Sunday, July 11, 2010

Flip, flip, flip

Well the wedding shower is complete and Jim and I are recovering. It’s a regular national holiday of overindulgent sloth around here. We are certainly recovering from the making merry, and recovering from a three week binge on Spanish and Latin American food. Ceviche, chicken mole and croquettas are indefinitely off the menu. Another item off the menu is tortilla española. Somehow, and I’m really unclear on this, the children escaped all three test runs of this. Jim’s son helped me with many items for the party but as he was sprinkling smoked paprika on the tortilla he exclaimed (and I mean exclaimed) ‘Wow, that looks and smells really good!’ I said, ‘It is and I’ll make it for you. In like, three months.

The first time I had tortilla española I was 17. I remember it well. It was made in the kitchen of my childhood home in Bolton Hill, in July, the summer after I graduated from high school. We were hosting a teacher named Anna with a Spanish exchange student program from Madrid. We traded national delicacies; she made me my first tortilla española and we took her out for her first serving of steamed crabs. The tortilla made an impression on me. It remained steadfastly on my culinary radar for 20 years. 20 years.

What was keeping me from it? Well, there was the fear that I could screw up something so simple as eggs, potatoes and onions. Those Spaniards aren’t messing around. It’s perfection. Then there was the serious problem of the flip. I have researched numerous tortilla recipes over those 20 years and essentially there aren’t many variations, it’s a classic, and they all feature a flip. Although there are various approaches to the flipping method. I dug deeper. I asked my friend George, who happens to be Spanish and a chef, to help me out. He sent me a YouTube link - flip. We spent Christmas in Spain with George and his wife Jessica, here was my opportunity. Whenever I spend time with George in the kitchen I always learn some invaluable piece of information. I hovered over him as he made it, I was going to figure it out - flip. And not only was it a flip, a big flip, but it was a big flip with panache. I desperately needed a version without the freaking flip.

I promise you the flip that is required for tortilla española is not in my skill set. I am not trying to be a Nancy-naysayer but really, I walk in to walls and trip while standing in one place everyday. Flipping (or even sliding, inverting and re-depositing) a 12” omelet out of cast iron skillet equals giant mess + personal injury.

So here’s what I have developed for the flip impaired.

Tortilla Española - Serves 6 as a main course or 20 as an appetizer

1 dozen large eggs

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced

1 1/2 medium sized Spanish or yellow onions sliced

4 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

2-3 oz. hot Spanish chorizo sliced (optional)

Loosely whisk together the eggs with the salt and pepper. Peel and slice the potatoes about 1/8 inch thick, I use a mandoline for uniformity and speed. Slice onions to about 1/4” thick half moons. Heat 3 tablespoons oil until almost smoking in a 12” cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat saute the onions and potatoes 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are soft but not breaking apart and the onions are translucent. Reduce the heat to low, add in the eggs, making sure they get underneath the potatoes and onions. Cook for about 1-2 minutes until eggs on the bottom are set. Add the chorizo at this point, if desired, by simply placing the slices on top like pepperoni on pizza and pushing them in to the soft eggs. Using a pastry brush, brush down the sides of the cast iron skillet with the remaining olive oil, this is the key to getting that sucker to slide out of the pan hassle free. Place the skillet in 350 degree oven. Remove from oven when eggs are set about 20 minutes. Let stand for about 5 minutes in pan, loosen from sides of skillet with a knife if needed. Turn out on to a platter, dust with smoked paprika and parsley, cut in to wedges and serve with a salad. Tortilla is typically served at room temperature and gets better with a little time. It can be made ahead and left covered at room temperature. But I’m not the FDA.

Note: The pin cushion I have pictured above is prepared for party appetizers, slice and skewer with a toothpick, grab and go. I also learned this from George.

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