She stopped, mid-snap, lens nearly abutting the plate. My camera broke, she said.
Your camera broke? he said.
I don’t know. Yes. Maybe. Do you hear this? It clicks when it’s supposed to focus.
Nah, I don’t hear anything.
She twisted off the lens and twisted on another one. Please focus, please focus, please focus, she whispered.
It focused. OK, she announced, it’s not the camera, it’s the lens.
The lens? he said.
How’d it break? he said.
I don’t know.
Are you sure it’s the lens?
She pointed the camera out the window and depressed the button halfway. With a whirring sound, the lens zoomed forward and back. Hear that? she said. See that? It made a zooming sound. It moved.
OK, let’s try the other lens, the one that didn’t work a few seconds ago.
She twisted off the lens and twisted on the first one. Please focus, please focus, please focus, she whispered.
She pointed the camera down the hall and depressed the button halfway. Click. The lens stayed put.
OK, it’s definitely the lens which is good. But, she said looking at him, this is the lens. The darling of all food bloggers lens. The lens.
She twisted off the lens. Squinting, she held it up to her eye and moved it forward and back until his face came into focus. Upside-down, but in focus.
You have manual override on the lens? he asked.
Yes, on the camera.
On the lens?
No, on the camera. I think. I don’t know. Maybe I should get the manual. Maybe I should read the manual, she muttered.
He took the lens. He turned it around in his hands. He fiddled with the rings, the ones that spin, the ones that don’t budge. He pulled, he prodded. The lens didn’t move.
She turned away to tap on her computer, downloading the manual.
He tapped her shoulder. I think I got it.
She twisted the lens back on. She took a few steps back and pointed the camera at his hands. She half pressed the button. His hands came into focus. She exhaled and smiled. She turned the camera away from her face, pointed to the right and pushed the button again, watching the lens move forward and back.
You fixed it!
Yeah, I fix shit. Can we eat now?
As I mentioned in my last post, tortilla española is a Spanish potato omelette, similar to an Italian frittata. I adapted Mark Bittman’s recipe in How to Cook Everything (the yellow cover). My tortilla differs from the traditional Spanish dish in a few ways. In Spain, the tortilla is more egg than potato, is very light in color, and is flipped over onto a plate so that it looks like a thin, slightly domed cake. I brown my potatoes, add parsley, and serve my tortilla right out of the skillet. Recipes generally either call for russet (“Idaho”) or thin-skinned potatoes – I tried both and preferred the russets (over fingerlings).
While we’re talking about following recipes (or, more accurately, not following recipes), check out this recent NYTimes article about Chris Kimball of Cook’s Illustrated and his philosophy of the art vs science of cooking. If you want an authentic tortilla española and are good at following recipes, check out my friend Molly’s recipe or a couple of others I found online here and here.
Serves 4, at least.
- 2 – 3 medium-sized russet potatoes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/3 C olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6 eggs (or more, depending on how much potato you have)
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 t hot paprika
Slice. Cut the potatoes width-wise into 1/8-inch slices (don’t bother peeling them). I use a mandoline on the 3-mm setting. If you don’t have one, get out a sharp knife and a cutting board and slice the potatoes as thinly as you can.
Cook. Over medium-high, heat the oil in a large skillet (I used a 10-inch one; non-stick is best) until shimmering. Pile the potatoes into the skillet – it’ll be pretty crowded. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Every few minutes, turn the potatoes over carefully, bringing some of the top layer down to the bottom, and trying not to break them (too much), until the potatoes soften and start to brown. This should take about 20 minutes. Traditional recipes suggest that you not brown the potatoes, but I prefer them a bit crispy, almost like hash browns. If you notice your potatoes browning, and you want to make a tortilla that could be served in a tapas bar, turn down the heat.
Slice again. While the potatoes are cooking, use your mandoline/knife to slice the onion into very thin half-moons. Mince the garlic.
Preheat. Around now, you’ll want to turn on your oven to 375°F.
Keep cooking. Add the onions to the potatoes, continuing to turn everything over every few minutes, and cook for another 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and mix everything together again, cooking for another 2 minutes. If you’re counting, that’s 32 minutes on the stove top.
NOTE. The original recipe suggests that you take the potatoes out of the skillet and cook the onions and garlic on their own. I didn’t want to dirty another bowl, but it probably would have made my life easier. If you are going to do that, here’s the deal: After cooking the potatoes for 20 minutes, transfer them to a bowl. Pour a bit more oil into the skillet and cook the onions for about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Then, add back the potatoes and mix everything together, letting it cook together for another 5 minutes.
Beat. In a bowl, beat the eggs. Finely chop the parsley and add 1/2 cup of it to the eggs along with the paprika.
Shake. Once the potatoes are tender – try one, it should taste good – turn the heat to low and pour the egg into the skillet. Shake the skillet around to distribute the eggs. (If it looks like you don’t have enough egg, quickly beat another one or two with the parsley left in the bowl, and pour it into the skillet.) Gently lift the potatoes here and there so that the egg can get into all the nooks and crannies. Then let everything cook for about 5 minutes until the edges of the eggs begin to set.
Bake. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are set, around 10 more minutes.
Serve. Let the tortilla cool to room temperature. I like to slice up the tortilla right in the pan.