My tapas parties in the past have become something of legend, amongst Joe and me. They weren’t really parties, because we never thought to invite anyone, but still. I’d spend most of the day make tapa after tapa – patatas bravas, chicken and ham croquettes, roasted eggplant dip, potato and leek tortilla, honey almond cakes…. it was an ordeal. A wonderfully delicious ordeal! I keep meaning to have another one, and to actually invite some friends over. But until that time, I’ve settled for less extravagant tapas dinners. This time, the focus was these little, easy mini burgers topped with a few slices of aged manchego cheese and some homemade garlic aioli. I also made some quick roasted asparagus and sautéed mushrooms.
Making aioli or homemade mayo can be a trialing event. I don’t make it very often, so I’m always a little out of practice when I set out to make it. This time was no exception. I actually thought it hadn’t emulsified and gave up all hope, but when I looked at it a bit later saw that it had mysteriously thickened. Hmm. Works for me! If you’ve never made aioli or mayo before, you’re in for a treat. It’s so much better than store bought mayonnaise. Hopefully you won’t have trouble getting the emulsification, but if you do, there are ways to save it. I’ve read a few different ways, but the one that’s worked for me is to whisk another room temperature egg yolk, then slowly add the broken mayo to it. I’ve also found that a hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachments is better than a blender or food processor. (I initially forgot that and used a blender, which was why I think it didn’t properly emulsify at first.) You can also hand whisk!
The vegetable tapas I made are really basic. If you’re feeling fancy, you can do something like wrap the asparagus in serrano ham or similar. The mushrooms are just so, so good drizzled with the aioli that the only thing I can think to spruce them up with is garlic. But the mushrooms I bought were pretty big, so I’d worry about the garlic burning while they cooked. You could sprinkle them with smoked paprika, too.
I imagined lots of different ways I could make Spanish burgers. You could use all beef and use chorizo-like seasonings. I also thought about grinding up some marcona almonds and mixing them in. The manchego cheese could also be mixed into the beef. But what I settled on was a 1/2 and 1/2 mixture of bulk chorizo and ground beef. It was super simple, require little extra seasoning and was really good!
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons mild oil like safflower or sunflower (I actually used bacon grease because I realized I was out of safflower oil)
Whisk or blend the egg yolk, garlic clove, lemon juice, salt and pepper together. With the whisk or blender still going, add in the oil one drop at a time until the mixture starts to thicken. At that point, you can increase to a steady drizzle of oil until it is all incorporated. Season further with salt and pepper if desired.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Roast for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus, or until crisp-tender. Mine was pretty thin and 10 minutes was borderline too long. You don’t want the asparagus to be floppy.
Using about a pound of white mushrooms, cut off stems so they’re close to the base of the caps. Cut any larger mushrooms in halves or quarters. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan on high heat. Add mushrooms, flipping constantly until all oil is absorbed. Reduce heat to medium and sauté until mushrooms release their juices, about 5-8 minutes, depending on their size, and are cooked through. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top.
mini spanish burgers with manchego
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound bulk chorizo, or uncooked chorizo sausages, casings removed
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
aged manchego cheese
chopped fresh parsley
1. Mix the meats and garlic together and grind some pepper into the mixture too. The chorizo should be sufficiently salty, but you can sprinkle in a little salt if you’d like.
2. Heat some oil in a grill pan or regular pan on medium high heat. Form little patties, about a couple inches across, and cook for about 5 minutes. Flip, add a slice of cheese if you like it melted, and cook for about 5 minutes more. Cut into the burger and check for doneness – you don’t want to eat undercooked ground pork.
3. Top with cheese (or more cheese if you already melted some on the burgers), a drizzle of aioli, and parsley.
Load up your plate with these little tapas. Oh, and get some good Rioja or Tempranillo to go with!