Monday, September 8, 2008

One More Tomato Recipe

A note: I have modified the Pineapple Upside-Down-Cake recipe, and would (again) love feedback. The recipe is findable on the left side of this blog.

The other day, I ran in to one of my Spanish students from last semester (she is from Spain; I taught her English), and seeing her reminded me of one of my all-time favorite tomato recipes, one which is imperative to make during tomato season, and is so delicious that I often succumb to the temptation to make it even when the only tomatoes available are barely-pink watery-tasting Romas.

It is a sort of fancy meal, but it is also wonderful because it is made of some of the cheapest ingredients around. The cost comes with the time and care required to prepare it. I personally know people who grow every single one of these ingredients, to eat (except for the salt). I have tried to separate out the recipe from the commentary, so that more experienced cooks don't have as much to wade through the first time through. As usual, I would love feedback.

Spanish Omelette (also, authentically, known as "Spanish tortilla")

Time: up to 45 minutes; can be as short as 20, if you chop stuff small enough and pay attention so that you don't burn things you are cooking on high heat and also if you don't mind using a little extra oil (again, so things don't burn).

One Small Potato
One Small Onion
Olive Oil (Spanish, if you can, just for the sake of authenticity, even though we all know that both tomatoes and potatoes originally came from the New World. But I guess that Ferdinand and Isabella did fund Columbus, so Spain probably has as much right to claim New World agricultural goods as as the next country.)
An egg
A tomato
a little bit of fresh Parmesan, if you have it and have time to use it (this is NOT authentic, as far as I know, but it is very yummy)

Chop the onion first, and then chop the tomato while the onion is frying in some olive oil.

I will not tell you what size to chop your vegetables, but I will tell you that the smaller a piece of produce is, the more quickly it cooks, and the more evenly a bunch of vegetable pieces are chopped, the more evenly they will cook (translation: smaller pieces cook faster, and if your pieces are all the same size, you are less likely to burn the ones that are smaller than all the others, because there WON'T be any that are smaller than all the others).

When I am having an averagely busy day, I chop my onions into approximately 1/8" thick half-rings. I chop the potatoes approximately the same size.

When I am having a very busy day, I'm not so careful about making my slices thin, and then I compensate by chopping the flat slices into smaller pieces. (Please tell me this makes sense. Darn, I really need to get a camera.) The other thing you can do, at least on the potato front, is to either 1) grate your potato, or 2) buy grated potatoes, which are ridiculously cheap at the grocery store (no, really, ridiculous is the word, but here is not the place to go in to U.S. farm subsidy policy). The advantage of grated potatoes is that they quickly achieve our two desired attributes: they are small, and they are evenly sized. The only disadvantages happen if you don't like the texture of grated potatoes, or if you have difficulty (as I sometimes do) in grating potatoes without also grating your fingers.

If you want to broil this at the end, you can either use something that can both be fried and broiled in (like a cast-iron skillet), or else plan to transfer your omelette to something broil-able at the point in the recipe where you broil.

So. Fry your onions until they are (pretty) soft and (pretty) brown-looking. Either one of these things can happen without the other. Soft comes from cooking on low heat and with the lid on; brown comes from cooking with higher heat, with the lid off, and it is also a good idea to stir your onions with something that can scrape the bottom of the pan while you are browning them. I normally go for soft first, then brown, but I'm not too picky about making them completely soft because they get a second chance when I cook them the second time around. If I'm in a hurry, I just go for even a little less soft before browning them.

Scrape the onions out of the skillet on to a plate.

Fry the potatoes. This time, don't worry quite so much about soft, since this seems to come more easily to potatoes than it does to onions. Once the potatoes are mostly cooked, add the onions in again. Cook 'em until they smell so heavenly that you are strongly tempted to just eat the whole mess without finishing the rest of the recipe. If you choose to cave to this temptation, I beg of you to please try again later to finish it-- it really is worth it.

Crack the egg in to a bowl. Whisk it with a wire whisk, if you have one (I don't, and am quite adept at doing this with a fork) until the white and the yolk seem pretty well mixed together. Pour the egg over the sizzling potato-and-onion mixture. Turn the heat down just a little. If you want, swirl the pan a little so that the uncooked part of the egg goes into those parts which are more cooked, thus making the whole thing cook a little more evenly.

Grate some Parmesan on to the cooked omelette. That's right, "some". That is how much. I don't know; pretend it's a really sparse pizza or something. Put the whole thing in the broiler. (Wait. Did I say to use a cast-iron skillet or otherwise oven-proof pan? OK. Now I have.) If I recall correctly, about two minutes will do you. You just want the cheese a bit toasty-golden.

If you don't use the Parmesan, you will want to salt your omelette. Either way, the last step is to slice the tomatoes as thick as you want (both thick (up to a quarter of an inch) and thin (about a sixteenth of an inch) slices taste good in different ways, so try what sounds good and see what happens) and then spread them in a single layer over your omelette.

I eat this with a fork, from a breakable plate, with a cloth napkin on hand if I can.

[Food purists may want to plug their ears for this next sentence.] Occasionally, when I am forced to make this with dreadful, store-bought winter tomatoes, I will eat this meal with ketchup.


kjh said...

Ketchup - oh my! What next! :p

You have to admit though, ketchup can really add a lot to certain foods which are otherwise entirely devoid of vegetable-like substances.

SAC said...

True, true.