From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I hope you appreciate whimsy. The origin of a Spanish tapa, a small snack that is served with drinks, is not really known. Legend has it that illness forced 13th century Castilian king Alfonso X - also known as Alfonso the Wise - to eat small snacks with the wine that had doctors had ordered to maintain his strength. After he recovered from the illness causing his weakness, he decreed that taverns serve food with beer or wine to keep the spirits from going too quickly to patrons heads. A more practical explanation is the use of a saucer or lid to keep dust or insects out of drink glasses. "Tapa" literally means lid and the first lid was probably a slab of bread or cheese placed over the glass in which wine or beer was served. A tapa can be anything from a potato fritter to a small portion of skewered meat, the only requirement is that it must be a small dish of something edible that is served with a drink. Tapa (one snack) or tapas (two or more snacks) should not be thought of as an appetizer or meal starter. If you start eating tapas, you do not stop until you are full. While many tapas can be served as a main course, the tapas portion is about 1/4 the size of an entree and it usually requires several of them to assuage hunger. Tapas are served in bars, not restaurants, and tapas bars are extremely popular in Spain. As family size has decreased, so, too, has the size of most Spanish homes, and space limitations have made it easier to socialize and entertain outside the home. Despite problems with the economy, the tapas culture in Spain is still vibrant and thriving. Albondigas appear on many tapas menus. You'll find these meatballs are a bit softer than their Italian cousins, but they are really good and the cinnamon scented sauce in which they braise is downright delicious. They have the added advantage of being relatively inexpensive and easy to make and I know you and your crew will love them. Here is how they are made.
Albondigas - Spanish Braised Meatballs with Olives and Tomato Sauce...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal (ground chicken or turkey can be substituted)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup stale breadcrumbs or panko
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika (Pimenton)
2 small fresh chilies, chopped (1/4 to 1/2teaspoon red pepper flakes can be substituted)
1 whole cinnamon stick
2 (425g) cans crushed tomatoes, undrained
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups small pitted green olives
1) Combine pork and veal in a large bowl. Add garlic, oregano, parsley, bread crumbs, egg and milk and mix lightly. Using a tablespoon measure, roll 1 level tablespoon of mixture into a ball. Place in a single layer on a baking pan. Cover and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
2) Heat half of olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook meatballs, in batches, until brown. Drain on paper towels.
3) Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in same pan. Cook onions, chilies and paprika, stirring occasionally until onions are soft. Add cinnamon stick, undrained tomatoes, stock, and tomato paste. Simmer, uncovered, until sauce starts to thicken, about 15 minutes. Add meatballs and olives and continue to simmer, uncovered, for another 10 minutes, or until meatballs are just cooked through and sauce has thickened. Discard cinnamon stick. Transfer meatballs and sauce to a serving bowl. Serve hot. Yield: about 50 meatballs.
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