I consider myself pretty well-versed in the kitchen, but when I decided I wanted to pair some traditional Spanish tapas with Spanish wines in celebration of Garnacha Day I suddenly felt intimidated. While every recipe sounded delicious, I just wasn’t even sure where to start. Many of the Mediterranean dishes incorporate fish and shellfish, and as much as I love seafood, I’m not very confident when it comes to cooking it. So instead I played it kind of safe, and admittedly it wasn’t the most photogenic outcome but everything turned out so tasty I can’t wait to branch out more next time. Besides, it turns out Garnacha wines go well with pretty much anything so even the simplest of the tapas felt more elevated while sipping grapes of Spanish terroir. (You can read more about the origins of Garnacha Wines here.)
So what did I make?
Pan Con Tomate (Spanish Style Toast with Tomato) – This was by far the easiest dish I made and probably also the biggest hit. Toasted baguette with grated(!?) tomato, garlic and oil, I actually put my guy to work on this one, and his kitchen specialty is usually calling the pizza shop. I’ll be adding this to my appetizer round-up any time we have guests now.
Albondigas (Meatballs in Garlic-Tomato Sauce) – I almost considered these meatballs a fail because most of them fell apart when I added them to the sauce, but the flavor was so good and the meat so tender that I quickly changed my opinion. We scooped it onto crusty pieces of bread, and the leftovers would be great over rice or pasta.
Pollo Al Ajillo (Garlic Chicken) – This chicken dish called for using thighs or wings, but I only had boneless breasts on hand and decided to cut it into bite-sized pieces, which ended up being a great choice. The result was very tasty, perfectly light, and easy to eat.
One-Pot Spanish Chicken and Potatoes – This was the heartier dish of the meal since I was worried having all small bites and with delicious wine would be a dangerous combination. I wasn’t sure if this dish would be a little bland — even though it’s so vibrant, I cook with a lot of spice and this dish doesn’t call for much, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was filling and paired so perfectly with the Garnacha reds it really brought out the flavors and we couldn’t get enough of it.
We couldn’t have tapas without a little cheese. You really can’t go wrong with cheese and Aged Mahon is Spain’s second most popular cheese for a reason. I paired it with hot pitted olives, taking the easy way out and picking up a little container from the Mediterranean section of the supermarket, but still — yum! Just enough spice to balance out the salty flavor of the cheese and full-bodied flavor of the wines.
Now for the real star of the meal, the wines. My guy can be quite picky when it comes to wines, sticking almost strictly to Cabernet Sauvignon, so he was a little hesitant to try something new. I’m a little more open to trying new wines, but prefer they not be too sweet. That said, we both agreed that Garnacha wines will be one of our new go-to’s. The price points are inexpensive ($10-20) and since the Garnacha grape is monovarietal (it’s used to make reds, whites, and even rosé wines) there’s something for everyone. The wines of Garnacha do not disappoint. The reds paired so well with the meats and cheeses, and whites are always perfect for drinking and dining al fresco. Although, full disclaimer, we did not finish all the wines in one meal, but we did open a few bottles spread out over the weekend and have yet to find one we didn’t enjoy.