Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Spanish Tortilla

When I was in Spain this summer I ate a lot of tortillas. They were our go-to when we were sick of fish in Cabo de Palos (didn't happen to me, but to other members of my family), when we didn't feel like eating heavy meat in Madrid, or when we wanted something to nosh on between lunch and dinner while drinking a lovely Alhambra beer. And now that winter is rapidly approaching, I think about sunny Spain a lot. Like, a REAL WHOLE LOT.

While I was in Spain I bought a Spanish cookbook, but I hadn't made use of it (other than looking through it and reminiscing) until tonight. A tortilla is a perfect light dinner and it only uses pantry staples so you don't have to go out to buy anything fancy. And, if you're like me, you will get to think about lying on beautiful beaches like this one while eating it:

Here's what you need:

1 kg potatoes (about 7 small ones), thinly (THINLY) sliced (don't bother peeling them)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
8 eggs (I made mine with 6 but 8 would have been yummier)
plenty of olive oil and salt and pepper.

1. Heat about 4-5 tbs of olive oil in a cast-iron frying pan over medium-high. When the oil is hot but not smoking (that's too hot), throw in your potatoes and brown them for 5 minutes.

2. After 5 minutes, add the onions and reduce the heat. You want to cook the potatoes through without burning them. It might take up to 30 minutes. The potatoes should be soft.

3. Meanwhile, beat your eggs with a whisk. When the potatoes are cooked, let them cook in a strainer for a while (you get rid of a bit of oil that way, too) and then mix them in with the egg. Add a fair bit of salt and pepper.

4. With the cast-iron pan still on low, pour in the egg and potato mixture. There should still be oil coating the pan from when you were cooking the potatoes. Let the tortilla cook SLOWLY. You need to cook it until egg is almost entirely cooked through without the bottom burning. DO NOT STIR THE EGGS but DO curve over the edges of the tortilla with a spatula so that the edges end up rounded.

5. When it is just about cooked through so that there are almost no runny bits on top - now this is a bit tricky - take a place and place it on top of the pan. You are going to flip that tortilla. So, holding the plate steady on the pan with one hand, flip the tortilla out of the pan and onto the plate. Then slide it carefully back into the hot pan but on the other side. Got it?

6. Let the tortilla brown on that side, then slice and serve! You can add variations - zucchini, ham, cheese - but the potato version is classic. It's pretty tasty as cold leftovers too - they serve it cold in Spain.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yorkshire Pudding!

oh yeah, and roast beef, too. And gravy, and peas, and roasted carrots, and garlic mashed potatoes. But most importantly, YORKSHIRE PUDDING.

This was my first attempt at this grand and most favourite meal. I did overcook the meat, which I think is a common issue, but it was still so so tasty. I am currently enjoying cold roast beef sandwiches with mustard.

SO: Roast beef. I bought a "French Roast" for $7/kg. I made deep slits in the meat and inserted slivers of garlic into it. I guess I used about four cloves of garlic. I seasoned the outside with salt and pepper, and seared the outside in hot oil in a cast iron pan until the outside was browned.

Then I put it on a rack in a roasting pan surrounded by carrots and onions and tented it with foil. It went in the oven at 350 until my thermometer read 145 - according to everything I've read, that would have been medium-rare, but I guess next time I'll take it out sooner as it was closer to well-done.

While the meat was cooking, I chopped up a bunch of potatoes and threw them in a big pot of water with 6 or 7 whole garlic cloves. When the potatoes were soft, I drained them and mashed the potatoes and the garlic cloves with lots of butter, milk, garlic salt, and some ricotta cheese for creaminess. I kept the potato water to make gravy later.

The Yorkshire pudding recipe I got from Gordon Ramsay via Serious Eats. I had seen Gordon Ramsay lecture people about proper Yorkshire puddings so I figured he was the guy to go to for instructions on this matter.

So I stirred together a cup of flour with 1/2 tsp of salt and added 4 eggs and (in two goes) 1 1/4 c milk. I beat the mixture until it was smooth and then I just let it sit on the counter until it was ready.

About 15 minutes before I thought the roast would be ready, I turned up the temperature of the oven to 450 and poured 1 tsp of canola oil into each hole of a 12-hole muffin tray and preheated the oil in the tray. Then I divided the batter between the muffin holes - it should sizzle in the hot oil when you add it - and then stuck the tray back in the oven until the puddings are brown and puffy. I had taken out the roast by this time, of course.

While the roast is resting and the puddings are baking, you can cook your peas and make your gravy out of the drippings from the roast and your potato water.

Serve the puddings in a basket lined with paper towels, because they are a little greasy. But they are the perfect compliment to a roast dinner and go amazingly well with gravy.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soupe à l'Oignon Gratinée

... also known as French Onion Soup.

I've been making this for years, but kind of according to my own recipe, which was good. But tonight I took a look at Julia Child's, and I have to say she totally kicked my ass. I'm really not surprised though - the woman did write a few cookbooks, after all.

I used to use red wine to fill out the broth. Julia's uses vermouth and brandy - a distinct improvement. However, it did mean that I was stuck with some "superfluous" red wine. On a Wednesday, no less! :)

You need:

5 c thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tbs butter (oh Julia... )
1 tbs oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
3 tbs flour
2 litres beef stock
1/2 c dry white vermouth or white wine
pepper to taste
3 tbs cognac
rounds of hard-toasted French bread
1.5 c grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese (I used cheddar but Julia says Swiss is best)

1. Melt the butter and oil over low heat (seriously - low) and sautee the onions for 15 minutes. They should get nice and translucent.

2. Raise the heat to moderate and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30-40 minutes until the onions are nice and golden brown. This adds depth to the soup. YUM.

3. Add the flour and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the hot beef stock and vermouth while the pot is off the heat. Then simmer the soup for 40 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, toast your baguette slices. When the soup is done simmering, stir in the cognac (I used brandy).

5. Pour the soup into French Onion Soup bowls (I got mine for 99¢ at the Salvation Army!) or oven-proof individual bowls. Stir a bit of cheese into the soup. Float the toasted bread on top and top with more cheese. Julia says you're also supposed to stir grated raw onion into the soup but I opted not to do this. Still delicious!

6. Bake the soup in a preheated oven at 325º for 20 minutes, then broil for a few minutes until the melted cheese browns.

7. Let the hot soup sit a few minutes and enjoy!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Italian Wedding Soup

You may have noticed that things are getting a little cozier around here - soups, pies, breads - they're going to get cozier, too! Winter is a-comin'! That's where this hearty meatball soup comes in. Usually, Italian wedding soup is made with small pasta, but I decided to use barley instead. It's a bit heartier than pasta and it's what I had on hand! It turned out really nicely - barley added a great texture to the soup.

You need:

1 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2/3 c pot barley
8 c chicken stock
3 c fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
20 home-made or store bought chicken or turkey meatballs

1. First, saute your onion, celery, and carrot in the olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add the stock and the barley and bring to a boil. Leave it at a vigorous simmer for 30 minutes or so - until the barley is cooked.

2. Add the meatballs and the spinach and boil until the meatballs are cooked (if you used fresh/raw) and the spinach is wilted.

Serve with yummy 60-minute dinner rolls: YES they only take 60 minutes!! AND they are fluffy and delicious! It's like magic. :)

I opted for a half recipe so what you see here makes 12 rolls, not 24 as in the original recipe. I'm sure this will work without a kitchenaid, but it's what I have!

You need:

1/4 c. milk
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1.5 tbs butter
3 1/3 tsp yeast
3/4 c lukewarm water
3 c flour

1. Melt the butter, milk, sugar, and salt in the microwave. Stir to make sure they are all dissolved.

2. In the bowl of your mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Then add the milk mixture to it and stir.

3. Add the flour a bit at a time, mixing all the while, until all the flour is added. Knead until you get a sticky but cohesive dough ball.

4. Let the dough rise for 15 minutes in an oiled covered bowl.

5. Shape the rolls into 12 portions and place in an oiled baking pan - 9 X 13 worked for me but muffin tins do the trick too. Let rise another 15 minutes.

6. Bake in a preheated oven at 425ºF for 12 minutes. The rolls should be deliciously golden at this point.

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