Spring Entertaining: Let's Throw a Tapas Party

Tapas – Spanish-style small plates built for sharing – encourage around-the-table socializing and are surprisingly easy to prepare. The result? An ideal meal for a casual yet impressive dinner party.

Tapas Party

To get the fiesta started, invest in some small plates. Modern white plates feel springy and fresh against the rich dishes, but I love the idea of using traditional terra-cotta dishware, too, for a touch of undeniable authenticity. Keep in mind when writing your guest list and buying ingredients that each recipe is meant to be shared, so to keep everyone satisfied, I’d suggest offering up to six dishes per person.

To help you kick off your planning, we’ve snagged a recipe from Ken Oringer’s much-adored Boston tapas spot, Toro: the classic and ever-popular gambas al ajillo (grilled garlic shrimp with chilies).

Gambas al Ajillo
Serves 4 – 6


  • 20 medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups white wine
  • 3 dried cascabel chilies, stems & seeds removed
  • 4 cups lobster stock
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Canola oil, to grease the pan
  • Chili threads, for garnish


  1. Combine shallots, garlic, and white wine in heavy-bottomed stockpot. Reduce over medium-high heat until almost all of the wine has evaporated.
  2. Add chilies and lobster stock and reduce by three quarters. Let cool slightly, then put contents of pot into blender.
  3. Blend on high until smooth. Add lemon juice and slowly incorporate softened butter while blender is running. Taste sauce and add salt if needed. Keep lobster sauce warm, but not on direct heat.
  4. Place heavy cast-iron pan over high heat with a thin layer of canola oil until very hot. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to pan without overcrowding.
  5. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes per side and transfer to a mixing bowl. Toss with lobster sauce, then plate, garnish with chili threads, and serve.

Along with the shrimp, try a menu including chicken-stuffed avocado, seared chorizo, fried chickpeas, and sautéed vegetables for a variety of delicious flavors. And of course, don’t forget to embrace Spanish tradition with a batch of springtime sangria.

Our The Professional Kitchen: Stainless Steel Cookware, Spotlight On: White & Wood Serveware, and Prep Like a Pro: Cutlery & Kitchen Gadgets Boutiques open Wednesday, April 3, at 3PM ET.

By Jess Huckins, Staff Writer

Have a question about party hosting or food prep? Comment below or tweet us at @ruelala, then check back every Wednesday for more on Food & Entertaining.

Not a Member and like The (Style) Guide? You’ll love Rue La La. Join now.


Get the Backstory: A Stripes & Polka Dots History