Sunday, November 21, 2010

tortilla espanola

spanish potato and egg omelet

So check this out. Tortilla espanola, prepared in my very own kitchen by a real life Spaniard!

My roommate Laura spent junior year abroad in Spain. After we graduated, we found a place in the Bronx, but I didn't want to move in until I had found a job, so Laura needed to find someone to sublet my room for the summer. Conveniently, Laura's Spanish host family happened to put her in touch with a friend of theirs who was in New York for a few months. Katia was about to start college, and was in the US for the first time, hoping to improve her English. She was working as an au pair, but the family she was with spoke mainly Russian and she was very unhappy with them. In other words, Laura and Katia were a perfect fit.

The two of them hung out all summer, and Laura showed her all around our old neighborhood in the Bronx. Katia revealed that her guidebook told her to stay out of the borough in general. Even though I was living on Long Island at the time, I was able to spend time with the two of them whenever I was in the city that summer, which was pretty much as often as I could afford. We always had a lot of fun. Fordham had a pitiful number of foreign students, and I really only met other Americans when I studied briefly in Italy, so it was very cool to hang out with the genuine European article. Katia went home after September was over, but for that brief summer, she was an important part of our post-collegiate circle of friends.

Last month, Katia was back in New York for the first time in over two years. She came over our apartment for dinner, bringing a massive and delicious block of Manchego cheese, and her boyfriend Sergio, who cooked us this impressive tortilla espanola.

Laura, Sergio and Katia cheerfully chattered away in Spanish. In response, I lamely offered a word or two like "manana" or "necessito," generally butchering the language. (I took 8 years of Spanish, so I know how pathetic that is.) Sergio expertly sliced the cheese, spreading it with strawberry jam. Laura chopped up the potatoes and Sergio fried them until crisp in a skillet full of vegetable oil. He scrambled the eggs and then cooked them with the potatoes like a big omelet. Expertly, Sergio flipped the skillet over and the egg potato mixture out onto a plate, so he could slide the uncooked side back into the pan. It turned out perfectly golden brown and cooked all the way through. Just beautiful.

I was very impressed with this little slice of Spain being served up in Harlem, but Sergio was very critical of his work. He found the tortilla to be bland, since he had neglected to season it. I offered to bring in the salt shaker, but he urged me not to, because he thought it was too late to add salt. If I salted the dish at the table, the salt would merely coat the food, remaining a separate element instead of permeating the eggs and potatoes as they cooked. Regardless of the salt issue, I thought it was pretty good, and watching him cook for us was so cool– like the Spanish version of that Take Home Chef show!

Having Sergio and Katia visit us reminded me just how much I love Spanish food, and how little I know about cooking it. Hopefully I will branch out in that direction soon, because I don't anticipate friendly foreigners coming over to make me dinner again anytime soon!

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