One of the many rhythms of daily life in Madrid I miss is going out for tapas (ir a tapear).
Whether it's an occasion with friends or just a spontaneous evening out with your partner, there's a subtle art to tapear. You hone in on a culinary specialty for a given bar--revueltos, say--enjoy it and each other's company, then move on to another place.
Winding your way through the neighborhoods of Madrid is in some ways like winding your way through Spain--culinarily that is. Since Madrid became the capitol in 1561, people from the disparate regions of Spain have migrated to the city, bringing their unique cuisine and culture in tow.
It's quite possible to taste your way through the entire country of Spain without leaving the city. There's txacoli and pintxos from Basque country, sidra and morcilla from Asturias, pulpo gallego from Galicia...and so much more.
One of the most humble (and delicious) tapas, and also one of the few to be found country-wide, is tortilla de patatas (potato omelet). Some tapas can be exquisitely complex, like a little edible work of art. This is not that. Tortilla de papatas is simple and straightforward. It's comfort food. And everyone’s grandmother makes the best tortilla de patatas in the whole world.
In our last farm share, we received the most delicious potatoes. Such a humble vegetable, but special when grown well and harvested fresh. Our potatoes had a thin, almost transparent skin, revealing beneath it a rich, creamy flesh.
We had some freshly laid chicken eggs on hand so I thought the perfect way to let both ingredients shine would be to bring them together in a tortilla.
I've asked several people for their tortilla recipe, but I never get more than some vague suggestions, so I decided to consult a book on the matter.
I turned to "La Enciclopedia Culinaria: La Cocina Completa," by Maria Mestayer de Echague, which Stuart found for me in a used book store. The book, first published in 1940, is a gastronomic authority on all things Spanish Cooking. In some ways, it's charmingly outdated (like the section on what comprises a "modern" kitchen), but most of the recipes are timeless and classic.
Her recipe for tortilla de patatas was just what I was looking for. We may not have been able to venture out for tapas, but it made for the perfect brunch at home.
Tortilla de Patatas a la Española
Adapted from "La Enciclopedia Culinaria: La Cocina Completa," by Maria Mestayer de Echague
1.5 pounds potatoes, peeled
1 cup olive oil (I know it sounds like a lot but most gets drained off)
1. Cut the potatoes into thin slices (using a mandolin makes this much easier). Sprinkle with salt. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the potatoes and fry, stirring occasionally, until just tender (but not browned). Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the potatoes to a colander to drain and cool slightly. Remove most of the oil (reserve for another use), leaving a few tablespoons behind.
2. Beat the eggs in a bowl and season generously with salt (more than what you may think is reasonable). Add the eggs to the skillet, then add the potatoes on top and stir them a little with a fork.
3. When the bottom is golden and no longer sticks to the pan, gather your courage and flip the tortilla onto the lid of the skillet. (Be brave!) Add a little olive oil to the skillet. Slide the tortilla back into the skillet, cooked-side up. Continue to cook until the bottom is golden. Slide the tortilla onto a serving plate and serve warm or at room temperature with a green salad.