Today is a WONDERFUL day. In honor of our (infinitely wise, incredibly prosaic, level-headed, inspirational and insanely gorgeous) president elect I bring you a sandwich. Don't worry, it's a pretty delicious sandwich.
I can't believe it was only a little over a year ago that I was hopping on a plane with my brand spankin' new husband heading overseas for our honeymoon. We actually sort of planned getting married around our trip, which I realize is a bit backwards. I believe the collective spontaneity that brought about this union bodes well for its future.
The trip was a gift from my parents who seem to amass frequent flier miles like some people collect cats. For Christmas we were presented with these miles to do with as we pleased. Well we hemmed and hawed about it for about 5 minutes before picking Spain. The logic was simple, Mark wanted to see a soccer (sorry, football) game in London if at all possible and I like flamenco. I actually have no idea how we chose Spain, but I think it had something to do with the flight schedules in and out of Heathrow. I wish I was kidding, but Mark's life basically revolves around his favorite soccer team. And me? I tag along for the beer.
Sometime between when we reserved the flight and when we actually departed we decided it simply was not festive enough to travel halfway around the world... we had to make the trip a celebration! After all, we weren't quite sure when we'd have this opportunity again. We could get married any old time, so why not now? And that's the story of how we decided to get married. Romantic, huh?
Shortly after our quick trip to the courthouse to get hitched, we were packing up to head overseas. Mark's head was filled with visions of soccer balls flying through the air, while I was diligently practicing the phrase "Me gusta los bellos zapatos en un tamaño de 37 por favor." Food was the farthest thing from our minds. As vegetarians we assumed the pickings would be slim, why worry our pretty little heads about it?
Wrong we were. Spain has two of the most delightful culinary inventions that ever there were: tapas and bocadillos. Well you all know tapas, the tiny little plates of food that you simply order more and more of as the night goes on. The tiny concoctions the chefs dream up are endless. And fortunately in Seville, where we spent most of our time, you're never more than 2 inches away from a tapas bar.
The bocadillo, though, was a surprise to me. What surprised me was how quickly I developed a deep and abiding love of what was literally a slab of something between two pieces of crusty bread. No muddying it up with aioli, no tarnishing the flavors with vegetables. My favorite bocadillos were the ones made with manchego and the ones filled with tortilla espanol. Simple as that. Maybe it was because you could buy them anywhere for a euro and they tasted equally good everywhere. Maybe it was because after sitting on a train for 3 hours all you wanted to do was sit in the sun in a park and eat something that simple. Maybe it was because you could eat one while you walked to the shoe store. Who knows. All I know is I discovered the joys of very very simple food in Spain.
Now that we're back home I'm still eating my bocadillos. I must say, since I have the luxury of my kitchen I have gone out on a limb and dolled up my version of the bocadillo. I make them with tortilla espanol which I swear I've figured how to make taste pretty darn close to the ones we had in Spain. A tortilla, if you're not familiar with it, is the Spanish version of a fritatta, or omlette. I use a less potato than traditional recipes call for to keep the sandwich from being too starchy. This is a thin tortilla, but it's so rich with olive oil and potatoes that you don't need more than this amount. I added a little mayo with garlic and some roasted pepper. You could really make it anything, but the key is keeping it simple and using the best ingredients.
Bocadillo with Tortilla Espanol
Tortilla Espanol adapted from The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen
For the torilla
3/4 lb yukon gold potatoes, very thinly sliced
3/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 large eggs
2 Tbsp vegetable stock or broth
Coarse salt to taste
Rustic bread, such as ciabatta
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 clove garlic
1 large red bell pepper
Put the sliced potatoes in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt and let sit to sweat for about 15 mins. Give them a very quick rinse (you want them to stay a little salty) and pat them dry.
Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet (preferably non-stick) over medium-high heat until very hot, about 3 mins. Reduce heat to medium low and add the potatoes in even layers. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent potatoes from sticking and browning. You want them soft, not crispy. When potatoes are half cooked, about 7 mins, stir in the onion. Reduce heat to low and cook until potatoes are completely soft and onions are cooked through and soft, about 10-15 mins more.
While this cooks put the pepper on a burner to roast and crush the garlic into the mayonnaise and stir to blend. Once the pepper is blackened put it in a sealed plastic container to let it steam. After about ten minutes rub the skin off of the pepper with a paper towel. Don't use water! It's okay if a few little charred flecks are left behind.
Using a slotted spoon transfer the potatoes and onions to a colander and let them drain thoroughly. You should have a few Tbsp of oil left in the pan. Leave it in there and set aside.
Place eggs and chicken stock in a large bowl and lightly beat until just scrambled. Salt the potatoes and onions to taste and then mix them in with the eggs. Mash and stir the mixture with a fork to crush the potatoes a slight bit and to incorporate them with the eggs. Let stand for about 10 mins.
Heat the reserved oil in the same large skillet over medium-high heat until it's just beginning to smoke. Pour the egg mixture in and spread very evenly. Turn heat to medium. Cook until it looks a little more than halfway cooked through.
You now need to flip the tortilla. Very carefully put a plate over the pan and invert it. Then slide the tortilla back into the pan, so the raw side can now cook. After about 3-4 mins it should be cooked through. You may want to poke the center with your spatula to be sure. Slide it back onto a serving plate and cut it into wedges. Serve it warm or at room temperature.
Slice the bread in half, smear one side with the mayonnaise mixture and lay slices of roasted pepper on the bread. Put the tortilla on top and assemble.