Sorry, guys, I was sleeping at the wheel last week. I woke up on Friday morning, proud and liberated that I'd finally finished the edit of my Times cookbook, and promptly realized that I'd totally forgotten to write my weekly cooking column here on food52. Merrill made me write "I am a very naughty food52er" fifty-two times on our whiteboard, and now all is forgiven.
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So, today, inspired by a huge bunch of flowering chives and fresh eggs that I'd bought at the Greenmarket (and marginally less inspired by the sprouting potatoes on my countertop), I set out to make tortilla, the Spanish egg-and-potato cake, with a chive and garlic aioli. My twins at my side, eager to make a mess, I got to work.
If you've never made tortilla, it's similar to a frittata but with more structure. I like to slice the potatoes super-thin on a mandoline because I like the layers of potato to appear like puff pastry, a fine strata. Before mixing them with the egg, we spread the slices of potato -- slicked with oil and seasoned with salt -- on a baking sheet and roasted them until the ones at the center were tender and those on the perimeter a little crisp. Once they cooled, we mixed them with just enough beaten eggs to coat them like a sauce -- and you want to get in there and mix them with your hands so you can separate the potato slices. If you're doing this with 3-year-olds, watch with mild alarm as they lick their fingers.
I cooked the tortilla in a well-seasoned, round-sided cast iron skillet to create the famous rounded button shape known to tortilla. You can use whatever kind of pan you want, but if you'd like to avoid screaming when your tortilla sticks to the base of the pan, then use either well-seasoned cast iron or nonstick.
Then it's all about low and slow -- let the tortilla crisp slowly like you would duck skin. And turn it a few times (do this over the sink so any hot oil drips into the sink and not onto your toes or into the crevices of your stove).
And don't forget the aioli, which is a bit of a cheat. We made a chive and garlic oil by puréeing the heck out of the chives, a few garlic cloves and just enough oil to bind them. It should be pulpy and a little coarse. Then my kids whisked this into Hellmann's mayonnaise until they declared it adequately "spicy." You can make your own mayonnaise if you want, and we will applaud you.
Tortilla with Chive and Garlic Aioli
Serves 6 as an hors d'oeuvre or 2 for lunch (with salad)
1 3/4 pounds white or baking potatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for cooking the tortilla
6 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chives cut into 1-inch-long slices
5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise, or homemade
1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel the potatoes, then rinse them. Slice them as thinly as possible (1/16 inch thick) on a mandoline, and discard the nubby ends. Spread the potato slices on a baking sheet, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with salt and toss to coat -- do this with your hands, which is the only way to coat them evenly; plus it's good for your skin.
2. Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes. Turn the potatoes with a spatula and roast for another 10. The potatoes are done when they're tender and the ones on the perimeter are getting brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and let cool.
3. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk until blended and frothy. Add the cooled potatoes and a good bunch of pepper (I like it coarse). Blend with your hands, taking care to separate the potato slices without breaking them.
4. Generously coat the base of a well-seasoned 9-inch cast iron (or nonstick) skillet with olive oil and set over medium heat. Crush two of the garlic cloves and add to the pan. When they begin sizzling, slide in the egg and potato mixture. Arrange and press the potatoes so they're mostly lying flat. Reduce the heat to low (or medium-low if you have a meek stove) and let cook for 20 minutes. Check from time to time, slipping a spatula under one edge and lifting, to see if the tortilla is cooking too slowly or too quickly. By the end of 20 minutes, the base should be golden brown.
5. Now get ready to turn it -- this is the only tricky part about making tortilla. Get a baking sheet without a raised edge (or thin cutting board) and lay it, inverted, over the skillet. Then using oven mitts on both hands, lift the skillet, holding the pan on top and take it over to your sink, then swiftly invert the two, so the tortilla falls onto the baking sheet. Set down on the counter. Breathe.
6. If any pieces stick to the skillet, pry them off and either patch up the tortilla or eat the bits. Add more oil to the skillet if needed, then slide the tortilla back into the skillet (browned side up) and place back on the heat to cook the other side, 15 minutes.
7. Now don't hate me, but I'm going to have you flip the tortilla again and cook it for 10 more minutes on the first side. Then you can shut off the heat and call it done. Serve it at room temperature, inverted onto a platter.
8. Time to make the aioli: combine the chives and remaining 3 cloves garlic in a food processor or blender. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil through the feed tube and let it purée until the chives are fully pulverized. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Season with salt.
9. Put the mayonnaise in a bowl. Add the chive-and-garlic oil, 1 tablespoon at a time (to taste), and blend with the mayonnaise. Adjust seasoning as desired. Serve alongside the tortilla, which should be cut into wedges.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).