Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Girly Arms

Remember when you were a kid, and your mother, your teacher, or some other caring adult told you that lie about sticks and stones, and words never hurting you? Well, it has been my experience that words may not break your bones, but they sure do manage to pulverize your ego from time to time. This all came to mind last night as my quest to use up the contents of my fridge and freezer came to an interesting crossroads. You see, when I got home from work and opened the fridge, I came face to face with a sack of potatoes and several eggs. With my background, the obvious meal to make from these ingredients for me would be a tortilla española (kind of like a potato frittata, only it doesn't go in the oven). The problem with this dish is that it requires more than just the slightest ability to cook--it also requires muscle.

A tortilla española is traditionally fairly large, somewhere between 10 and 12 inches in diameter. It's cooked on one side in a large pan, then must be flipped out onto a large plate (without spilling hot oil over yourself) and then flipped back into the pan on the uncooked side. Growing up, my mother--who on a good day is just about 5 feet tall--would always summon my father to do the tortilla flipping. If it's done incorrectly, a spoiled dinner is the least of your problems--you've also got egg on your face and an arm covered in hot grease.

This all proved to be a problem as I considered making a tortilla last night for dinner. All of a sudden I was remembering my junior year of college and how two of my ridiculously in shape roommates used to make fun of my arms. After four days of being called girly arms, and three days of wearing long sleeves in June, I finally agreed to go to the gym with them. It only took two days of painful and intense weightlifting for me to feign a cold (in June) and give up on our group exercise. Although I'm no longer self-conscious about my arms, I do acknowledge that they continue to be the weakest part of my body. After some thought, I decided that I needed to be a big girl and take the bull by the horns. After all, if my grandmother and other tiny women all over Spain can flip a tortilla, then so can I.

So, with my mind made up, I made a traditional tortilla but decided to use up one more ingredient in my fridge and added in some chorizo. When the time came to flip, I suited up with an oven mitt in one hand and a kitchen towel in the other. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about--the flip came off without a hitch, and the tortilla was perfect. So if any of you girly arms out there want to give it a try, just be careful, and here's how to go about it:

Tortilla Española (with chorizo)

3 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt
1/2 cup chorizo, chopped
2 cups vegetable oil

1. Heat oil on medium high heat. Meanwhile, season potatoes with salt and add them to the hot oil.

2. Cook potatoes, flipping them occasionally until soft and just cooked through, then remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate to cool for a few minutes. Drain the pan of all oil but 2 teaspoons and return it to the heat.

3. Add the potatoes and chorizo to the egg and carefully stir to combine. Pour the egg mixture back into the hot pan, shaking it occasionally to make sure the tortilla does not stick.

4. When the tortilla stays together and moves easily in the pan, check to make sure there is no excess oil bubbling up around the edges. Then flip it out onto a large plate or lid, and return it to the pan, uncooked side down. Cook until the bottom side is done and the tortilla easily slides out of the pan (shouldn't be more than 3 minutes). Enjoy!


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