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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Yo tapeo, tú tapeas, todos tapeamos 
5th-Nov-2009 10:36 am
Let me see..

Tourists come back from Spain raving about tapas. If you go to a bar and order a drink, you get a free snack. I've been living in Madrid for almost ten years, and I've had a lot of tapas. (The verb is "tapear.") It's an exercise in luck, especially if you get out of touristy areas, because bartenders feel more free to be capricious or to give you food that might mystify foreigners.

A tapa can be anything from a tiny bowl of popcorn to specially prepared hot dishes. Some bars have restaurants attached and the cook doesn't want the dinner leftovers to go to waste, so you could get whatever they need to get rid of, in the quantities they need to move. Many bars give a small freebie but allow customers to order (and pay for) bigger servings.

Tapas I've known include anchovies, deep-fried tiny squids, small sandwiches of all description, sausages, peanuts, homemade hot potato chips, pork rinds, mixed nuts, ham, various kinds of cheese, slices of roasted pig ears, patatas bravas, fried peppers, miscellaneous salads, paella, tuna turnovers, croquets, shrimp, salt cod, tortilla, meatballs, olives, deep-fried beans, and, once, a full roast pork dinner (leftovers, as I said).

A landmark Spanish dish is the tortilla española, a potato omelet, and it tastes good hot or cold, so it's a great tapa. Here's the recipe:

1 pound of potatoes
1 onion (optional)
6 eggs
salt to taste
good quality olive oil

Peel and slice the potatoes. If you're using the onion, which adds both flavor and a nice moist texture to the omelet, slice that, too. Fry them gently in abundant olive oil with a little salt in a frying pan until very soft: soft enough to mash, but not browned. When they're ready, beat the eggs with salt in a large bowl. Scoop the potatoes from the pan and mix with the eggs. If necessary, add more oil to the pan. (This is not a low-fat recipe.) Pour the mixture into the pan and cook over medium to low heat. When it is cooked on one side, turn it over, and return it to the heat to finish cooking.

Turning it over is the tricky step. I have a set of two frying pans made for tortillas that fit together, so I put a little more oil on top of the tortilla, fit on the upper pan, pick the whole thing up, and quickly flip it. I also have a tortilla turner, which resembles a wide, shallow bowl on a stand. (See photo. I bought my tortilla turner in Toledo.) You slip the tortilla into it, cooked side down, then put the frying pan on top, pick it all up (with hot pads), and flip it over. A properly shaped wide bowl or pot lid could work, too.

If you have trouble turning the tortilla, the worst that can happen is you get scrambled eggs and potatoes. In fact, all Spanish cooks wind up with scrambled eggs the first few times they try to make a tortilla. It will still taste great, so it's okay.

You can add a little cooked ham, seafood, green or red pepper, sausage, or other tidbits to the omelet and still be authentic.

A tortilla can be served at any meal except breakfast, because Spaniards don't eat breakfast.

— Sue Burke

Also posted at my website: http://www.sue.burke.name

5th-Nov-2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
Ah! And I have spare tortillas and potatoes I was just wondering how to use up. We also have... *scrounges* Bacon and chives. And cheese. Oh, this is getting dangerous. -_-
6th-Nov-2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
¡Que aproveche!
5th-Nov-2009 06:02 pm (UTC) - No breakfast?
So what is the origin of this word I was taught way back when I was 14, "desayuno"? Does it have some secret meaning of which I'm unaware, or does it originate in some other Spanish-speaking country?
6th-Nov-2009 07:12 pm (UTC) - Re: No breakfast?
"Ayuno" means "fast," and "desayuno" literally means "dis-fast" or break-fast. In truth, Spaniards do desayunar, that is, eat a little something in the morning, usually a cup of coffee with milk and a bland, small cookie or two made for morning coffee. It breaks the fast, but not much.

Spanish dietitians are trying to convince them that breakfast is a healthy habit, especially for school children, but still, no one would have tortilla for breakfast here. Maybe toast, maybe cereal (Kellogg's is trying to make inroads), maybe a cup of hot chocolate (chocolate is considered good for breakfast), but on the whole, meals here just don't line up exactly with other countries. It's very hard to convince visiting relatives from the US that they must adjust their schedules, because the restaurants won't.
5th-Nov-2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
Mmmm. Sounds delish.
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