One afternoon, when I was a kid, I told my mom that I was going to run away and go live with my grandma in Texas. I had packed a paper bag full of my stuffed animals and figured I’d just hop one of the trains that passed right by our house every day. Without even missing a beat, my mom called my bluff and said, “Okay, but first you’ll have to take a bath.” I couldn’t have been more than six and that bath eventually turned into a nap. My mother, who had dealt with six of my siblings before me, clearly knew how to outsmart her kids so she could get on with her day and her errands. And she did it all with the patience of a saint.
Mother’s symbolize so much in our world, it’s a shame we only pick one day to celebrate them. I was reminded today of all the mother’s I’ve known that are now gone, and how lucky I am to still be able to pick up the phone and have mine answer, even if it’s only to tell me how she didn’t win anything at bingo or what she ate at the last party she got invited to. This morning when I called her to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, she told me about the special mass the local church gave in honor of all the mothers, and how she was given flowers and blessed by the priest and serenaded with a traditional Mexican song, “Las Mañanitas.” It’s a song of celebration and every time I hear it I get goosebumps and lose it. It is a small tribute to a woman of immeasurable courage. My mother has endured a lot in her life and yet she continues to have the patience and strength of a saint.
I spent the last six years putting out nice meals for everyone else’s mother, that this year, I decided to create a little something in honor of my own. Here’s to a little lady with a feisty spirit, my Mom.
4 large red potatoes
1 large yellow onion
1 large green bell pepper
1 tsp salt
Yields: 8 servings
Peel red potatoes. Cut into quarters, lengthwise. Cut evenly into 1/4″ slices and place in a bowl. Set aside.
Cut bell pepper and onion into medium dice.
In a non-stick pan, over medium heat, add potatoes and enough olive oil (about two cups) to cover them. When I learned this recipe from a Spanish chef in Barcelona, the other Americans in class nearly fell out of their seats. That’s a lot of oil! Yes, but the potatoes only sit in it for as long as it takes to lightly simmer them or, until you can easily slide the tip of a knife through them, about 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat. Be careful not to brown any of the potatoes. Once that’s done, you can drain them from the oil and set them aside.
Using some of the same oil, saute until slightly tender, the green pepper and onion. Add to the potatoes.
Season all the vegetables with salt and then add in the scrambled eggs.
Add about 2 TBS of the remaining olive oil to the pan and pour in the potato-egg mixture. Once the rim of the tortilla has set, take a small spatula and go around the sides of the pan to make sure it doesn’t stick. When it releases from the sides, you know it’s ready to flip.
Take a plate that’s slightly larger than your pan and place it on top of the pan. Use your dominant or strongest hand to hold the plate firmly again the pan so it doesn’t slip. If it’s your first try, do this over a sink. With a hot pad, grip the handle of the pan with your other hand, as close to where it actually connects to the pan and, quickly, in one motion, flip the tortilla onto the plate. Set it down and pour another 1 TBS of oil back into the pan. Carefully slide the tortilla from the front end of the plate, back into the pan. Take your spatula and tuck the edges under all the way around. Cook until the tortilla feels firm, about 10 minutes over medium-low heat.
When it’s done, set a plate on top of the pan again and invert the tortilla onto the plate.
I must have eaten at least a dozen tortillas in Spain the last time I visited. Some had tasty things in them like chorizo or smoked fish. Some had beautifully thin slices of potato that made up most of the tortilla and had very little egg. They tasted great room temperature but you always got asked if you wanted it warmed up which brought out more of the flavors. They’re really quite easy to make once you get the hang of it and the right potato to egg ratio. I’ve made some with smoked salmon, dill and smoked gouda or potato, piquillo peppers and smoked paprika.
If you have a saute pan that’s deep enough, you can also toss in the onions and green peppers in the same pan with the simmering potatoes when they’re about halfway cooked. This will give your tortilla a little more flavor than cooking the other vegetables separately.
To reheat, simply microwave for about 2-3 minutes depending on thickness or place in the oven until warmed through.