Thursday, August 25, 2011

Destination Cooking: Part 2

What's up next? One of my all time favorite dishes--Spanish tortilla.

First off, Spanish tortillas have absolutely nothing to do with Mexican tortillas. They are both round, but that is pretty much the end of their similarities. In Spain a tortilla is basically an omelet and can come plain or with a variety of ingredients. The best version of tortilla, though, is the Spanish tortilla, or tortilla Española (also sometimes called tortilla de patatas).

Though commonly translated simply as a potato omelet, tortilla is much, much more. It is simple and ubiquitous--every bar/cafe worth its salt in Spain will have tortilla--but when you try to make one yourself, you understand that tortilla is not just eggs and potatoes thrown together.

When I lived in Spain there was no point trying to make one. Like I said, you could buy it anywhere, and the grocery stores all sold pretty decent pre-made tortillas for a couple of bucks. I knew it couldn't be that hard though--all my middle school students said they could make one, and...trust me, they were not all the most intelligent creatures. So when I got back to the states I confidently set out trying to make one.

Not only was it much more difficult than I imagined, it took forever. After lots of trial and error (and some secret tips from Spanish friends) I came up with a tortilla that I think rivals any tortilla I have eaten in Spain. The problem is...it takes me all day. Every once in a while I spend the afternoon slicing and frying potatoes to make one, but it just seems wrong that something so commonplace takes so long.

On this last jaunt through Spain I took the opportunity to talk to lots of people about their tortilla making skills. I got tips on how you can boil, roast and supposedly even microwave the potatoes to speed up the process. Then I found a recipe, from a real deal Spanish chef, for a 10 minute tortilla using...potato chips! I was dubious, but thought it was worth a try. The recipe came from Lobstersquad, and was a take on Ferrán Adrià´s recipe.

You need:

4 eggs (beaten together with a bit of salt), olive oil for the pan, 1/2 a cup of fried onions, and 100 grams (~3.5 oz~1/2 a bag) of good potato chips--don't skimp here! 

Mash up the potato chips and add them, along with the onions, into the eggs. Give it a good mix and let them soak for 5 minutes. (And, yes it looks a little gross.)

Coat a small pan in olive oil, heat it up and dump in the egg mixture. When it has started to setup, but isn't cooked all the way through, put a big plate on top and invert the pan to flip the tortilla onto the plate (you'll probably want to use some oven mitts/etc. when you do this so you don't burn yourself). Slide the tortilla back into the pan (runny side down), tuck under the edges of the tortilla and give it a minute or two more (this side will take less time). 

And voila! Tortilla de patatas!

The verdict? It was a little dry...but otherwise a fine substitution. The dryness was probably partially my fault as I was cooking other things at the same time and let it cook a little too long, or perhaps added a few too many chips. I saw other takes on the recipe that added a little broth to the mix--I might try that next time. Or add another egg. It also took me longer than 10 minutes (although not too much longer), but then again it generally takes me forever to cook anything. 

Overall, it might take some tweaking, but dang, for 10-15 minutes in a Texas kitchen, it was a pretty good tortilla!

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