Tonight, we went on a viaje sobre mis memorias de Espana.
I studied abroad in Spain in 2005 and had an incredible experience. 1 month in a tiny pueblo outside of Segovia (Fuente el Olmo de Fuentiduena) and then 3 months in Madrid.
Though Madrid was wonderful, the pueblo experience was absolutely unforgettable. My hosts, Jose and Julia, were retired and lived in a tiny village with a year-round population of about 100. The nearest pay phone and mail box were a 10-minute bike ride away. Their gardens, vineyard, chicken coop, and other incredible fruits of their labor were much, much closer.
Julia was often engaged in cooking, and Jose kept himself busy with the manual work of tending to tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, grapes, chickens, and the rambling house that they had built and added onto over the years. I spent countless hours in their little courtyard asking incessant questions: how do you make your own chorizo? What’s your secret for perfect gazpacho? What are you putting on those tomato plants? How do you make homemade wine?
One thing I learned about Spanish cuisine was its incredible range. This was especially true in the pueblo, where freshly picked summer produce yielded light and refreshing fare or a recently killed hog meant hearty nourishment throughout the cold winter. (Though I only lived in the pueblo for a month, I came back and visited often).
So, now that you’ve been down memory lane with me for a bit, I can tell you about our dinner tonight. On the left, gazpacho made with heirloom tomatoes and locally-grown cucumber from a farmer’s market. On the right, skillet-fried potatoes, diced Spanish chorizo, and a soft-boiled egg. Light and refreshing, meet hearty & heavy. Full spectrum in one plate!
The secret to patatas fritas (fried potatoes) is olive oil and patience. Cut potatoes in thick fries, leaving the skin on. Pour olive oil in a big skillet, so that it’s about 1/4 or 1/3 of an inch deep. Heat on medium – you want it shimmering, but not smoking.
Add the potatoes, cook on one side for 5-7 minutes, then carefully flip them. Cook another 3-5 minutes, depending on how crispy you want them. They should be golden-brown before flipping, and then also before taking them off. Drain on a plate with a paper towel and season with salt.
The traditional dish is served with an egg that’s quickly fried in the same oil, but tonight we wanted to try a new soft-boil technique. We also diced some chorizo for an extra hearty Spanish twist:
These two ends of the spectrum may be loose representations of both sides of the Spanish food story, but they don’t come close to telling the full story. *sigh* When can we go back?