Let's get in the kitchen during the weekend! Spanish cooking time!

Carmen here!

Friday is finally here, and everybody is getting ready for the weekend!

In Spanish Blossom we thought it would be great if you had the chance to cook some Spanish food for your family and friends over the weekend, and learn some things in the meantime about my culture and country.

I have always loved to cook, and I remember being a little girl, and watching my mom and my grand-mom busy in the kitchen, and cooking delicious traditional meals for all the family. Smells and the occasional tasting of how things were progressing still haunt me when I'm really hungry, and I would love to have keep those memories in perfect glass bowls to enjoy them anytime I'd think about my grand-mom.

In Spain we express our love for our closest ones through food, as many Mediterraneans countries do, so we thought about sharing with you all some of the recipes, traditional culture traits, and festivities that we love most from my country. 

Without further ado, let's start cooking!

 

Think paella is the most traditional dish in Spain? Think again...

Most of the people I have met outside of Spain thinks that paella is the "national" dish in my country, and that is made in every household from North to South.

You could not believe how many people jumps out of the plane in Madrid, hops into the first restaurant they get to, order a paella, and get terribly disappointed about the dish...

I am sorry to tell you, but paella is typical only in the Mediterranean side of Spain (in the Valencia and Catalunya areas to be exact). Rice dishes are consumed all over our geography, with many different dishes (that I will post in the future here), but paellas are part of the culinary tradition in those two areas of Spain. I will post during this month a recipe of paella, and get a little more detail on this.

 

 

Today, I bring you a dish that could easily qualify as the most traditional (or at least common) in Spain: la tortilla de patatas (potato or Spanish omelette). Don't confuse this with the Mexican tortilla (as a very dear friend of mine did once, and was really surprised to get this instead of the Mexican flat wheat bread).

You can find it all over Spain, with different variations in each area or even family, and it is one of the few dishes that are cooked everywhere. It is a recipe that will accept a number of variations, all correct, depending on the type of ingredients you like to add (to a number, of course!), how well-cooked you like it, or even how warm... You can start a small fight between Spaniards if you throw the question of whose tortilla is better, but of course it's always my mom's! :)

The basic mandatory ingredients are four: potatoes, eggs, olive oil and salt. Then you can add onion (my recipe calls for that, I love onion in my tortilla), and even green pepper (it's really good) or leeks (good too). For me, the onion is a must, since it will give the tortilla an amazing sweetness that will not be there without it, but I can also go without to be fair. A tortilla is a tortilla, after all...

The main problem I have seen when a non-Spaniard cooks a tortilla, is to confuse it with an Italian fritatta, and that can lead to main mistakes. First of all, you don't saute the potatoes in a little of olive oil, you fry-poach them in quite a lot of oil. The egg is not added in the same pan of the veggies, you mix it separately. Third, you cook the final mixture over the stove top, not in the oven. And last of all, you want to leave your egg partially cooked, not well done in any case.

Also, the technique involved in making an A-grade tortilla is something that we Spaniards learn since we are babies watching our moms in the kitchen (remember, this is cooked through all the Spanish geography). I still remember the first time that I attempted a tortilla in my first apartment, and how disappointed I was with the result. I called my mom asking her for tricks, her answer: "practice". Even watching it all your life does not qualify you for excelling in tortillas, just keep trying, it will eventually be perfect! I will post some recommendations at the end of the recipe, if you have any more questions please let me know, I'll be happy to help if I can!

OK, let's go for it. Remember, I'll be doing my version of my mom's tortilla, but you can always tweak it to your taste.

 

Tortilla de patatas - Spanish (potato) omelette

Ingredients (see notes for amounts and types)

 

  • Potatoes: 4 large
  • Eggs: 8 large 
  • Onion: 1 medium Spanish onion
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt

Preparation

First of all, peel the potatoes and cut them in small pieces. Look at the picture above for a size/shape reference. I prefer to cut them quite homogeneously (regular in size), but some people will cut it free shape with a hand knife. I would recommend to cut them in a cutting board first times you try the recipe, until you are familiar with it. Also, peel and cut the onion in small/medium cubes.

Heat olive oil in a large and deep saucepan in the stove top, until it is hot but not simmering (you can try it by putting one of the potato pieces in the oil, if it starts to simmer instantly, it's ready). 

Add the potatoes and onion, and mix it until everything is well mixed.

Now it comes one of the trickiest parts to explain for the non Spaniards. You have to cook the potatoes in such way that they are a mixture of poached and fried. For that, what I typically will do is to keep checking the pan, and low or up the heat for achieving that "magic spot". 

My process would be as follows: first, I cook the potatoes in high heat until they start to be cooked (around 5 min or so), preventing any browning from happening (if it starts browning I would instantly lower the heat). Then I start poaching the potatoes by lowering the heat until the oil bubbles just a little and there is no browning in the potatoes. Check the image below to have an idea on how it will look like. The potatoes start to crumble apart when you move them, and after 15 min or so they will be fully cooked. Then I take the heat up again to achieve some final caramelization in some of the potatoes and specially in the onions. Be very careful with this step, since you can brown them too much, and you don't want to move the potatoes around, since they will fall apart into a mushy mixture. This typically takes 3-4 minutes.

When you have finished with the cooking, drain the potatoes into a mesh. Please keep this oil! It will be good for another go, as well as for reuse in stews and many more!!! Olive oil can be reused very safely, and this one will be beautifully infused in onion taste, believe me.

In a large bowl, beat up the eggs with some salt (the amount will depend on your taste, try once the mixture is done). Add the potato-onion mixture and mix well. You want the final mixture to look like the picture above (not too eggy but not dry).

And now, the second tricky part, aka: the cooking. You'll need a shallow pan, with a very good anti adherent coating. This is crucial. You really need anti adherent coating. My mom would be able to make it with any pan, but if you are a newbie in tortillas, you need an easy start up. Turning a tortilla in a sticky pan is something quite painful and messy, believe me. I have been there...

Prepare the pan in the stove top over high-medium heat, put some olive oil (just a couple of tablespoons), and pour half of the batter into the pan. Shake the pan gently, and distribute the batter evenly. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes. Once the sides are browned, get ready to turn it. The process is described in the pictures below, and it goes like this: 1) get your turning dish and place it over the pan, 2) hold it with your steering hand and make some pressure over the pan, 3) hold firmly the pan and with a quick movement turn the pan/dish upside down, so the tortilla is now in the dish (cooked side up), 4) put the pan in the heat again, pour some olive oil, let it get hot and place the tortilla back in the pan. 

If this gets over complicated for you, other option is to slide the tortilla from the pan in step 1 into a dish, and then to the upside-down turn with dishes instead of with the pan and the dish. 

Once the other side is cooked (2 minutes approx), slide it to a dish and let it cool a little bit before eating it.

My recommendation? Have it with a good crusty bread, it's to die for...

Enjoy!

 

Notes:

Potatoes and eggs

I typically use large baking potatoes, since they are capable of resisting the long cooking without disintegrating into the oil. The proportion potato/egg is 2 large eggs for 1 large baking potato. I also tried to Golden Yukon, but they turned out too sweet for my taste. 

As for the recipes that call for few ingredients, the freshest the ingredients the better the result. Fresh free cage eggs will make a great impact on the result, believe me.

 

Olive oil

In Spain we typically use two types or grades of olive oil, the extra virgin for salads and some cooking preparations, and the refined for frying. We typically distinguish them by the acidity level: extra virgin (or virgin) oils will be noted with an acidity level of 1º or more, while the refined one will have an acidity level around 0.4º

When you fry something with extra virgin olive oil it keeps the taste of the oil, so many people prefer to use the "softer" 0.4º oil for frying, specially soft flavor food, as sweets or veggies.

In the US, I have found that Costco has a refined olive oil that is really affordable and good, we always have one of those big bottles in the pantry!

Cooking point

In Spain there are two groups of people: the ones that like their tortilla with onion, and the ones that don't. Same goes with the cooking point. Some will like their tortilla basically raw (barely cooked in one side), some in semi-liquid state, and some well cooked through the height. I think the tortilla gains when not fully cooked, since the flavors develop way better, specially if you let it sit for a little while before eating it. If you cannot stand uncooked egg mixture, cook it but be careful not to overcook the egg, it will leave a really nasty sulfurous taste (and yes, I have had that experience. Yes, in a "Spanish" restaurant. And no, it was not nice at all...).

 

How to store it

Keep it in an air tight container or wrapped in plastic for one day at cool temperature. Do not put it in the fridge, the potatoes will go stale in a matter of hours.


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