|Cojonudo--"ballsy", a tapa of quail eggs and ham.|
Tapas are not just about the food. Part of the way of life in Spanish towns, tapas are an excuse for getting out and about, catching up with friends, meeting new ones.
Tapas are trendy in America. There they are usually interpreted as small-plate dining, a series of dishes to be shared at the table. But, on home ground, in Spain, tapas are not really an alternative way of dining. For one thing, you might never sit at a table to eat tapas. You stand at the bar or at little side tables, a window ledge, an upended barrel, any place to set a wine glass and small plate. And, you may or may not consume a quantity of tapas that adds up to a whole meal.
The tapeo is a movable feast. The movement is part of the entertainment. Spaniards say that tapas will never really take off in other countries until you find two or more tapa bars within walking distance.
But, about the food. I’ve had better tapas in Sevilla, Málaga and Madrid, but, I gotta say that, for the price, these were fantastic. Most bars served a single tapa for the special price, but some gave us a whole selection.
Here are some of my favorites. Chanquetes de la tierra, land “fish.” Chanquete is a teensy fish, somewhat like whitebait, that is floured and fried in olive oil. It is incredibly delicious—but now forbidden, in order to prevent the fishing of other species in larval stages of growth. Land chanquetes are shredded zucchini, floured and fried. Delicious.
|Ensaladilla rusa, "Russian" potato salad.|
Cojonudo, slang (meaning, more or less, “ballsy”) for fried quail’s egg on toast with ham or chorizo.
As this village is no longer homogeneously Spanish, we also sampled some lovely samosnas (Indian) at one bar and Argentine grilled beef with chimichurri at another.
Ham and Quail Eggs on Toast
To crack the quail eggs, give them a sharp tap with the blade of a knife, then break onto a saucer. Slip the egg from the saucer into hot oil in the skillet. Fry four or five at a time. They cook in jiffy, so have the toast and ham waiting when you start the eggs.
Makes 10 tapas.
10 toasts made from sliced baguette
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ½ ounces thinly sliced serrano ham
10 quail eggs
2 piquillo peppers (from a can)
Hot pimentón (paprika) or cayenne
Place the toasts on a serving dish. Brush a skillet with a little oil and heat it. Lay the slices of ham in the pan, turn them quickly and remove. Divide the ham between the toasts.
Add remaining oil to the pan on medium heat. Break eggs, one at a time, into a saucer and slide them into the pan. Cook until whites are set but yolks still liquid, about 40 seconds. Lift the eggs out of the pan and place one on top of each toast.
Cut peppers into strips and lay one strip alongside each egg. Sprinkle with salt and pimentón. Serve immediately.