – Nectar Ale
salt and pepper to taste

Using a 12-inch nonstick skillet, add oil and turn the heat to medium low. Add potatoes (I like to use purple or fingerling potatoes for their color and flavor over the standard russet) and onions. Stir to coat in the oil, then cover and let cook for 20 minutes; check and stir frequently. This will cook the potato and onions without browning them. Meanwhile, crack eggs into a bowl and whisk. Add ale and season with salt and pepper. When the potatoes and onions are ready, slowly pour the egg mixture into the pan, shaking to allow the eggs to fully coat all the potatoes. Now leave the pan alone for 10 minutes. Along the sides of the pan, the tortilla will have started to set. Rotate the pan to make sure the tortilla will cook evenly and leave for another 5–8 minutes until cooked fully through. It’s best not to cover the pan, as the steam will not allow the bottom to brown and will result in a dish that is too moist.

Once done, take a large enough plate to cover the skillet and invert the tortilla. Let cool slightly. Cut the tortilla into 6–8 wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Variations: I prefer using duck eggs when available. I feel that they add more flavor to the dish. With such a simple recipe, all the ingredients must be as fresh as possible.

Romesco Sauce
A wonderful sauce for vegetables, grilled fish, beer-poached prawns or even as a spread for a sandwich.

Makes: 4 cups

5 each garlic cloves, skin left on
8 each roma tomatoes
1 each red bell pepper
1 tbsp. smoked paprika (pimentón)
1/4 cup roasted almonds, ground to a powder
2 tbsp. malt vinegar
3–4 tbsp. citrusy Pale Ale
1/4 cup fruity olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the garlic, tomatoes and pepper into a baking dish and roast for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and browned, but not burnt. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly to handle. Remove the skins from the garlic, tomatoes and pepper, and place into a blender. Add the paprika and purée to the fine paste. Add in the vinegar and Pale Ale, and then drizzle in the olive oil. Check the seasoning, and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. The finished sauce should be slightly thinner than a mayonnaise. If it is too thin, add a slice of stale bread to the blender and remix.

Variations: Instead of using the hops in a Pale Ale to bring out the acid of the tomato, try using a Red Ale or a Brown Ale. The roast malt flavors will balance out the sauce and add depth to the nightshade fruit.

Fried Purple Potatoes with Red Sauce
If these aren’t the Spaniards’ answer to frites, I don’t know what is…

Serves: 6 people

3 lb. purple potatoes (or your favorite tuber)
1 qt. vegetable oil for frying
1 recipe Romesco sauce

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Wash the potatoes, place onto a baking sheet and put in the oven, cooking the potatoes until they are done, about 35–45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Cut the cooked potatoes into medium-sized chunks. Heat the oil to 350°F and fry the potatoes in batches, as not to overcrowd the fryer or pot and drop the heat too much (resulting in greasy potatoes). Fry for 3 minutes, or until the outside of the potato is crisp and the inside is steaming hot. Drain on a rack with paper towels underneath. Serve immediately with a bowl of the Romesco sauce for dipping.

Variations: Try using duck fat for cooking the potatoes. This adds a richness that can’t be created any other way.

Brewer’s Gazpacho
This cold “salad” soup is fresh and flavorful with the bounty of the summer garden. The aggressive hops from the IPA add a nice twist to the traditional side dish.

Serves: 8 people

12 each roma tomatoes
1 each red bell pepper
3 each garlic cloves
1/2 each yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. malt vinegar
6 oz. favorite IPA
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1 each yellow bell pepper, diced
2 each green zucchini, diced
2 each yellow squash, diced
1/2 each red onion, diced
2 each eggs, hard boiled, peeled and diced
8 each hop cones (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On a sheet tray, place six tomatoes, bell pepper and garlic cloves. Put tray in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Seed the remaining six tomatoes and add to the pitcher of a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Seed the roasted tomatoes and pepper; peel garlic and add to the pitcher. Add the onion and start the motor running. Purée to a thick paste, then slowly add in the vinegar and IPA, and drizzle in the olive oil. Taste the soup and adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and sugar if needed. The soup can be strained if a more refined liquid is desired. Transfer the soup to a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour to infuse the flavors.

To serve, add into the soup base the prepped garnishes and ladle into bowls. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and top with a hop cone.

Variations: Instead of roasting some of the vegetables, add them all to a blender and purée until smooth.

Beer Sangria
Try using the Flanders version of wine for this fruit-infused beverage. As with paella, each restaurant has its own version of sangria. This could be my new favorite.

Makes: 1 pitcher

1 each Granny Smith apple, cored and diced
1 each Bosc pear, ripe, cored and diced
1 each Valencia orange, diced, skin and all
750 ml. La Folie or other Flanders Red Ale, cold
1/4–1 cup castor sugar to taste

In a pitcher, add the diced fruit and beer; stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to macerate the flavors. Remove and taste. Adjust the sugar to taste. Top with ice and serve in beer goblets.

Variations: Good fruit substitutions: blackberries, peaches, apricots, mango, papaya and pineapple. Other beer ideas: Tripel, Hefeweizen, Munich Helles, Blonde, Stout and Kölsch.