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Spanish Tortilla (sort of)

A dish like this is why I love having a mandoline/slicer: it makes quick work of potatoes, delivering lovely thin slices that cut down (ha, sorry) on the time required for something delicious like Spanish tortillas. In this case I started with Austrian fingerling potatoes, reducing two mutant fingerlings the size of small hands (well, nearly) into a pile of golden discs resembling poker chips. Yummy, starchy poker chips.

In a non-stick pan, I melted a generous gob of butter in a small puddle of olive oil over a medium flame; once the butter had foamed a bit, I added three stalks or stems or tendrils of fresh oregano and let those fry up, infusing the oil/butter with their aroma. These stalks I fished out and kept for later garnishing, and then it was time for the potatoes. The trick is in finding the balance between letting the slices bathe in the butter and brown, and flipping the pile around the pan to give each slice a chance to be at maximum heat and browning capacity.

After about 5  to 6 minutes of letting the potatoes fry, I added some ground cumin, salt, and a little later, some more fresh oregano, this time just the leaves.  The aroma was lovely, and the smaller potato slices were achieving a appetizing shade of brown crispiness. Time to add one small onion, sliced into short strands (really, it’s up to you). Here, it’s important to keep stirring so that the onion can brown and none of the potatoes burn.

I lost track of time but just keeping an eye on the pan contents and the occasional sniff will tell you when you’re nearing optimal done-ness. Or you can fish out a nice crunchy bit of potato and see if it’s cooked through the way you want. I look for dark brown onions as well as potatoes, with a timing that lands at a few judicious moments  before things might start smelling burnt.

Finally, to approximate a Spanish tortilla, whisk 2  or 3 eggs together, depending on how many potatoes you have, and pour the egg mix over the potato-onion mess. Feel free to add other spices to the eggs; since I already had cumin and oregano in the potatoes, I left the eggs plain, and just let them meld with the fried potatoes for a few moments. Remember to take eggs off the heat before they seem quite done, otherwise they will overcook and be dry.

The resulting dish, caramelized onions and golden-brown crisp potato slices infused with oregano and cumin and tied together with egg, can star at breakfast, lunch, or brunch – perhaps accompanied by a pile of greens or, better yet, a Mimosa. Being without orange juice, I served my Sort-Of-Spanish-Tortilla with shelled edamame and red leaf lettuce in a white-wine vinegar and olive oil dressing and did not miss the cocktail.

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