Campus cooking: a Sunday morning tortilla
Editor's note: When Maverick Farms core group member Hillary Wilson isn't spending her summers picking and packing salad greens and waiting tables at farm dinners, she's a student at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, North Carolina. She attained some important cooking skills when she spent a year in Spain while in high school, as the below account will show.
By Hillary Wilson
Every Sunday morning, my dorm mates and I all join in to make a big breakfast feast. A few weeks ago it was my turn to cook. I made yogurt from fresh raw milk from our college's one dairy cow. We also had pancakes, with fresh blueberries from a nearby u-pick farmer. The maple syrup to accompany was from a friends' farm in Vermont. Since we had loads of potatoes from the garden, and none of the girls in my suite had ever tried one, I made a tortilla Espanola for the main dish. Normally when I make a tortilla, I have a cast iron skillet, not a Teflon skillet; I also usually have a sharp knife, not a dull paring knife. This made things a bit more difficult--but, perhaps, also more, triumphant.
To make a tortilla, you need potatoes, eggs, lots of oil, and whatever vegetables or meats you have on hand to mix in. First lightly fry moderately thin potato slices until soft and turning golden but not yet crispy. Remove the potatoes from the pan, let cool while you crack about a dozen eggs into a bowl. Salt the potatoes and add them into the eggs. I usually add in onion, greens, some strong cheese, sausage (chorizo if I have it), etc. But you can also keep it simply potatoes and eggs. Make sure there is plenty of oil in the frying pan, heat the pan and pour the egg mixture into the pan, and cover the top so it begins to solidify throughout. The tortilla will create a nice crust on the bottom and sides, but be careful not to let it burn!
At this point you can either put the tortilla under the broiler in the oven, thus avoiding the possibility of dropping it on the floor, or you can try to flip it and slid it back into the pan to cook on both sides in the oils, creating a more crispy crust. Once it is cooked on both sides, and is solid throughout, flip the tortilla out onto a serving platter; serve hot or cold, preferably with fresh, homemade mayonnaise and good thickly sliced bread.
I have made a lot of tortillas in the last few years, a few of which have ended up on the floor, and so have gotten used to finishing the tortillas off in the oven. But the other morning when I was cooking for my dorm mates, I realized (a little too late) that the pan I was cooking in was Teflon with a had a plastic handle, so there was no way I was getting away with putting it under the broiler. Also, Teflon pans have sloping sides, which makes it all the more difficult to flip out of the pan. Flipping the tortilla means making sure the crust comes clean off the pan all the way around and slides around in the pan. Then with an oversized baking sheet placed over the pan, flip the tortilla out of the pan onto the baking sheet and slide it immediately (before it has time to settle) back into the pan with bottom side up. Fortunately, despite my being out of practice in tortilla-flipping technique, it worked!
I presented my dorm mates with a tortilla Espanola, given a UFO shape from the slope-sided pan, as the centerpiece of our breakfast feast. I believe they enjoyed it, probably as much for its shape and form as for its flavor. When I told them that in Spain freshly made mayonnaise is the usual condiment to the tortilla, they didn't seem too impressed with the European willingness to find any occasion to smother food with fresh mayonnaise. They'll learn.