When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was one called “Stowaway.” As you can probably guess, it was about a stowaway, someone who snuck aboard a ship and kept themselves hidden until the ship reached its destination. The book fascinated me because our hero, the stowaway, got to travel all around the world. She saw Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, and everything in between.
Imagine what that would be like. Crouched in the bowels of a huge wooden ship, the waves lapping at the hull. Hearing the creaks and shudders of the mainsails as they struggle and strain against the wind. Your breath catches in your throat every time someone comes close to your hiding place. But you know it is all worth it – you are getting to travel the world. You are escaping the life you have left behind to start a new on upon some distant shore.
Now imagine that the place where you have landed is one where the sun is like a golden coin in the sky. People rise not at the crack of dawn, but later in the morning. Food is treated with care, eaten in small bites and always enjoyed with flavorful, inspiring wines. After working for a few hours, a large meal is eaten, followed by a long rest. Later, rested, the populace arises to finish their work and then head out to enjoy restaurants, theaters, and each other. You’re in Spain!
I fell in love with Spain a long time ago. I have long wished to spend my days eating tapas and drinking exquisite wine. However, my life right now tends to be filled with days eating protein bars on the fly and drinking water like mad. Which is fine! For now. Every one in a while, my longing gets too great and I need to make myself some Spanish tapas.
I am no expert in Spanish food. I am only an admirer from afar. But on the occasions where I have gotten up and personal with Spanish cuisine, I have come away from our encounter ever deeper in love. I respect Spanish food culture; it is close to my own and it is one that respects ingredients and seeks to sustain those who eat it. Food in Spanish culture seems, at least to me, the stuff of legend.
So I set out to make my own kitchen just a little bit more legendary. I made the famous Tortilla Espanola. This is the quintessential Spanish omelette stuffed to the gills with soft, beautifully seasoned potatoes and caramelized onions.
Let’s get right to the cooking, because my own mouth is watering right now. I took the original recipe and twisted it a little to suit my own tastes and and to, in my humble opinion, bring out some more Spanish flavors.
You will need:
1 medium sized saucepan
1 large saucepan
Two medium-sized containers to hold your chopped vegetables
1 large bowl to beat your eggs and combine all ingredients
1 Medium sweet yellow onion
2 Medium red waxy potatoes
Several good shakes of:
8 whole eggs
2 Cups plus 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
Remember, we always start with our mise en place. Begin by slicing up your onion. Slice off the end opposite the hairy end of the onion and peel the skin. Discard. Resting the onion on the sliced end, cut the onion in half through the hairy end.
This will ensure your eyes remain dry during this process! Next, slice the onion into half moons. The slices should be about 1/4-1/2″ thick. Set aside.
Now, move on to the potatoes. Technically speaking, you should peel the potatoes before you cut them up into 3/4″ pieces. I did not do this for two reasons. One, the skin contains many vitamins and minerals that provide good nutrition. Two, I do not own a peeler at the moment. I chucked mine last week in a fit of rage, as it was not doing what it was supposed to do; namely, peel vegetables. It mostly just skidded off the skins without any damage, except to my psyche.
Instead, what I did was slice the potatoes in half lengthwise. Then in half lengthwise again. To do that, place your palm down on the round top of the potato half, hold your fingers clear, and slice from right to left. Follow that by cutting the potatoes into planks, and then into 3/4″ pieces.
Now, get out your spices! The traditional recipe calls only for salt and pepper. But I don’t think Bon Appetit is necessarily the end-all, be-all authority for everything Spanish. I decided to put my own little Mediterranean/European spin on it. I used garlic salt, chili powder, paprika, and oregano.
After you have all that mise en place set up, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your medium sized saucepan. Add your sliced up onions to the pan and season generously with your garlic salt. Keep the heat to medium-high, adjusting as you go. You want to caramelize the onions, not burn them. This will take approximately 35 minutes. If the onions start sticking, feel free to add a little water or white wine to the pan to deglaze.
While those are caramelizing, heat up two cups of olive oil in your large sauce pan. While the oil is still cold (I will explain in a later post why this is usually culinary heresy), add the potatoes to the oil. Season with garlic salt, paprika, and chili pepper. I would give you measurements, but cooking is really an art. Taste, explore, adjust. If you’re really dying for measurements, start with a teaspoon each and adjust from there. Keep the heat to medium-high and watch for little bubbles to form around the potatoes. Once that happens, set your timer for 10 minutes.
The little bubbles will grow and frolic. Keep an eye on this pan. NEVER WALK AWAY FROM HOT OIL IN YOUR KITCHEN. THIS IS HOW BAD THINGS HAPPEN. I cannot stress this enough. People have set their houses on fire because they put a pan on the stove, turned on the heat, and walked away. Now is not the time to check Twitter, Facebook, or even my own beloved blog. Pay attention and enjoy the process.
Once your timer goes off, turn off the heat to the potatoes. Remove the potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. Season with a little more garlic salt. Reserve that oil! You’re going to need it later.
Once your potatoes and onions are cool, break out the eggs. You’re going to need 8 of them. Crack your eggs into a large bowl and whisk briskly with a fork. Season with garlic salt, chili powder, paprika, and a pinch of oregano. Eggs are bland. Be generous.
Once you’ve whisked in your spices, add 1/4 cup of that reserved potato oil to the eggs and whisk to make them nice and velvety. Meanwhile, heat up 3 tablespoons of your reserved oil in a large saucepan. While that heats up, add your potatoes and onions to your egg mixture. Make sure everything is distributed evenly. Pour the egg, potato, and onion mixture into your heated saucepan. Do not start mixing everything like you’re making scrambled eggs. Because you’re not! As the edges of your omelette form, lift them up with a spatula and let more of the runny eggs slither underneath to cook. Once the outside edges are cooked, and the middle is still wiggly, get ready to flip. Grab a large plate and invert it on top of your saucepan. Holding the plate firmly to the top of the pan, flip the saucepan so the omelette is on the plate. Then, put the pan back on the stove and slide the omelette back into the pan. While you admire the golden-brown top of your omelette, set your timer for 2 minutes. This is how long the omelette’s under-side will take to cook.
Once you hit two minutes, turn off the heat and take the pan off the stove. Slide the omelette on to a place, slice, and serve with just a dash of chili powder!
I hope you enjoy your trip to Spain, friends. I certainly have enjoyed making this dish and writing about it.
As promised, the next few blog posts will include curried beef and Anthony Bourdain.
*All the pictures in this post are mine. The link to the original Bon Appetit post is above. (My recipe is better, but credit should be given where credit is due.)*