For a lot of North Americans, enjoying a “tapas” or “small-plates” meal means going to a bougie, overpriced restaurant that bullies you into ordering 3 unsatisfying micro-entrees rather than 1 (less expensive) meal-sized one. However, after living in Spain for quite some time, I can assure you that authentic tapas is a lot less fussy…
Tapas began as salty snacks (like olives, potato chips or cured meat) given out for free at bars to encourage…well…heavy drinking. Nowadays it still serves that purpose, but has expanded into a small but tasty late night meal eaten hours after the Dionesian Feast that is Spanish lunch. Believe me, if you ate the way we did between the hours of 2-4pm (lunchtime where I lived in Oviedo), you wouldn’t have much of an appetite by “dinner hour” either.
Tapas bar culture. Nothing opens until at least midnight and you’re lucky if you find a place to lean.
When in Spain I definitely encourage you to sample all the delicious deep fried, sodium-laden tapas fare you can get your hands on. But in the meantime…here is a recipe that is similar to the traditional Spanish albondigas, but lightened up by using chicken instead of pork and even adding a little green for good measure. Serve with a side salad and roasted potatoes for a healthier take on albondigas and patatas bravas. Don’t skimp on the glass of red wine though…For the antioxidants of course 😉
Tapas-Style Chicken & Spinach Meatballs
- 1 package extra lean ground chicken
- 1/2 package frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
- 1/2 onion, diced finely
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup egg whites OR 1 whole beaten egg
- 1/4 cup oat bran (or rolled oats, ground coursely in a coffee grinder)
- 1 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast (or parmesan)
- 1 heaping tsp sweet paprika
- 1 heaping tsp dijon
- a few dashes of soy sauce/braggs
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup cooking sherry OR white wine
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- Add all the ingredients and seasonings for the meatballs in a very large bowl and mix well with your hands until combined.
- Scoop meatballs using a 1/4 cup measure (you wont need to fill it all the way) and roll into balls.
- Fry meatballs over medium heat in a very large skillet until just browned then set aside until you’ve gone through the whole batch.
- Add 1/4 cup or so of cooking sherry or white wine to the bottom of the pan to scrape off any brown bits then add meatballs back to the pan along with 2 cups broth & 1 cup crushed tomatoes.**
- Simmer on low for 30-40 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
**If your pan isn’t big enough you can transfer wine, meatballs, broth and tomatoes into a large pot instead.