Many elaborate tapas on display
Class for World
Story and photographs by Richard Frisbie
met Toño Pérez (of Atrio Restaurante in Cáceres,
Spain) in Manhattan. I took a master class he taught last October at
the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). He handed out photos and
descriptions of his signature tapas dishes and then created them for
us. It was amazing!
Chef Toño Pérez with his interpreter
showing off some tapas
Tapas was traditionally a slice of bread to cover the
top of your drink and keep the flies out. Eventually something was put
on it as an accompanying snack with your drink. Nowadays tapas can be
anything, from a few olives on a toothpick to a slice of egg and potato
tortilla, to even a slice of cheesecake.
Chef Toño's creations leaned towards the more
elaborate and imaginative. And while some didn't look exactly like the
photos, they were the same ingredients and taste profiles but on a smaller
scale. Each showcased the purest ingredients of Chef Toño's home
in Extremadura, Spain, and even a bit of his sense of humor.
A cup of faux espresso photo and the finished tapas
For instance, the first tapas looked like a cup of espresso,
but it consisted of a jelled potato puree topped with crisp iberico
bacon bits and a garlic/paprika sauce, with parmesan foam floated on
top. A light sprinkling of powdered coffee delivered the aroma to completely
fool the eyes and nose. The illusion was perfect. It was a savory cup
of "espresso" to eat with a spoon!
The photo is on pork skin but the finished tapas
was on bread
Extremadura's exceptional paprika with its
A more classic tapas, meaning bite-size goodies on a
piece of bread, appeared to be next on the menu, but as in the
espresso looks can be deceiving. In this case the "bread"
was a dehydrated, twice-cooked and pressed pork skin; all crunchy and
delicious. On it were dotted a creamed local cheese and diced chorizo,
garnished with stems of chervil and topped with a thin wafer of briefly
baked phyllo pastry that had been brushed both sides with the same garlic/paprika
a video of that tapas being made.
Paprika is one of many specialty products of Extremadura.
Since Chef Toño used a garlic/paprika sauce in so many dishes,
I want you to have the recipe. You should know ahead of time that this
makes a lot of sauce; he was feeding 130 students. But there are so
many uses for it and it keeps well, so don't be shy about making a batch.
Simmer 1300 grams (about three pounds) of garlic in
2600 grams (about 3 quarts) of olive oil until golden. Reduce heat
and add your herb or herbs of choice for the above recipes
it is 208 grams (about 7 ounces) of fresh rosemary but in the
next recipe it is 130 grams (about 4 ounces) of dried oregano and
Next, his recipe states "add paprika to taste",
but my recipe at home from a different Spanish chef, calls for no
more than 110 grams (about 4 ounces) of paprikas both hot and
sweet mixed to your taste. So you can see there is some flexibility
here. Basically you're making a paprika flavored olive oil, so you
can imagine its uses. I sauté vegetables in it, use it as part
of a meat marinade, and cook shrimp in it. My recipe was originally
meant as a drizzle over octopus and potatoes, a typical Galician dish,
so I called it Galician oil. You
can see that recipe here.
My collection of flavored oils red is garlic/paprika
Finally, stir all the ingredients just to combine
and simmer together on low for one hour. Then cool to room temperature
and allow to settle. My Galician chef added this wisdom: "most
people ruin the sauce either by stirring it, or not letting it cool
thoroughly." Gently remove solids and strain, trying not to have
any paprika in the final sauce "it will make the oil bitter."
The final tapas is also misleading in that it is called
Pork Tartar with flowers and herbed mustard. This a standard tapas in
that it really is made with a toasted slice of bread, but the pork is
cured, not raw. Since it is not "cooked" technically it can
be called tartar, but don't worry you're not eating raw pork.
It was finely minced with egg yolk, pickles and onions, just like a
beef tartar. Then a little garlic/paprika sauce and mustard were added
before it was put in a pastry bag and chilled. That, piped onto the
toast, with a mustard and creamed cheese mix dotted on top of it
the whole covered with edible flowers and micro greens made a
stunning and delicious treat!
The original was on bread but the finished tapas
was on a spoon sans bread
There. Thanks to Chef Toño Pérez and the
fine ingredients of Extremadura, you have three tapas to make for World
Tapas Day. You have plenty of flexibility in the recipes. Meaning, you
can't go wrong so long as you use the finest ingredients and the pictures
of the finished tapas as a guide. Please contact me or leave a message
below if you'd like the complete recipes. (And do make that garlic/paprika
sauce you'll love it!)
Opposite Sides of Madrids Culinary Coin; A
Food & Wine Tour of Alcala; Savoring
Seville As We Wave Adiós; Edible
Books in Spain