Thursday, November 8, 2007

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, More.

It's entirely possible that I've hailed something as my favorite comfort food before, but it would have been a lie. It's actually what you see before you, a really rustic and simple dish that in Spain goes by many different names. In my family we call this dish patatas revueltas con huevo, as my grandmother did. But, if you visit old Madrid, home to some of the oldest restaurants in Europe, you'll see them called patatas estrelladas. They all essentially mean the same thing, they're basically just home fries with a scrambled egg or two. Restaurants usually serve them more like stubby little fries with scrambled eggs on top, but we make them a bit differently.

My fondness for the dish started as many favorites do, with my grandmother. It's really just a poor man's version of tortilla espaƱola, a dish somewhere between a quiche and a fritatta, and consisting only of potatoes, eggs, and onions. This version really is a poor man's treat, originating with peasants who had no more than a sack of potatoes and the eggs from their own coop with which to feed their families.

For us it started with a roadtrip from D.C. to Florida. My parents and I drove there in a day (barely, about 22 hours) to visit my grandparents who were spending the summer in our apartment in Miami. Tired of road food and potato chips, we finally stopped at a gas station and called my grandparents from a payphone begging for a warm meal. It was the middle of the night and we were only 30 minutes away, so my elderly grandmother did what she could with a half a dozen potatoes and three eggs. She worried that it wouldn't be a satisfactory enough meal after such a long journey, but before any of us knew it, all of the food was gone and we were begging for more. I don't know if it's the memory of how it felt to eat it for the first time that night, or that I know she always made the dish with love, but every time I make that dish at home I'm instantly comforted.

And I was definitely in need of some comfort when I came home Wednesday night to a note telling me that my elevator would be out of service until at least the 15th of November. So, just like some people go to their "happy place" when frustrated, I grabbed my sack of Yukon golds and got to chopping. It's possible that this is an entire plate of carbs talking, but I guarantee it'll be the most comforting meal you've had in years. Here's how to make it for yourself:

Patatas Revueltas con Huevo (Potato and Egg Scramble)

3 large Yukon gold potatoes
2 cups vegetable oil (approx)

2 eggs

2 Tbsp sugar (sounds weird, but go with me on this)

1. Thinly slice potatoes, no thicker than 1/8 of an inch to ensure even cooking. When you're halfway through slicing, start heating the oil on medium high in a large pan.

2. Salt and sugar potatoes and carefully add to the oil. The oil should almost cover the potatoes but not quite (they will shrink as they cook). When the potatoes are about halfway cooked through and the bottom layer is crunchy and browned, flip them over and cook until done.

3. Remove potatoes from the oil, and remove oil from pan (I actually save it in a metal oil canister and use it the next time I make any kind of fried potato) and lower the heat to medium low. Add potatoes back to the pan and crack both eggs over them. Scramble the eggs with the potatoes, then let them sit and flip everything over every 5 seconds or so until eggs are cooked through (I like them as soft and fluffy as possible, it always takes less than a minute. The idea is to let the warmth of the potatoes cook the egg as much as possible, not the heat of the pan.

**TIP: You can use this same method minus the eggs to make a killer batch of home fries. In addition to the salt and the sugar, season the potatoes with a tsp of paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, and 1/2 tsp pepper (I prefer white pepper). Fry them up the same way, only on slightly lower heat and you're all set. If you like yours spicy, use hot paprika, or for fire eaters, add 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. You can save the oil from this dish as well, so long as it didn't burn. Try frying up some eggs in it and serving them over white rice. Yum!


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