City Bites

BEHIND THE SCENES: Chloe Berlanga’s Tortillas de Patatas recipe

Chloe and Charlotte horse around during the photo shoot. That's the tortilla, behaving itself, in the foreground (far right).

There’s a story in the November issue of the magazine, “Stirring the Pot” where I wrote about the all-girls potluck dinner. It was a bit of an experiment. The idea was to gather together six of the city’s kick-ass cooks (who happened to be women) to chat about their experiences in the food industry and see what happened. Here’s a little peek behind the scenes. While photographer Rémi Thériault got to work snapping pictures and quickly endearing himself to the brazen group of young chefs, it seemed as if by magic, a spectacular feast was prepared.

At first I refused to join in the meal. I was working, after all. But everything looked and smelled wonderful and I quickly caved. And so did Rémi. An amazing thing happens when so much culinary talent is in one place with the goal of simply cooking dinner for each other, as friends and colleagues. The food was rustic but elegant, delicious and generous — much like the food these women cook at work. Yet somehow this was a meal you’d never find in a restaurant.

Anna March made an enormous mountain of jewel-toned roasted beets with globs of creamy goat cheese; Charlotte Langley seared up fresh tuna with spicy tomatillo sauce and cubes of sweet watermelon; Katie Brown sautéed a rainbow of heirloom carrots; Trish Larkin seared up the biggest and most beautifully marbled piece of meat I’ve ever seen; and of course, Pascale Berthiaume brought some of her decadent ice cream sandwiches.

But the dish that made the biggest impression was in some ways the most homely. Chloe Berlanga brought an enormous Spanish tortilla (the same one she has been known to make as staff meal at the Whalesbone). After grabbing a sample off the cutting board I immediately began harassing her for the recipe. “It’s one of those ones you eye rather than measure,” she said, probably hoping I wouldn’t pursue it. But I followed up with her by email and she agreed to try to recreate the recipe, roughly, on paper. Chloe was about 14 when she learned how to make this dish from her aunt in her tiny Madrid apartment. “This dish takes time and patience, rushing this would result in the most horrible crunchy omelette,” says Chloe. “When made right, it is simply amazing. I love that it uses the most common and cheap ingredients, too. This is definitely home cooking.”

Tortillas de Patatas

Ingredients:

1 kg of potatoes

1 kg of onions

1 dozen eggs

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

Directions:

Start by slicing the onions finely and melt them nice and slow in enough olive oil to cover your pan. While these are sweating, slice the potatoes thinly, skin on, with a mandoline. They should be quite fine but not translucent. Don’t forget to keep an eye on those melting onions, try to bring them as far as you can without browning them.

Bring a nice heavy bottomed sauté pan to med high heat. When the pan is evenly hot, pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom generously and throw in the potatoes, coarse salt and black pepper. Sauté the potatoes until they become very soft, and some of them start browning.

Use a wooden spoon to scratch the sticky ones and don’t be afraid to add olive oil if you see it needs it. When this is done, put both onions and potatoes in a large bowl, toss together, taste and adjust seasoning.

While this is cooling down, break your dozen eggs in a large bowl and whisk well. Wash the pan you used for the potatoes and bring it to medium high heat again. Pour the eggs onto the potatoes and mix well. When the pan is evenly hot, give it enough olive oil to cover the bottom and a bit more and pour everything into the hot pan. It will sizzle on the sides, lower the heat to medium and let it get to a crispy, golden brown, shaking the pan every once in a while to make sure it isn’t sticking to the sides.

When the eggs have mostly set and the tortilla is nicely golden, flip it onto a large plate. If your pan has sticky bits, wash it and heat it again, add olive oil and slide the tortilla back in so that the golden side is up, let it go golden on that side as well, and slide onto your serving plate.

I love serving this room temperature with a herbed tomato salad.