Don’t fuss over place settings and plated dishes for this dinner party. Instead, have dishes that can be served at room temperature ready to go, and serve each hot dish just when it’s ready to eat. As new flavors come to the table in rounds, the gathering has a way of extending happily into the night.
Choose paella, the endlessly customizable one-pot Spanish dish, to anchor your menu. Feel free to substitute chicken or any seafood you like for the proteins in the recipe below. Then, scroll down for a list of festive tapas to mix and match, exciting guests’ palates again and again.
Serve this colorful Spanish dish family style for a casual get-together, either spooned onto a platter or directly from the pan. If the mussels at your fish market look good, use them in place of or in addition to the clams, being careful to remove their beards before they go into the pan.
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. Spanish dry-cured chorizo, cut into slices 1/2 inch thick
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups long-grain white rice such as basmati
1/2 tsp. saffron threads (optional)
4 cups chicken broth
1 to 2 lb. small clams such as little neck or Manilla, scrubbed
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup frozen baby peas
Lemon wedges for serving
In a large fry pan or paella pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the chorizo and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the rice, crumble in the saffron (if using), and cook, stirring, until the grains are well coated, about 2 minutes. Pour the broth into the pan and stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the rice has absorbed nearly all of the liquid, about 20 minutes.
Press the clams, hinge side down, into the rice, discarding any that do not close to the touch. Spread the shrimp over the rice and top with the peas. Cover and cook until the shrimp are opaque and the clams have opened, about 5 minutes more. Discard any unopened clams and serve immediately. Pass the lemon wedges at the table. Serves 4 to 6.
- Serve crowd-pleasing cava and a deep berry-flavored, toasty Rioja along with the meal. If you’re inspired, mix up a pitcher of sangria, too, and float citrus slices inside.
- Place a stack of salad plates and a tray of glasses on the table, along with napkins and a caddy to hold silverware.
- Chose plates and platters in a variety of shapes and sizes when bringing dishes to the table, so the food looks diverse and abundant.
- Cocktail picks are perfect for sharing bite-size portions.
- Use gratin dishes and other oven-safe cookware to serve dishes in the same vessel you cooked them in, maintaining a casual feel.
- Finish the meal with something sweet and authentic, such as Spanish flan. Bonus: the dessert can be made entirely ahead of time.