"bien gracias, y tu?"
"yo tengo hambre."
"entonces vamos a comer!"
six years of spanish in middle school and high school, and that's about the extent of mi espanol today. although my spanish skills are long gone, i will always have a special place in my heart for spain. it was my senior year of high school when my spanish teacher senora curtis announced a trip to spain. my dad said to me, "you've been studying for six years. you're going!" wow, my parents were going to pay for me to travel abroad for the first time ever. i was ecstatic . . . well, that is until they told me that they weren't paying for me to travel abroad; i was going to pay for myself to travel abroad. huh, so how does that work? (translate conversation below into cantonese)
"let me understand this, you're making me spend thirteen-whopping hundred dollars of my hard-earned odd-job money that i've been saving for the last four years?"
"yep. you have no choice on this matter."
"uh, it's my money. you can't tell me how to spend it!"
"you will never regret spending this money. you're going to get to see the world. there is no price tag on that."
and so it was decided. i never imagined writing a check could be so painful. luckily, my dad is a wise man. i never regretted draining my entire savings account to pay for that trip, and i was bit by the travel bug. well, it was less the travel-to-see-the-sites bug but what-kind-of-foreign-food-we-gonna-eat-? bug. there is a photo of me exhausted after a day of touristing in our hotel room stuffing myself with several spanish pastries at one time, pastry cream all over my face. that photo pretty much encapsulates my travel philosophy: eat just a little more than your stomach will comfortably allow. you are on vacay!
two weekends ago, i was doing some end-of-the-year cleaning and stumbled upon my photos from the trip and started to reminisce, which of course led to cravings of my favorite spanish dish: the simple tortilla espanola. and so i took a short (and much cheaper) trip to spain in my kitchen that day, whipping up a lighter version of tortilla espanola accompanied by a roasted red pepper aioli dip. delicioso - vamos a comer!
spicy tortilla espanola with roasted red pepper aioli
1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes, quartered
5 tbs. of olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tbs. red pepper flakes
2 tbs. chipotle sauce
6 large eggs, whisked
10" cast-iron skillet
ingredients for aioli
1 red pepper
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 cup neutral tasting oil
cover potatoes in cold water, salt heavily and bring to a boil. simmer for about 10 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. drain water and set potatoes aside.
in a medium-saute pan, heat 2 tbs. of olive oil over medium-high heat. add onions and saute until they start to soften. then add potatoes and red chili flakes. toss with onions and saute until the outside of the potatoes crisp up, about five minutes. combine potato mixture with chipotle sauce, eggs and 1 tsp. of salt.
now heat up cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. add remaining 3 tbs. of olive oil and distribute evenly over skillet. pour potato and egg mixture into the pan and cook for about 3 minutes before bringing heat down to medium. cover with aluminum foil (or large pot lid) and heat for another 5 minutes. the bottom half of the tortilla should be cooked through. now, if you were an authentic spaniard, you would now cover the skillet with a plate, flip the skillet over and then slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook through the other side. i don't know about you, but i have trouble benching ten pounds, let alone try to flip a ten pound skillet gracefully with one hand. i once did this as a two-person job with tim, but when he flipped the skillet over, it landed on my forearm. a cast-iron skillet is not something that's easy to shake off if it lands on your forearm, so till this day, i have a "love scar." so due to my overall weakness and ill-coordination, i choose an easier method. set the oven rack about 8 inches from the top of the oven and broil on low for about 3 to 5 more minutes.
for the aioli, i've replaced the mustard with red pepper puree and the typical lemon for acid with vinegar. you can buy pre-roasted red pepper but if you want to make it, start by removing the stem of the red pepper and deseeding. place onto a small baking sheet and drizzle with oil and then broil under high heat for about 15 minutes, turning frequently to make sure that all sides char evenly. i typically do this just in my toaster oven since it's just one pepper - no need to heat up the entire oven. after the red pepper is nice and charred (this is one of the few times in cooking where you want to burn something) place in a paper bag, close tightly, shake and let steam for a few minutes. this will make the skin much easier to peel. once the pepper has cooled down enough, remove the skin and throw the sweet flesh into a blender and puree. run the pureed red pepper through a sieve to ensure the smoothest consistency, but this is more of a bonus step. combine red pepper puree with egg yolk, vinegar and slowly whisk in oil. salt to taste and serve with tortilla espanola.