Friday, March 29, 2013

Tortilla de Patata

Growing up, we sometimes had what we called Spanish omelet for breakfast. It was a favorite of Daddy, and being so, like most children, it became mine. It was a simple but hearty dish: sliced tomatoes and yellow onions sauteed then cooked with beaten eggs.

When we'd have some kainan at school, my Spanish students would always bring tortilla and it would always be good. I asked them how to make one but one's description would be different from another's. Like our adobo, or the Korean kimchi, each cook's version is the best, the definitive, the authentic one. And like these other dishes, there is a basic technique from which one can riff. Finally, one of my Spanish students, who lived in an apartment with a nice kitchen, graciously showed me how it's done, step-by-step. And one night, I made one myself. I posted a picture of the finished product on my Facebook page and it generated a good number of likes and inquiries on how I did it. The dish is simple, and so is its preparation. (The only tricky part is flipping the uncooked half tortilla on to the pan). Here's my version of Juanra's Tortilla de Patata:

7 large eggs (at room temperature) 
3/4 lb. potatoes, peeled and sliced (use the 2 mm blade when using a food processor or mandoline)
(An option is to use 3/4 of the usual quantity of potato and 1/4 of white or yellow or Spanish onion)
1 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

I cooked my tortilla in one of my cooking essentials, the cast iron pan. A good kitchen should have one: it is inexpensive, versatile, and will live longer than Methuselah. 

Fill the pan with the olive oil. Essentially, what you are doing is boiling, yes boiling, the potato in olive oil, not frying them, so make sure you don't fill up your pan with the sliced potato and that you don't brown them. If your pan is too small, boil the potatoes in batches, about 10 minutes. Season, then continue to cook them until they are fork tender. Set aside. If you are using onions, cook them separately from the potatoes for about 10 minutes.

Pour off the oil and save any excess for future use (you can reuse olive oil up to three times. It's best to separate leftover oil for each type of food cooked in it). Rub the pan clean with a paper towel.
This is not the way to cook the potatoes. There should only be one layer cooking in the pan at a time.

Incorporating the cooked potatoes into the beaten eggs
Beat the eggs until creamy, then mix in the cooked potatoes (and onion), mashing them into the beaten eggs, and season. Using about 2 tablespoons of the leftover oil, heat up the pan over a low flame and pour in the egg mixture. Let the mixture set for a minute, then push the cooking mixture in, to let the uncooked portion go to the bottom of the pan. After about 3 minutes, place a plate that is larger than the pan over it. Carefully flip the pan over and slide the tortilla on to the plate. Then slowly slide the tortilla back into the pan, half-cooked part down. Let the tortilla sit for another 2-5 minutes (depending on whether you want the tortilla to be firm and tostado, or not). Check out this video so you can perfect your technique. (I used to make a fritatta by broiling the top uncooked half).

And there you have it: quick, simple, easy, filling and inexpensive. Spanish bars cut up cold tortilla into cubes to serve as tapas with mayonnaise on the side (God forbid you should suggest ketchup to a Spaniard). Serve with a green salad and bread for a meal. Snack on leftovers. It is also a very versatile dish. You can add chorizo, ham, flaked cooked fish, chopped asparagus, etc. 
The top uncooked half of the tortilla 

And there you have the tortilla de patata.
The finished product.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Favorite New York Shop

I haven't been to many places in the world, but I think New York is a foodie's paradise. Trivia (that I picked off of a Snapple cap, so don't hold me to this): there are more French restaurants in New York than there are in Paris. This says a lot about the city's appetite, right? Moreover, I think all cuisines and permutations thereof are represented in New York. Just go to yelp and you can search for any restaurant. Lastly, New York is a great source of any ingredient. Balut? Check! Tanglad? Check! Caviar? Check! Tabun-tabun...well...maybe when Kinilaw Bisaya takes over ceviche and sashimi as the raw fish of choice of New York diners.

Which brings me to International Foods.

Ignore the eccentric spelling.
The New York terminus for NJ Transit, which I take to commute to and from work in the city, is the Port Authority Bus Terminal. It can get very busy at times and having to avoid crowds on 8th Avenue can be a headache. One time, I detoured through 9th Avenue and discovered many good places on the walk to the Terminal, among which are Atomic Wings (good product. About $10 for 10 wings, a  soda, carrot and celery sticks), and Esposito's Meat Shop, which merits a separate blog. 

I like the Divisoria vibe of this store. Hanging from the ceiling racks are dried herbs and pans.
Then I discovered International Foods (sorry, it has no website). It's basically a Greek deli that sells more than just Greek staples. The staff is Mexican, and we call each other primo, and on my first visit, I saw a huge pail of pulpo (boiled octopus tentacles) on display. Then there was a customer trying out this pinkish dip with what looked like bizcocho (just don't say that word to a Mexican woman or you'll be thought of as crass). My primo offered me a toast with the dip, and...I was in heaven. I have been buying their taramasalata (also spelled taramosalata) ever since. What is it, you ask? It's a paste with roe as the main ingredient, with potato, onion, lemon and olive oil. International Foods' version is so good that Greek restaurants in the city don't bother making their own and just buy from International Foods in bulk. What makes its version special? The addition of seltzer water, rendering it moussey and light. While used mostly as a dip, the Pinoy in me tried it as taramasilog. Yes. I mashed it into rice with a poached egg.

My favorite olives in the store. Being a suki, I am charged only $6 each time I buy these
Besides my favorite pulpo and taramasalata, this shop is a wealth of cured meats, preserves, halwa, spices, sweets, breads, herbs, rice, coffees, olives, cheeses. Name it, and they usually have it. The Greek owner looks masungit but is actually very friendly. If you're a suki, then you get a discount or an extra ounce or two on your purchase (most stuff is sold by the pound). It was one of my primos who suggested using smoked paprika with my pulpo and I'm now a smoked parika fan.

One of my primos slicing my order of prosciutto



If you like to eat well, live well, listen well and have the patience to go through my kilometric but hopefully entertaining blogs, then this is the page for you. I chose EATERSHIP because it sounds like "leadership," and because if you jumble it up, it could also read "hip eaters." Eat and read on!