December 25, 2012
Aside from the so-called tapas served in Istanbul restaurants that are no different than Turkish appetizers served in small plates but deserve the title because sangria too is on the menu and the Oyamel experience in Washington DC from a couple of years ago I barely enjoyed due to jet-leg, my acquaintance with the Spanish cuisine hopelessly depended on the paella I was expecting my cousin's Catalan husband to make some day. That day never came.
He kept denying us, his beloved in-laws, that potful of delicious steaming paella with the pretext of difficulty and long hours of preparation. Just a few days ago, when I mentioned him about this post I was going to write, he admitted to not knowing how to cook paella in the first place, shattering the stereotypical image of spaniards and catalans in my head who can cook paella with their eyes closed. I began to doubt that they might not all be flamenco dancers either.
Before his husband made his confession, my cousin sent me a spanish cookbook in summer with an invisible note attached to it: 'learn paella and leave my poor husband alone'. Since then, I've been cruising through its pages, always ignoring the paella recipes for they were indeed time-consuming and required plenty of seafood. To go fishing for quality seafood which is an expensive ingredient, to prepare a labour intensive dish I didn't even know if I was going to like seemed as potential waste of money and time.
Therefore I decided to cook my way into the Spanish kitchen with the simplest recipe. Upon spotting two decaying potatoes in the corner of the fridge drawer one day which meant that an easy potato omelet was just two eggs away, I recalled the Tortilla da Patata recipe I dogeared. I could use that recipe involving what looked like no more than slight changes of method from the conventional omelet we know. And I'd have the convenience of calling it Spanish and render it appealing for the soul as well as for the stomach. And would have a post subject too.
It turns out I had underestimated it. With its caramelized onions and browned potatoes tortilla turned out to be a lot more than the sum of its parts. It took 40 minutes to cook, each minute was worth waiting. Either owing to the longer cooking interval or the potato-egg ratio favoring potatoes, the recipe yielded a pie-like dish. While I enjoyed it with sparkling water for brunch, its remaining slices served me a proper dinner in the evening with green mustardy salad, cherry tomatoes and a glass of white wine on the side. Now, can an omelet do that? Don't think so.
Tortilla de Patata
- 18 cm non-stick pan
- 1 onion
- 2 large potatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 eggs
- salt and pepper
1) Chop onion in half moon slices. Peel potatoes and slice in 2-3 mm thick slices.
2) Heat olive oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and potatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir to coat everything with oil and seasoning. Reduce heat to minimum. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Midway through flip potatoes in the bottom.
3) Lightly beat eggs in a deep bowl. Transfer potatoes and onions into the bowl and stir to coat with eggs.
4) Return the pan to the stove and bring heat to maximum. Add 1 tablespoon of oil if none is left in the pan. Transfer the contents into the pan and reduce heat to minimum. Cook uncovered for 25 minutes, until no liquid egg is visible on the surface. Occasionally smooth the edge with a spatula for a round edge.
5) Cover the pan with a plate slightly bigger. Pressing down on the plate with one hand and holding the pan handle with the other, carefully flip and slip the omelet back to the pan. Cook for 5 more minutes to set.
6) Slice to serve, warm or cold, with green salad on the side.