I didn’t know that there were any higher small-plate callings than the Floyd Cardoz’s boondhi raita, that is until I tried Alex Raij’s garbanzos fritos, and though it makes me sad to have evolved beyond my Bread Bar obsession, I feel strongly enough about these chickpeas that if you haven’t had them yet, you should close your browser, turn off your computer, get on a plane if you must, wait patiently through the forty minutes it will take just to sit at the bar because these babies will leave your up-to-then favorite bar snack in the dust so quickly, its tasty little head will spin. Be prepared for a fast and fierce addiction.
After I gushed over the spicy patatas bravas and blistered pimientos de padron and good god, the Tia Pol sangria, a friend suggested that I get The New Spanish Table. It only took my husband three or four trips to Barnes and Noble (he’s a book addict, if you must know) to remember to pick it up, which pretty much brings us up to this weekend. And although I am sure I did some other things throughout it–a dinner, a party, a new dress and a movie–all I really remember of it diving headfirst into this cookbook, marveling over how long it took me to realize that there is an entire cuisine in love with many of the foods that I am (eggs, potatoes, chickpeas, smoky paprika and cured pork) and barely coming up for air.
I have never made tortilla patata before only because I have yet to see a recipe with less than one cup of olive oil in it. If you’ve made it to your thirties without unsavory things like cellulite, bless you, but all the rest of us have good reason to be wary of fat by the cup full, even so-called “good” fat. However, my desire to conquer this dish at home got the better of me on Saturday morning (also, Saturday afternoon: uh, this dish takes a long time to make) and so I decided to approach it like a scientist, measuring the oil going in and out. I am so glad I did, because as it turns out this entire dish uses but four tablespoons of oil, and probably even less because there is no way I got all the excess out of our 19-pound Dutch oven. Low-fat? Not really, but not that big of a deal.
I am pleased to say that this tortilla was as good as any I have had in a restaurant, and we ate it warm and cold throughout the weekend with glee. I think there is nothing on earth it doesn’t pair well with, from a small tomato salad to coffee with brunch to white wine with lunch or a lentil salad (coming soon!), nuts, cheese or fruit. Or me, swatting my husband off with a fork because I don’t want to share it and him being all “but I bought the book for you! Please?” and me responding “no” or actually “nmnnmmwnah” because my mouth was full. What? It’s not like I said it makes you a better person. Just a well-fed one.
And also: A sidebar to this recipe in the book discusses Ferran Adrià’s tortilla de patatas, which he claims to make with potato chips. He says the original is way too much work for quick, at-home cooking (and from the length of the recipe below, I’m sure others agree) and good potato chips–fried in olive oil, he insists, which I suppose rules out Pringles, drat–make a tasty fill-in. Ximena at Lobstersquad explains how to use this technique over here, and don’t miss her adorable drawing of the proper way to flip a tortilla.
One year ago: Summer-Squash Soup with Parsley Mint Pistou
Potato Tortilla [Tortilla de Patatas]
Adapted* from The New Spanish Table
Serves 6 to 8 as a tapa, 4 as a light main dish.
3 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and quartered lengthwise
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced
6 large, very fresh eggs, preferably organic
2 tablespoons chicken stock or broth
1. Using a food processor fitted with the slicing blade, slice the potato quarters thinly crosswise, then pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Alternately, you can use a mandoline set to 1/8-inch thick. The original recipe then says to rub the potato slices with salt, but for the life of me I could not fathom why I should bother with such a tedious step (I had hundreds of small slices), and simply seasoned the potatoes after I cooked them.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the potatoes in even layers. Cook, stirring occasionally, to prevent the potatoes from sticking and browning, until they are half-cooked, about 7 minutes. Stir in the onion, reduce the heat to low, and cook the potatoes until all of them are soft, about 15 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and onion to a colander set over a bowl and let them drain thoroughly. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the cooking oil and strain the rest for another use. Season the potatoes with salt.
3. Place the eggs, chicken stock, and a couple of pinches of salt in a large mixing bowl and beat until just scrambled. Gently stir in the potato mixture. Mash and stir the egg mixture gently with a fork to crush the potatoes just a little and mix them up well with the eggs. Let stand for about 10 minutes.
4. Heat 5 teaspoons of the reserved olive oil in a heavy 8-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat until it is just beginning to smoke. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and flatten the potatoes with a spatula until the top is fairly even. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, moving and shaking the skillet, running a thin spatula around the edge and sliding it into the middle so that some of the egg runs under for about one minute, then let it cook undisturbed until the top is a little wet but not liquid, 6 to 8 minutes. Run the thin spatula under the tortilla to make sure that no part of the bottom is stuck to the skillet. Top the skillet with a rimless plate slightly larger than the skillet and, using oven mitts, quickly invert the tortilla onto the plate. If the skillet looks dry, add a little more olive oil. Carefully slide the tortilla back into the skillet, uncooked side down. Shake the skillet to straighten the tortilla and push the edges in with the spatula. Reduce the heat to very low and cook the tortilla until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, 3 to 4 minutes. Invert the tortilla again, as before, to cook on the first side for another minute.
5. Invert the tortilla onto a serving plate and pat the top with a paper towel to get rid of excess oil. Let it cool a little, then cut the tortilla into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. To serve as a tapa, cut the tortilla into squares and serve with toothpicks.
* Even though I am indeed in love with this cookbook, I had to make a few adjustments to the recipe in places where it confounded me: I clarified the thickness of the potato slices, limited the egg-pushing step to one minute (it led to the slightly busted appearance of mine, and made little sense) and cooled the potatoes a bit more than suggested, for fear of cooking the eggs in the bowl, not the pan.