Doris and Lloyd Heroff make Caramel Flan
Love, and devotion to tapas, develops in Spain
In a little fishing village on the southern coast of Spain, 43 years ago, Lloyd and Doris Heroff began their marriage and a gastronomic adventure that is still playing out.
Lloyd, now the pastor of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Mount Prospect, was stationed at the naval base in the Andalusian town of Rota for two years. During that time the couple learned local customs, including the oh-so-civilized notion of sipping local sherries while lingering over plates and plates of tapas.
Sound romantic? I thought so too.
They had been married 18 months, but "we had only been together a few months" says Lloyd, because shortly after the ceremony he was deployed off the coast of Vietnam.
In Rota, unable to speak Spanish, the Heroffs gravitated toward other American service people.
"We would cram six or seven of us into a VW and go 10 to 15 miles to a variety of small towns to drink sherry and eat tapas," says Doris, a grants manager for the Council for Jewish Elderly in Chicago.
Among their favorite dishes: miniature meatballs, marinated asparagus and green beans wrapped in Serrano ham, garlic potato salad and Manchego cheese.
Says Lloyd, "We would order three or four tapas and some sherry, and order more as the spirit moved us. The waiter would come back four to six times."
Instead of sharing, as we do here, each tiny plate was an individual serving, and the style was different.
"Here it is high cuisine," says Doris. "There it is more basic."
When the Heroffs, who both love to cook, moved back to the States they imported their devotion to the small quantity and tremendous variety of these snacks, hosting tapas parties with 15 or 20 items.
"I would do this with Lloyd and my sister, divide up the work and get together in the morning" to prep as many as possible, says Doris. The rest were finished during the party so they could be served fresh.
Among the first tapas the Heroffs tried at home were garlic mushrooms; "they're on every tapas menu," says Doris. Her version today can be adapted many ways. Serve with plates of her shrimp and aioli and marinated olives at your own party.
Finish with a flan and a flourish. This Spanish national dessert can be made as rich as you like by selecting skim milk to cream, and flavoring it with your favorite extract or liqueur.
For authenticity, Lloyd recommends serving a pale dry sherry, like Trader Joe's Real Tessoro for under $10.
"It's very much like the sherries we got in Southern Spain," he says, but from a different vessel.
"In Spain they had three or four casks of sherry on the wall, and they poured it straight from there."