Spring arrives today in the northern hemisphere, Easter in a few weeks, and I have eggs in mind, a Spanish-style omelet. I bought the most recent dozen from Stoney Plains Organic Farm, gorgeous fresh eggs with a yolk vivid enough to sweep away winter doldrums. Hail Spring!
The explanation for the hefty price of free-range eggs has something to do with the dynamics of increased corn production for ethanol and the resulting decrease in production of other less expensive feed. Sorry to take you from fresh yolks to ethanol, but that’s part of the story.
Biologically speaking, eggs are the basic reproductive cell in animals and plants and a perfect metaphor for spring. Thus, eggs are on the local table along with potatoes and leeks. The leeks, chartreuse and gorgeous, I would put in my food for looks alone, but it so happens they’re not just a pretty face.
When I first read about a Spanish Omelet I was attracted to the potatoes part of the recipe, lots of them in relation to the eggs. It’s apparently a common meal in Spain, made in large quantities with leftovers for a workday lunch. Just as good at room temperature the next day I read somewhere, and it’s true.
The first time I made this omelet I followed the recipe in the cookbook, Recipes from a Spanish Village by Pepita Aris, and proceeded precisely as directed, using all the olive oil recommended, a half-cup. I cooked the potatoes, removed the potatoes, drained the oil, added the eggs, all of it back into the pan and then back out again for the flipping. I suppose turning over the entire panful of potatoes and egg is made easier with copious amounts of oil. We’d fired up a cast iron pan, filled it with the requisite olive oil, potatoes and eventually eggs. Sailing along until we had to flip that sucker over and out, then slip it back into the pan topside down.
Two of us barely managed this feat, we could have used a few more hands. Two for the pan, two for the plate, two more eyes for guidance, and then another pair just to talk us through it and boost morale. OK I exaggerate. With practice it’s not so difficult, but it seemed a formidable task that first time.
We fell in love with the Spanish omelet and have modified the process in the meantime – less oil, and flipping it over is optional since it finishes well in a hot oven. Once you have the basic process down add whatever other ingredients you fancy – in this case a pile of the beautiful leeks. It’s become a favorite fast food supper, embellished with whatever we have on hand.
Spanish Omelet with Leeks Recipe
Also called a Spanish Tortilla. Serves 4.
4 C finely grated potatoes
1 large, or 2 small, cleaned and finely sliced leeks (remove the outer layer and the tough leaves at the end of the stalk)
6 eggs, whisked with 1/2 C milk or cream
1/4 C Olive oil (a little less is fine too)
Sauté leeks in olive oil until tender, 6 or 7 minutes/ Add grated potatoes, salt & pepper to taste and cook on medium heat, stirring often until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes/ This is a good time to stir in a tablespoon or two of fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, tarragon/ Turn heat down to medium-low and add eggs/ Add a little more salt & pepper, stir the mix gently, allowing the eggs to begin to set/ Traditionally, the omelet is slipped onto a plate at this point and then returned to the pan topside down to finish cooking/ Or, as I often do, remove pan from the burner and finish cooking eggs in a 400º pre-heated oven – it takes just a few minutes.
Here’s the thing: cooking the eggs just so is the difference between a heavenly meal and one that’s taken a nosedive in the other direction. I keep an eye on these eggs as if they were an expensive cut of meat, which they almost are. The fine line between tender and tough can be less than a minute’s worth of cooking (same as meat come to think of it). If you time it right the potatoes are tender, eggs creamy and, in this case, leeks are a caramelized and savory counterpoint.
Eat this plain or serve with whatever strikes your fancy: sausage, caramelized onion and peppers, sour cream, chives, spicy tomato sauce. I’ve scurried into the herb garden twice already for this batch, just a hint at what an herb garden can mean for a kitchen. More about that next week.
Or . . . let the omelet cool, cut into small squares, put a touch of leek dip (recipe below) on top of each morsel, toothpicks on the side. Voilà, Tapas.
This dip is a lot like the classic Onion Dip, but this one’s beautified with flecks of sautéed leek.
Too easy. This is the general idea, not a fussy recipe, add more or less of almost anything you like.
Sauté thinly sliced leeks, 1 large or two small, in butter and olive oil – a tablespoon of each, with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Medium heat. When tender, after eight or ten minutes, turn off the heat and allow to partly cool. In the meantime, stir together a cup or so of sour cream along with 1/2 C mayonnaise, 1-teaspoon garlic powder and 1 t dried dill (or 1 T fresh dill). Stir in the leeks, mix thoroughly and refrigerate for an hour. Bring on the chips.
There has to be a poem for the first day of spring, March 20th, 9:43 p.m., but who’s counting? Spring, by Mary Oliver.