Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Excuse me, I have some Spain in the oven..."

The Sun Also Rises (which I've almost finished) has given me quite the appetite for all things Spain. That, and the fact that I generally spend a lot of time wishing I were somewhere exotic...well, more exotic than Provo, anyway.

It all started at the library. (That gloriously troublesome place.) I had to return a copy of the movie "Eat Pray Love," and I figured since I had walked all the way there, I might as well browse for a biography of Hemingway to augment my experience with The Sun Also Rises. One thing led to another, and I ended up walking out not only with the biography, but with Cooking Spanish (a very classy-looking cookbook) and "Discovering Spain!" (a corny-looking documentary from the '90s).

(I also happened to walk out with a book about chocolate, but that's beside the point.)

I have yet to actually sit down and watch the DVD, although I've made several attempts. The cookbook, on the other hand, has made my weekend quite the adventure.

Yesterday I dragged my roommate to the store, where I spent a solid hour searching for ingredients for Spanish recipes. I came home and immediately made the simplest-looking recipe in the book: a tortilla.

If any of you are as ignorant about Spanish cooking as I was, you should know that a Spanish tortilla is actually nothing like a Mexican tortilla. (Except that they're both round.) A Spanish tortilla actually consists of thin slices of potato surrounded by egg fried to perfection. (According to the book, whether onions and garlic belong in the dish is an ongoing argument in Spain.) The book made a very big deal about this dish, saying that despite the simplicity, it's very difficult to get it exactly right.

Well, I'm sure my tortilla wasn't exactly right, since after all, I'm just a poor white American who has never so much as tasted authentic Spanish food, but it was delicious all the same.

After scarfing half my tortilla, I hiked Stewart Falls with a couple of friends. (Which was amazing, by the way. You drive half an hour and suddenly, you're hiking over rolling green, forested hills, surrounded by squirrels and caterpillars and forget-me-nots. We're not in California anymore, Toto.) To my delight, one of my friends went who actually lived in Spain for two years not too long ago. We spent most of the trip talking food and Spain and culture; I told him about my tortilla and the other recipes I was planning; he described the festivals, the people, and the diversity of Spain. (He also taught me how to say, "what's up, dude" in Spanish. I can't wait to go to Spain and use that phrase.)

As we were nearing the end of our hike, we talked over the details of tortilla-making. Apparently, my tortilla wasn't particularly authentic, since I just boiled the potatoes in water instead of frying them in oil. And I didn't flip the tortilla over onto my plate like I was supposed to. So I guess I missed out on having a truly authentic experience with Spanish cuisine.

In order to prevent you from a similar fate, I will teach you how to make a Spanish tortilla, as well as a white American girl can. This is how I plan on making it NEXT time--using both details from the cookbook and advice from my friend Daniel:

Cut three potatoes into half-inch slices. Deep-fry them in olive oil until they're softer but still fairly firm (not crunchy). Next, in a deep-sided frying pan, cook 1 sliced onion and 2 chopped cloves of garlic with a little oil until the onions are translucent (I'm on the onions-and-garlic side of the debate, myself). Mix the potatoes in with the onions and garlic and cook them for a few minutes. Meanwhile, whisk 6 eggs with some salt and black pepper. Pour the eggs evenly over the potato mixture, then cover and cook on low for about 20 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your satisfaction (the book insists that the eggs be done just enough to hold the entire thing together, but I prefer a firmer egg).

If you want to be really Spanish, cover the pan with your plate and then flip the entire thing over before serving. Or make a sandwich, per Daniel's recommendation: cut a piece of baguette, squeeze some juice/seeds from a tomato onto it, drizzle on a little olive oil, and stuff a piece of tortilla inside (I plan on trying this with my leftover tortilla).

Later on I made gypsy stew, which was extremely time-consuming but totally worth it, and some cookie dough for polvorones. Pretty soon I'll make gazpacho, churros with chocolate, magdalenas, and leche frita.

As much as I appreciate good ol' American comfort food, I love breaking out of the usual mold and making something foreign. It's like a little bit of Spain right here in my kitchen.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have polvorones to make!


  1. I want to cook with you! I don't usually make interesting food around here, because I don't have an appreciative audience unless the food is unhealthy (and then I don't think that Ken and I should be eating it by ourselves).

    I believe you were going to call me yesterday...

    1. That's right! I absolutely meant to...I actually remembered, but by the time I thought of it I thought maybe it was too late to call. Do you still stay up really late? I didn't want to bother you.

      I want to cook with you, too! I actually thought of you when I was cooking because of all the interesting food you used to make for us. :) Let's be sure to cook something fun the next time we get the chance!

  2. I go to bed earlier these days, but still not usually until about midnight, which is 1 am your time. Until the baby is born (when I have no idea what will happen with my sleep schedule), feel free to call until midnight. (But don't call before noon unless it's important.)

    Remember my international cookbook? I spent a while doing themed dinners where every night was based on a different country. But I think that was before I went to BYU, so you were probably too young to remember. I had a lot of fun, but it wasn't very popular with the family because kids like to eat familiar foods. Naan was a big hit, but I think that was the only international cookbook dish that I started making regularly.

    Maybe next time our family gets together we should do another "international tour" for our dinners!

  3. That sounds like fun - I'm all for it!