Monday, April 24, 2006

Jer: Tortilla Espanola

There are certain techniques in the kitchen that, no matter how many times I try to perfect them, I will never master. Flipping a tortilla Espanola in its pan a few times is one of them. As Elaine will attest, I like being in control and doing things as well as I can. I am particularly neurotic in the kitchen and at work – two places where I really can’t stand error. So flipping these Spanish gems always drives my Type A personality crazy.

What am I doing wrong? In my ten plus tortilla Espanola attempts over the years, I’ve tried different sized pans, different sized spatulas and pancake flippers and I’ve worked at varying temperatures. But when I think I’m ready to flip, there is always still too much uncooked egg moisture which causes it to fall apart on the plate. I hesitate for fear of breaking the form. So I inevitably put it in the oven when it’s almost done and finish it off under a broiler (or in a very hot oven). This always does the job but mine are always a little compacted with a tougher texture on the top from the broiling. I dream of the day I can emerge from the kitchen with a soft and delicate pan of egg and potato.

Of all the recipes for tortilla Espanola I’ve tried, this was by far my favorite in terms of flavor and density. In previous attempts I had always cubed the potatoes and pan roasted them with the onions. In this case, I really liked the low temperature cooking of the potatoes and onion slices in the olive oil. The onion infused the oil which infused the potato in ever such a subtle way. I liked how the slow cooking didn’t brown or toughen the potatoes, which in turn created a softer inside than what I’m used to. In spite of my inability to get the flipping part right, the taste and texture was divine and I will stick with this recipe going forward as I try to master the technique portion of this dish.

I served these for lunch on Saturday to my friends Amyra and Nicole who were in town for the long weekend, both of whom really liked it. Served on the side was our standard salad – arugula and parmesan tossed with good olive oil and lemon juice and finished off with fresh ground pepper. We can make this salad in less than 2 minutes and enjoy it a few times a week for dinner. It is the perfect dinner salad for company as it can be dressed in seconds and really takes no effort to prepare (in particular if you buy pre-washed arugula and pre-grated parmesan).

We served the cheesecake for dessert later that evening and it was a hit. Thank you so much for all the recommendations. I went with Elaine’s Junior Recipe given that Amyra is really a fan of the classic cheesecake (although for a future dinner party I will definitely try the ricotta recipe). I did not make a crust and I layered sliced strawberries from a nearby farm along the edge of the cake using mascarpone as adhesive. I made a fresh strawberry puree and dressed each serving dish with it before adding the slice of cheesecake. It was not cakey and the texture was creamy and perfect. I had trouble with water seepage into the bottom rim of the cheesecake in spite of my lining with plastic wrap and foil. This is another technique that I have always struggled with - I always have some water spilling in no matter how well I try to protect the bottom lining. Regardless, it was delicious and we loved every bit of it.

To finish off the weekend, I came home from the gym last night to a beautifully set dinner table. Peter, was serving fresh fruit with a side of our favorite cottage cheese and apple sauce (a lovely combination, in particular if you have children). As I might have mentioned in previous posts, Pete does not cook, but he cleans up my mess better than anyone and makes a mean fruit smoothie and grilled cheese sandwich. The table was dressed beautifully and when I asked him why the special spread, he smiled and said “I’m working on my plating skills.” The hostess and cook in me melted and smiled. One thing is for certain, he is clearly further along with his plating than I am with my tortilla Espanola flipping!


Blogger Elaine said...

wow! I love how you served the tortilla espanola in a square slice. I usually get it in pie slices. Love the look. I cover the pan towards the end so the steam cooks more of the top for 10-15 min. Then I finish it in the oven for a couple minutes.
The cheesecake looks to die for. Drooling as I type. Did the water that seeped in make it soggy at all?

24 April, 2006 14:18  
Blogger Jer said...

Covering the pan is a great idea. Do you use foil or the pan top? The cheesecake was really great, thank you for the recipe. The water didn't really affect the texture that much. The bottom bit was a little mushier than the rest but it wasn't really noticable since the texture was so creamy.

24 April, 2006 23:28  
Blogger Cath said...

Looks beautiful Jer. I love that salad too. Have you ever tried shaving the parmesan in with a vegetable peeler? Really pretty. Elaine, when you talk about covering the pan, is that after you've flipped it once or twice? I made mine last night and will post soon. Tasted yummy but not the prettiest thing I've ever seen! I think next time I'll use a non-stick pan...

25 April, 2006 09:31  
Blogger Kate said...

Jer, it all looks lush.
I am with you on the flipping. I ordered Greg out of the kitchen as he was over my shoulder and teasing me about having to post mush. It was not quite mush but like you Cath not the best.
i will post in the next couple of days.

25 April, 2006 14:44  
Blogger Elaine said...

I'm too chicken to try the flip. If I had 2 nonstick pans, I'd flip it by putting on on top and turning it over. Otherwise, no go. I use a nonstick pan and I put the pan lid on top at a med-lo heat. And if the top is still a little liquidy i finish it in the oven for a couple min. I always like my tortilla espanola the day after from the frig in a baguette sandwich with a little salted tomato puree. YUM YUM!

25 April, 2006 15:07  
Blogger Elaine said...

Wait, I just realized Pete served the fruit, cottage cheese and apple sauce for DINNER? Huh? Isn't something missing? Pete, where's the entree? "Where's the beef"? Sorry, couldn't hold back. However, you are talking to Miss Piggy who is scarfing down a bag of cheddar popcorn.

25 April, 2006 15:15  
Blogger Jer said...

I know, Pete is really healthy eh? If it weren't for him I don't think I'd get enough fruits and vegetables - which is what he serves when he's doing dinner in addition to cereal and yogurt :-) Okay, so I'm not the only one afraid to flip. I don't feel so bad now. I like the idea of covering so I don't have to leave it in the oven too long. Cath, I've shaved parm but never with a vegetable peeler which is such a great idea! Must make for really pretty ribbons.

25 April, 2006 15:29  
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