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Feature Friday: Mamá’s Spanish Tortilla

The making of a tortilla was always a big deal in our home.  Usually, because it meant that we were having company over, but mostly it was because it was our favorite dish that mama would make.  This statement isn’t to be taken lightly because she is a phenomenal cook, but there was something about her tortilla that excited us.

The tortilla is thought to be a simple dish.  It is one of those recipes that is easy to make, but laborious to perfect.  At any step of the process the final outcome can be altered.  On top of being difficult to perfect, it is a messy process that requires frying and multiple dishes which means more work after you’ve made the tortilla!  So I now understand why it was only made as a special occasion treat in our home.

For mama’s reyes feast last week, she walked me through the process from beginning to end.  I was able to photo document each step as well as her tips and tricks for attaining the perfect tortilla española.

To start, you will need four small yellow potatoes.  She warns against using white potatoes because of the starchy taste it will give the tortilla.  In other words, look for yukon instead of russet potatoes when gathering the ingredients for this dish.  You will also need one large yellow onion for the first part of the process.  Peel both the onion and the potatoes and then thinly slice and sliver them into a bowl.

For the next step you will need to use a deep skillet (she prefers an iron skillet).  Mama also recommends using crisco oil or some similar type of vegetable oil for the frying of the onions and potatoes.  Olive oil (not extra virgin!) is obviously a tastier alternative, but it is a bit expensive to use for frying just to have to discard it after this step is complete.

She poured the oil into the skillet and set the heat to medium high to allow the oil to warm up.  At this point she turned to me and asked, “do you know how to tell the oil is ready?”  She then placed a wooden spoon into the oil and said, “when little bubbles begin to form around the spoon, you’ll know the oil is hot enough.”

(Side note:  have I mentioned how much fun this blogging thing has been?  I’ve been able to learn neat little tricks such as these!  I love it, I love it, I love it 🙂 )

Mama then carefully added the potatoes and onions into the oil.  She stirred them around until the onions were clear and the potatoes were becoming tender.

At this point, you want to add in the garlic.  The rationale behind adding it at this stage is that you don’t want the garlic to become bitter by leaving it in the oil for too long.

As you can see in the picture, mama added the garlic by slicing it directly into the oil.  You don’t want to mince it because you will lose the bold bits of it in the tortilla.  Once you have added it to the mix, stir for one more minute.

While the potatoes, onions, and garlic are finishing cooking, get out a large bowl and your eggs.

Beat the eggs in the bowl.  (I just wanted to add this cool action shot of the eggs being beaten).

With a slotted spoon, remove the mixture from the oil slowly.  Allow the mixture to drain a bit of the oil off before adding it into the bowl with the eggs.

During this step, you want to make sure the heat is off to avoid overcooking of the potatoes, onions, and garlic.  This will also allow you to strain as much of the oil as possible before adding it to the eggs.

As you can see, mama used both a slotted spoon and a frying spoon.  She lifted the mixture with the slotted spoon and placed it in the frying spoon to allow the oil to drip out.

Once you have added all of the potato mix to the eggs, sprinkle a bit of salt into the bowl.  Mama eye balled about an 1/8 tsp of salt into the bowl before giving it a gentle mix.

Next, a non-stick skillet was placed on the stove over medium heat.  She sprayed it with a bit of olive oil to ensure the tortilla would slide easily in the next step.

The contents of the bowl (eggs, potatoes, onions, and garlic) were all added to the skillet.  Once the tortilla began to cook, she took a small spatula and worked the sides, lifting them up gently.  She shook the skillet back and forth to keep the tortilla from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  She checked the bottom by lifting it just a bit to see if the bottom was cooked.  Once it reached the color she wanted, she got out a plate.  Avoid using a plate that has a marked edge for this step.  She pulled the skillet off of the stove and went over to the sink with the skillet and plate in hand.  She looked at me and said, “are you ready?  We only have one shot at this!”  I quickly switched my camera over to the filming feature and captured what is the most difficult part of making a spanish tortilla… THE FLIP!

Notice how the uncooked side of the tortilla was slid back into the skillet?  This is difficult to do without spilling or breaking the tortilla.  Once it is back in the skillet, place it back on the stove and cook the other side.  Also, notice how in the video she runs the spatula around the edges of the tortilla?  This gives it the beautiful shape in the end.  She continued to shake the skillet back and forth to keep the tortilla from sticking to the bottom until she suspected it was done.  I say suspected, because you can’t check.  You can’t lift the edge without risking breaking the tortilla.  Here, again, is why this is an art.  You don’t want to serve an undercooked tortilla but then again, a dry and overcooked tortilla isn’t good.  You want it to cook just long enough for the bottom to be golden and the insides to be juicy.

Once the tortilla is done, slide it off of the skillet onto a plate that has two paper towels.  After a few minutes, flip the tortilla to allow the other side to sit on paper towels as well.  This will absorb any excess oil and give the tortilla a beautiful look (seriously… doesn’t that finished tortilla look awesome?).  You have the option of serving this hot or cold.  For the Epiphany feast mama put together, she served it at room temperature and cut up so that we could each pick at the dish.

This makes me hungry just looking at the picture!  And to top it all off, I have now watched my mama make a tortilla española from beginning to end.  I am armed and have been taught the tricks of the trade!  The pelirojo has been poking at me asking when I’ll attempt my own.  Very soon amor… very soon 🙂

Feature Friday: Scrumptious Meatball Soup

Motherhood is probably in the “top 3” of most terrifying things I can imagine.  This list goes something like this:

  1. Walking on the wooden boardwalk over Foz do Iguaçu (Iguacu Falls).  I did it once because I was forced to (I was 5 or 6 at the time).  It was so terrifying that it scarred me for life.  I have been petrified of heights ever since.
  2. Being stuck on a roller coaster upside down.   I have no basis for this, it’s just something I have spent an odd amount of time thinking about.  I have an overactive imagination.
  3. Motherhood.

I’ve heard people say it’s just something that comes naturally, but I’m sorry… that’s bull.  Being a rockstar mother does not come naturally.  It takes an amount of energy, patience, and love that is not inherent to parenthood…  it takes work.  Of course I don’t know this from personal experience, but I know it from watching her.  I know it from watching my older sister, Nani.

Nani is a rockstar mamacita.  I am completely serious.  I don’t know how she does it.

There are three of them; three adorable, beautiful, well-mannered munchkins that demand her time.  There’s soccer practice, baseball practice, basketball practice, church activities, homework, 4 H – and these are only the kids’ activities!  Have I mentioned she’s also going to school?  Yes, I know.  She’s insane.  But she pulls it off.  Not only does she pull it off… she looks GOOD DOING IT!  (Seriously, the girl is gorgeous… hence the beautiful munchkins 🙂 )

Nani is a firm believer in the power of the crock pot.  When I moved into an apartment in college, that was the first thing she got me.  It is a magical appliance that I have grown fond of over the years, and I can see why it would be a mother’s best friend.  With Nani’s packed schedule, dinner gets thrown in first thing in the morning and then devoured before running off to evening activities.

While we were visiting a few weeks ago, I snapped some pictures of her scrumptious spicy meatball soup.  It is super easy and ideal for a busy weeknight!

The ingredients were frozen meatballs and corn, canned (the Rotel kind w/ green chilies – undrained) diced tomatoes and black beans (drained and rinsed), and chicken broth.  Everything went into the crock pot in the morning.  After a full day of playing/catching up, all we had to do was serve the soup.  No fussing with cooking AND there was still a delicious meal to be had.  See what I mean?  ROCKSTAR!

The soup came out flavorful and with a bit of a kick.  She served dinner with croissants that were perfect for absorbing the liquids after you were done fishing out the meatballs.

Ian and I both had seconds!

What Nani doesn’t know, is that this post is only the first.  She has two more crock pot recipes that I’m determined to have her share with me.  One is a spagehtti sauce recipe and the other is for her famous beef stroganoff.  Over the next few visits we make, I hope to snap a few shots of her working her magic, so stay tuned!

Scrumptious soup and phenomenal company, can you ask for anything more?

Te queiro, hermanita!  Te echo de menos!

 

Feature Friday: An evening with Rebecca

The Cast

The top right photo is of the beautiful hostess (Rebecca) and yours truly.  Immediately to the right of that photo you will see our supervisor, Julian.  To his right, you will see a picture of Clementine (she kept an eye on us from her perch in the dresser).  The final picture in the first row is a shot of a guilty Aaron licking the last of the chocolate from the pan.

Mel starts out the second row with a smirk of amusement (exactly 2 seconds after this photo was taken we both dove into that delicious bowl of popcorn).  Next up is our hostess enjoying the last spoonful of her peanut butter cup.  And lastly, we have Aaron, Rebbecca, and Mel showing off an amazing recipe from the Joy of Jello cookbook.  (Yes, you read that right.)  Did you see the picture that I posted of one of its recipes?  It’s awesome/awful!

Dinner

Rebecca is part of a CSA that delivers fresh fish and seafood to her each week.  This week, she invited us over to grill the fish, cook up the clams, and to introduce me to a few new desserts.

There were several different types of fish that she put on the grill, and I’m afraid I do not know what any of them were.  As the fish cooked up, Rebecca threw some cut up potatoes into the oven to bake and then prepared the clams.  The clams were ready before everything else, so they became our appetizers as we hung out in the kitchen sipping on our tasty wine.

Once the fish were flaky and cooked through, we each loaded up our plates and sat down to feast.  My plate was overflowing with yummy goodness!

The lineup included fish, potatoes, roasted cauliflower and zucchini, and kimchi (from my recent trip to Grand Asia).  I know that I ate at least two different types of fish, and both were phenomenal.  The entire meal (company included) was amazing.

But wait!

There’s more!

As if we hadn’t stuffed ourselves silly with fish and veggies… there were two desserts that were next on the menu.

Dessert 1 – Bacon, Cashew, and Cranberry Popcorn

If you’re like Rebecca, you hear the description of the popcorn and go “YUM!!!”  If you’re like me, you hear it and go “huh?”  And this is precisely why I think she’s so amazing: she isn’t afraid to try different combinations and wing the recipes.  She’s learned what will work and what won’t, and if it doesn’t turn out – who cares?  This particular treat was introduced by her mom and has been all the rave since Rebecca’s first batch.

I can’t begin to tell you how mind blowingly delicious this turned out.  Mel and I could not stop grabbing handfuls of the stuff!

Dessert 2 – Peanut Butter Cups

Ok.  Here’s where I make you gasp… I don’t like peanut butter.  Weird, right?  Yes, I know.  I hear that a lot.  You have to cut me some slack though, because it’s not something I grew up with.  The taste and texture freak me out!  I do give it to the dog in her kong, does that count?

Mel had requested that Rebecca make her famous peanut butter cups.  After super (as we munched on the popcorn), we got to work on these bad boys.  The chocolate was melted and then painted inside of cupcake cups before being placed in the fridge to cool.  Aaron then got to work on breaking up the graham crackers as Mel spooned out the peanut butter.  Once the mix was ready, it was distributed into the cupcake cups.  The last step was to cover the mix with a thick layer of chocolate before putting them back in the fridge for a bit.

Voila!  Once those puppies were cool, we had a homemade peanut butter cup!  How cool is that?  I can’t personally vouch for the final product, but I did hear a lot of “mmmmmmmmmmm”s from around the table.

 

There you have it!  My awesome evening at Rebecca’s with Mel and Aaron!  I learned how to know when fish on the grill is ready.  I learned how to make the most kick butt popcorn I have ever had.  And I learned how to make homemade peanut butter cups.  Full evening, don’t you think?

Thank you so much for having me over Rebecca!

Feature Friday: Steak Sandwich

While brainstorming ideas for this blog, I had one that I knew I wanted to do.  I wanted to find a way to feature my loved ones making meals they enjoy.  Besides the fact that it’s an excuse to get together with friends to have a glass of wine and cook a meal.  (Not to mention the learning opportunity for this apprentice!)  Therefore I have come up with Feature Fridays, that will showcase a meal that is not cooked by me.

Cutting the ribbon at this inauguration is none other than the handsome man I married!  He has been jonesing for a steak sandwich recently, so he bought the ingredients and put his soux-chef (a.k.a. yours truly) to work.  I was put in charge of cutting up the green pepper and onion and then stepped aside with the camera in hand.

He started out by searing the sirloin steak.  Once that was done, he transferred the meat to a dish and added a bit of olive oil to the frying pan.  Then, he threw in the onions, peppers, and mushrooms to saute for a bit.

While that was cooking on the stove, he made a “special” sauce (ingredients unknown –  but I did see the mayo and dijon mustard come out of the fridge) and spread it on the sub buns.

Here’s a picture of the delicious final product:

What can I say?  The man loves his steak sandwiches!

I’d like to note that I thought the sub rocked.  He, on the other hand, thinks he still hasn’t perfected the meat.  The sauteed portion was well done and seasoned, and the sauce was a nice compliment to the meat.  Next time, he wants to try a different cut of steak, and maybe take it off of the heat sooner.

As my uncle always says:  “That was pretty good.  I’ll even let you try it again!”

Thank you for the tasty meal, amor 🙂

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