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Chef Katie Button’s tips for creating tasty tapas

The chef and founder of Cúrate and La Bodega dished out her tips for crafting delicious Spanish small plates at your next celebration.

Curate Pan con Tomate.png

Be on your way to creating the perfect pan con tomate.

Photo by Evan Sung via Button Meana Group

Gather ‘round the table. Today, June 20, just so happens to be World Tapas Day, and if you’re constantly craving the delicious small plates from Cúrate and La Bodega, you’re in luck. We’re sharing Chef Katie Button’s pro tips for crafting your own tapas celebration at home.

Make a plan

“Planning a tapas menu can be intimidating because it feels like you have to cook a million different dishes,” Button says. But the trick is to keep it simple. Start with a charcuterie board or the uncomplicated pan con tomate (tomato bread), then build on that with a simple, refreshing gazpacho and focus your time on one dish, like a tortilla Española.

Prep is your friend

Back to that plan. Choose tapas you can prep ahead of your guests’ arrival. But if you want to add an interactive element to your tapas party, Button suggests you “enlist the help of your friends.” She recommends guests help squeeze tomatoes for pan con tomate — they get to be a part of the process and learn something new.

Lean on leftovers

Have any leftover cooked veggies? Take a page out of Button’s book and add them to a tortilla Española. Or if you have any herb stems or scraps, blend them up with some olive oil, vinegar, a bit of garlic, and salt for a fresh and zippy sauce that goes great with almost anything.

Fresh ingredients can make a difference

Ingredients for most tapas can be found at the grocery store, but you can take it up a notch with fresh produce from a local farmers market. Button says that something simple like garlic alioli can taste all the more fresh with local garlic. Pro tip: If you want to take some of the legwork out of the equation, you can also pick up packaged olives, fresh bread, and tomate freso (for pan con tomate) at La Bodega.

Put these tips to work

Now that you have Button’s expertise in your back pocket, you’re ready to serve tasty tapas at your own gathering. To get you started, here is Katie Button’s recipe for one of her favorite tapas, Gambas al Ajillo.

gambas al ajillo.png

Create this flavorful dish in your home kitchen.

Photo courtesy of the Button Meana Group

Gambas al Ajillo (Sauteed Shrimp with Garlic)

Serves three to four people as a main dish or six as a small plate


1 pound (26/30-count) shell-on shrimp (about 24)
1/3 cup olive oil
12 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
3 dried arbol chiles
Kosher salt
3/4 cups of dry sherry wine
1 teaspoon minced fresh flat leaf parsley


Peel the shrimp, leaving the tail shell intact. Devein the shrimp, then butterfly. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 1.5 minutes. Add the shrimp, bay leaves, chiles, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss the shrimp in the oil until just starting to color, about two minutes.

Add sherry wine and flip the shrimp so that they cook on all sides. Once the shrimp have turned opaque, immediately transfer them to a bowl, leaving the sauce behind. I usually use tongs to pull each shrimp as it finishes cooking. This is to prevent overcooking the shrimp; it should take only two minutes to cook all of them.

Raise the heat to high, and boil the sauce until it is reduced and the raw wine flavor of the sherry has diminished, about one minute. Return the shrimp to the skillet, add the parsley, and toss quickly to thoroughly coat the shrimp. Transfer the shrimp with its sauce to a serving bowl, and serve immediately with crusty toasted bread.

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