Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tortilla española con chayote

Tortilla española with chayote
Tortilla means something different depending on which Spanish speaking country you’re in. Growing up, a tortilla was something I would watch the Mexican neighbors cook over the flames of their gas stoves: flat flour or corn bread that you wrapped around meat or butter and sugar, or rolled up to push around the beans and rice and salsa on your plate.
When I went to Spain, I found that a Spanish tortilla was a different beast altogether. It’s more like a fritatta, I suppose, although tortilla can also refer to an omelet, so I suppose it’s rather omelet-like, although heartier.
The Spanish tortilla is traditionally onion, egg and potatoes. It is one of the first things that I remember my Spanish friends teaching me how to make. In the typical preparation, you peel and cut up a bunch of potatoes, boil them in olive oil, remove the oil from the pan, add the onions, and pour the egg over it, making a sort of crustless quiche, or fritatta without all the additional ingredients. In Spain they have special pans that basically mirror each other, so that you can flip the tortilla when the bottom is done without having to worry about ruining the nice cake shape. The tortilla can then be served hot, or cold in a sandwich. (The first time I ever ate tortilla española it was served sliced and cold on a plate; I was not impressed.
At any rate, I usually add extra fun things to my tortilla española when I make it now: red peppers, spinach, lots of garlic, and oftentimes sweet potatoes. Here in Panama, I have regular access to chayote, which is a vegetable in the squash family, that looks like a large pear and tastes much like a buttery but less starchy potato. I decided that chayote could be a substitute for potatoes – one, since I didn’t have any, and two because I’m trying to avoid root vegetables as part of a candida diet – so I tried it out.
I started by peeling the chayote and cubing it, then sauteing it with onions and garlic. Since it’s not as starchy as a potato, it doesn’t need to be boiled or cooked near as long. Besides, I always want my vegetables a little bit carmelized, so this was my solution. I cooked the vegetables in coconut oil, one because it’s sweet (which I’ve been craving since I had to cut out all sugar) two because it is highly recommended as a candida fighting ingredient, and three because it’s a tropical oil and it seemed to make sense to add it to a tropical version of a tortilla española.
So. I sautéed the chayote, onions, garlic and peppers in coconut oil, and as soon as the onions were clear and the chayote could be easily pierced with a fork, I scrambled up some eggs and poured them over the top. I turned down the heat pretty low and put a lid on it and let it cook.
Because of the less starchy nature of the chayote, the size of my pan and the fact that I was not making the tortilla as thick as it would normally be, I didn’t need to flip it: cooking it at a low temperature with a lid on it ensured that it cooked through without need of a special pan.

Buen provecho!