Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Potato & Kale Spanish Tortilla

On Friday I spent the day working with a friend. As we neared the end of the day I began to wonder aloud about what I was going to prepare for dinner when I got home. The fresh vegetables that remained in my pantry consisted of a bag of young Russian kale and some new potatoes—both from last Saturday's trip to the Farmers' market. I figured dinner was going to have to feature, in one way or another, kale and potatoes.

In terms of things to work with, potatoes and kale are not the most unlikely combination of ingredients. They go quite well together. About this time last year, I posted a recipe for Kale, Potato and Black Olive Pizza. I toyed with the idea of making pizza, but didn't really think I would have the time to make dough when I got home. I began to wonder if I had any sausage in my freezer because the salty sausage enhances the potatoes and the kale in much the same way the olives do on the pizza. My friend was thinking along the same lines and suggested a dish called Caldo Verde—a traditional Portuguese stew that features these three ingredients. But it seemed like kind of a hot day for stew (I think it was in the 90's).

Then my friend suggested a Spanish Tortilla. For those who are unfamiliar with it, a Spanish Tortilla is a flat cake of eggs and vegetables—similar to a frittata. Most typically it contains potatoes that have been poached in olive oil. Other cooked vegetables can be, and often are, added to the eggs with the potatoes. If you have never tasted a Spanish tortilla, then you should put it on a list of your "must try" foods. It is so much more than just the sum of its humble parts.

At the suggestion of the tortilla, all of a sudden, kale and potatoes didn't seem like something I "had to" eat for dinner. They sounded pretty great—as if these two ingredients had been waiting in my pantry all week for just this purpose. So much so, that when I got home, I didn't want to rush through the process of preparing my tortilla, I wanted to enjoy I decided to save the kale and potatoes for another day when I would have more time.

You may now be wondering what I actually had for dinner on Friday. Well, when I got home I discovered that my pantry was really far from bare. This is true for most Americans. Even when we say "there is nothing in the house to eat", most of us are in the embarrassing position of having enough food squirreled away in our pantries that we could survive a short siege with nothing more than what we already have. I found that I still had some of my arugula pesto left....and I always have tortillas and cheese... So for our dinner on Friday we had Quesadillas filled with poached and crushed new potatoes, Dubliner cheese and arugula pesto.

I saved the Spanish tortilla idea for Sunday when it turned out to be just the thing. Egg-based dishes somehow seem like Sunday supper fare—casual, unhurried and simple. I had time to enjoy making it as much as I enjoyed eating it.

As far as the technique of the tortilla is concerned, the recipe that I am posting is fairly detailed in terms of execution. The specifics of "how to" are all there. I would just emphasize here a couple of things. First, make sure that the potatoes cook gently in the oil—

I don't think they should be brown and crispy like fried potatoes. And they should be tender and fully cooked before they go into the eggs—it's ok if they are starting to fall apart. Although, if you are using true new potatoes, they probably won't fall apart. Yukon and Idaho russet potatoes are actually more commonly used when preparing a Spanish tortilla.

Use a non-stick pan. My preference is a French steel pan, but a non-stick coated pan is good too. If using a steel pan, after the potatoes and vegetables have been removed, make sure it has been wiped completely free of any remaining food particles before adding the egg-vegetable mixture back to the pan. The eggs will stick if the pan hasn't been wiped completely clean.

Finally, I cook my tortilla hot and fast—like a French omelet. If you get the pan very hot, add the eggs and then stir with one hand while you shake the pan with the other, the eggs will scramble almost immediately. Reducing the heat when the mixture looks like very loose scrambled eggs and allowing it to set on the heat for a minute or two will encourage the contents of the pan to set up into a cake.

The result of this faster method is a tortilla that is more evenly cooked throughout. It is also more tender since it hasn't sat on the heat for an extended period of time.

Once you learn the basic techniques involved in making a Tortilla Española you will soon think of lots of possible variations. To get you started, check out my post from last Spring for a Potato & Mushroom Tortilla.

One of the things I love about the days that I get to work with friends is the time we get to spend talking about food. Because food—certainly for serving to others, but also for my own consumption—really does occupy my thoughts a great deal of the time. When I am around others who love to cook and eat, the conversation naturally turns to food. And every time I cook with another chef I learn new things and am inspired by new ideas. This is probably the thing I miss the most about working in a restaurant kitchen—rubbing shoulders with other cooks.

So one of the benefits of working with my friend on Friday, was a wonderful Sunday evening meal of a Kale & Potato Spanish Tortilla. It was perfect for a warm late Spring evening. And, I learned about Caldo Verde. I have never had it or made it...but it sounds delicious. So I have tucked that idea away—on my list of "must try" foods—and will pull it out on some cool, early fall evening to come.

New Potato & Kale Spanish Tortilla

3/4 c. olive oil
4 spring onions, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced (include some of the green)—about 1/2 to 2/3 cup sliced onion
10 to 12 oz. new potatoes, well scrubbed and cut in 1/3-inch dice
5 oz. (trimmed weight) kale, well rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
6 large eggs, room temperature
salt & pepper, taste

In a 10-inch non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat for a couple of minutes. Add the potatoes along with 1/2 t. salt. The potatoes should be just barely covered by the oil. If necessary, add another 1 or 2 T. of oil. Maintain the heat at medium until the oil returns to a simmer—a minute or two—then reduce the heat to medium low. Gently poach the potatoes at a gentle simmer in the olive oil until tender—about 12 minutes. Be careful not to let the potatoes get brown or crisp.

While the potatoes are poaching, cook the kale in a pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain and spread on a baking sheet to cool. When cool, squeeze it out, a handful at a time, to get rid of the excess water. Chop medium coarse.

When the potatoes are tender add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the kale and cook to heat through. Transfer the potatoes and kale to a colander set in a bowl and let drain.

In a large bowl, briefly whisk the eggs together with another 1/2 t. of salt and some freshly ground black pepper—the eggs don't have to be completely smooth. Add the drained potato mixture (it still be hot). Gently fold until all the ingredients are well combined

Wipe the skillet the potatoes were cooked in clean and return to medium-high heat. Add just enough of the drained oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan—about a tablespoon. When the oil is very hot (just beginning to smoke), pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Immediately begin to shake the pan vigorously and continue for 10 to 15 seconds while stirring with a heat proof spatula. The eggs should begin to scramble immediately. Then, cook for 15 to 30 seconds without shaking or stirring to allow the bottom to set. Reduce the heat to low, run the spatula around the outside of the tortilla to create a nice even edge, and continue to cook for a minute or two, gently shaking the pan occasionally (to make sure the tortilla isn't sticking). When the eggs are set around the edges (and the tortilla does not appear to be too liquid in the middle), flip the tortilla. Invert a large round plate over the skillet. Hold the plate firmly with one hand and turn the skillet over with the other. If the pan seems dry, add an additional tablespoon or so of the reserved oil to the pan; increase the heat. When the oil is hot, slide the tortilla back into the pan (cooked side up), tuck in the edges neatly (use a heat proof spatula), reduce the heat, and cook until the omelet is cooked through—another minute or two. The goal is a thick soft cake that is a pale golden color on both sides.

Transfer the omelet to a round platter, cut in wedges and serve hot or at room temperature. If you like, serve garnished with sour cream. A sliced tomato salad or a few roasted root vegetables would make good accompaniments. Serves 4 to 6 as a light entrée.


Katrina said...

Yum! Sounds good to me. I love kale. Just had kale chips for lunch! Have you ever had them or heard of them? Just roast torn kale on a baking sheet with a little EVOO and S&P until they are crispy. They are addicting and so good, and much more healthy than fried potato chips.

Paige said...

Hi Katrina,

I have never eaten Kale chips...but I have heard of them. Another food for my "must try" list....