John is 27 ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

22 October 2007

John is 27

For John's birthday breakfast I made pain au chocolat with some of the aforementioned bread. This is perhaps the most decadent way to start a birthday, but still remains super easy. Well, it remains easy if you discount making bread all the day before. It only requires swiftness, so the toast stays warm enough to melt everything. If this fails, stick the bread in the toaster oven (or real oven) for a minute to soften it all up.

Pain au chocolat

good bread
good dark chocolate
unsalted butter

Chop a hunk of chocolate into tiny bits with a decent knife. Then cut bread into good-sized slices and toast to your liking, i.e. to golden brownness. Butter swiftly. When the butter is melted, top with chocolate bits. The chocolate will melt as well.

Eat with coffee and coffee. More coffee. Coffee!

For birthday dinner, I made spinach salad and a Spanish tortilla.

Spinach salad is easy: wash spinach, dress, eat. Or, if you are John and I, don't dress and instead eat it with your fingers. In retrospect, I think I would serve the tortilla on top of spinach salad. That would be pretty great.

So, tortilla. I'd had tortillas occasionally for years and years, but had never made one. For some reason these have come up as dinner party food--once in college with a full Spanish dinner and once in grad school with 2 kinds of tortilla (chorizo; I think goat cheese?) and lots of stinky cheeses afterward. In both cases I recall copious red wine. I for one am shocked that tortilla requires a serious red wine. Shocked!

The problem here was that all the recipes I had were at home, so I had to go on memory. The main technique I remembered was to fry the potatoes in a lot of hot oil. I also remembered how to flip the thing, which was fortunate as all the pans had plastic handles and so couldn't finish under the broiler. With this in hand, I set out to make it all up.

Tortilla

several boiling potatoes
all the eggs we had left (3)
olive oil
I think half an onion
salt, pepper, cayenne

Slice the potatoes into thin slices, keeping the skin on for taste and structural integrity. You want a roughly equal proportion of potato to egg; two to four should be reasonable for 3 eggs.

Heat a big frying pan to medium-high. When hot, coat with several glugs of olive oil and set in the potatoes in one layer. You may (read: will probably) need to do this in batches if you're making a gigantic tortilla. Grind some salt and pepper over and leave to cook and goldenize on one side. It's important here to use a good amount of hot oil, so you can create a crust and seal in the potatoy goodness against future egg incursion. Start checking for crust after 5 or so minutes; when it looks good, flip the potatoes over and start goldenizing the other side. Try to avoid moving them too much, so your potatoes have a smaller chance of falling apart. Mine remained perfectly intact without too much effort, though, so I don't think it will be any big deal. Structural integrity!

When the potatoes are about 2/3 done, throw in some chopped onion and let soften. If you want to add other things requiring softening, now is the time. I could see a really excellent red pepper tortilla here.

When potatoes are actually done, beat the eggs with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Arrange potatoes in layers in your (slightly oiled, preferably nonstick) frying pan of choice. I actually switched from the big pan and used a little 2-quart soup pan, so 3 eggs' worth of tortilla could turn out nice and thick. Also, if you want to add in things like cheese chunks or precooked chorizo, now is the time. When you're ready, pour the eggs over the potato mixture. Tilt the pan to get egg in every cranny. Then cook it over medium to medium-high heat, shaking fairly frequently to loosen the bottom from the pan. Get a flexible spatula and run it around the edges of the pan, like you'd do with an omelet. You may be able to just shake the tortilla loose, but you may also need to use the spatula to help it along. When the whole business is loose, the bottom is turning golden, and the egg on the top has started to coagulate, it is time to flip your tortilla.

Get out a plate. Use the spatula to help slide the tortilla onto the plate in one piece. It will be fine. I managed to get mine out of a soup pot; a frying pan should be fine too. Now hold the plate in one hand and the pan in the other. Flip the pan directly on top of the tortilla, covering the entire thing. Ok. Now, holding the plate flat against the top of the pan, flip the entire thing over. Take off the plate. Look, a flipped tortilla! Well done.

Put the pan back on the heat to fully cook the top side of the tortilla. When that side is golden brown and clearly delicious, it is ready to eat. Slide the whole business out of the pan again, cut it into serving chunks, and pour yourself a big glass of red wine. Delicious birthday dinner!

1 comment:

Amaranth said...

You write very well.