Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happy cumpleaños! TORTILLA DE PATATA Celebration!

Today is the Handsome Spaniard's birthday and we celebrated it with a very early breakfast and a big lunch just now. I love birthdays, I think they are so much fun, and for a single day out of the year, someone can feel really loved/appreciated/special/insert necessary adjective. So, I decorated the house, wrapped some presents, and went to town on some of his Spanish favorites. In light of that, perhaps the only Louisville reference will be to De La Torres, the Spanish restaurant on Bardstown Rd. and one of the only Spanish restaurants in the region. They have great tapas and actual sangria. 

However, I promise you will learn a traditional recipe that you can keep in your culinary repertoire for whenever! I made what they call here a "Tortilla de Patata". Anyone who has been in Spain for more than 24 hours knows what a Tortilla de Patata is. It is a staple of the diet here, and consists of onions, potatoes, eggs, olive oil, and salt. We're going for simplicity here people. It isn't anything like the tortilla us Americans are used to (the Latin American export), but is more like a fat omelet that you flip 180º! That's a spectacle, so get ready for some acrobatics.
Later we will cover the simple dessert that I came up with out of the fruit bowl and cupboard. Chocolate covered pears. They really are amazingly delicious and they are fun to eat! Let's get going...

Tortilla de Patata (Spanish potato omelet)
6-8 small potatoes
4-5 eggs depending on the size
1/4-1/2 onion, also depending on the size
a ton of olive oil

To start the tortilla de patata, you must do some prep work. One of my favorite scenes in a typical Spanish home is a table full of people peeling potatoes and slicing them into uniform, relatively-thin disks. So, make your home a little Spanish for the afternoon or evening and you won't be sorry. 

First you need to peel all of those potatoes. If you're handy with the knife you can slice those babies up while the onion is transferring its amazing flavor to the oil--if not, then you should prep the potatoes completely (directions following). While you're heating about 2-inches of oil over med-high heat, mince that don't want a ton of onion, but you want enough to distribute well in the oil. The olive oil will take on the sweetness of the onion, and that's what we need to get that traditional flavor for the tortilla. The onions should not be browning, but waltzing around in the glorious oil, so watch the heat!
Now for the potatoes. Cut them in about 1/8-inch slices if you can manage it (between 1/8 and 1/4 inch is acceptable). Depending on whom you ask, you can cut them super thin or you can be a bit lax--everyone has their own way to prepare a tortilla de patata....and they'll let you know, trust me. When the oil has been hanging out with the onion enough to merge flavors, add the potatoes and slow-poach them in the oil. You DO NOT want the potatoes to get brown either, so let these percolate over medium heat...stir and keep and eye on them, okay? This will take the longest out of all the steps, maybe 20 minutes, maybe more--just until they are soft.

Okay, it's time to get a little tricky. You have to muster up some courage for this part (but not nearly as much for the last part). As my mom told me when I first started cooking, don't be afraid of the hot oil or else you won't be frying anything...I don't know if it is physically safe advice, but confidence is your best friend in the kitchen--and if you end up burning yourself, that's why you have an aloe vera plant at hand...right? Take the pan off the stove and strain the potato and onions from the olive oil (we save this oil for frying potatoes or making more tortillas later can use this oil a couple more times because it wasn't violently fried and messy).

As the potatoes are straining precariously over a container in the sink (that might just be my me Mcgyver), you can beat the hell out of those eggs. I'm serious. Get a whisk, and go crazy on those eggs until they are homogenous and a few bubbles veil the top. Add a little salt to the egg mixture. Then, take the potato mixture and add it to the eggs. You can then mix this up into the happiness that is your tortilla batter. Return the pan to the stove on medium heat with enough olive oil to keep the batter from sticking (usually the oil that you didn't pour off with the potatoes is enough).

Stay brave my friends, this is the part where things get a little precarious--but it is fun after your first time! It really helps to have about 7-8 Spanish friends cheering you on...but friends of whatever nationality will do. Hah! Take a plate, or if you happen to have a tortilla de patata flipper (yes, they are on the market), or other rimless flat-bottomed lid that will work. Make sure that the egg mixture isn't sticking (spatula or pan-shimmying works) and then set your lid on top of the pan. To minimize spillage, make sure the plate is larger than the pan and doesn't just fit inside--don't be a hero. Okay, now that you have the top securely in place, hold it tightly on top with your left hand, right hand on the handle (reverse obviously if you're stronger on the left side), envision its successful 180º flip, and then MAKE IT HAPPEN! Flip the omelet onto the plate in your right hand-holding it waiter-style (don't let it fall on the floor) and shimmy it back into the pan so the other side can cook. Physics has a phenomenon called centripetal force--if the movement you make is complete, the tortilla flip will be a success; if you hesitate and get scared, you will be covered in a warm egg, potato, and onion mixture. I guess there could be worse things...

I think the fact that you invested all that time in beating the eggs and peeling and cutting all those potatoes is enough to make your body and mind work together to make this a smooth transition. If you're weak in the upper body dept, get someone stronger to help you out--make them feel like they're useful since you're dominating the kitchen. If you have some left over egg and potatoes that didn't make it into the pan on the smooth slide that was your first attempt (fingers-crossed), you can just spread it on top and then you do the flip-trick once again. Don't worry, you'll be a pro in no time. If it failed and you made an epic mess, cut up some bread and eat it off of the counter, just make sure your kitchen is clean. No pasa nada. No worries!

Now you can cut it in triangles, pizza-style, or in cubes and eat them with toothpicks...great party appetizer. Also good for dinner, lunch, cold for breakfast, etc. The tortilla de patata can sit out on the counter if you have leftovers and it will be delicious the next day (I have never had one last that long, but cold tortilla is great). Now enjoy that rich egg with the silky potatoes and sweet olive oil flavor. Bienvenidos a España//Welcome to Spain.

Finally a little quickie for dessert. You have to eat your fruit now...why not smothered in chocolate?

Chocolate Covered Pears
2 pears, washed, skin-on
1 Chocolate bar, 70% dark chocolate is what I had

Take a teaspoon and scoop out the core from the bottom. Then you can cut the bottom a little so that the pear stands flat on its own.

Heat the chocolate over super low heat if you don't have a double boiler, like me. If you do, melt the chocolate over a double boiler (bain marie//baño maría). If you have enough chocolate, you can just dip the pears inside the chocolate. If you aren't so wasteful and just used what you needed, then you can teaspoon it on, and I think that is a nicer presentation--you can make layers and pretty ripples, etc. I used a coffee spoon, so it was the same contour as the pear, which was cool. Whatever leftover chocolate you have, that you aren't licking out of the bowl, you can use as an edible decoration! Let it set in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes. Eat with a spoon. It is so much fun!

Now I'm off to go plan some more events for the Handsome Spaniard's birthday!
¡Que aproveches amigo!
Listening to Kyle Meredith on WFPK Radio Louisville.

1 comment:

  1. This one I am going to try....thanks,! Jerilyn