Instead of titling this “Easy Potato Tortilla (Omelette)” maybe we should have gone with “Guess who’s coming to dinner – Dominican style”.
My experiences of adjusting to Dominican customs and etiquette surrounding food and eating have become a theme – and possibly also a standing joke – of some of our articles here.
One such lesson that I learned the hard way is that no matter what, you never know how many people to expect when you ask people round to your house. There is no scientific way of anticipating or calculating this, because the possibilities, I came to realise, are random and infinite.
I’ve had situations where I’ve understood that a couple, i.e. two people, is coming round for dinner, only to be confronted with a veritable herd of guests: teenage children, friends they’ve picked up on the way, a nanny or maid, mothers-in-law and other random members of the extended family.
The best – or worst – example was when I invited a couple we know round for a couple of beers, not dinner, but upon finding I didn’t have the usual picadera to put out to go with the beer, I thought I’d make a small tortilla de papas (potato omelette), especially as it’s the husband’s favourite.
The tortilla in all its glory was waiting on the coffee table when their car drove up. Then we realised that not one but two cars were driving up: the couple’s car followed by their daughter’s car. It wasn’t just them, daughter and boyfriend, but in tow were also their son, their maid and another family of three who were visiting them for a couple of days. Errrm… you could have mentioned it.
Suddenly the tortilla looked comical, pathetic, even. While my husband organised the drinks, I swooped it back into the kitchen and did some fancy artwork with a knife, cutting it into bite-sized cubes, pierced with cocktail sticks.
It was probably just my fevered paranoid imagination, but the small plate still looked a little silly in the middle of the table, dwarfed by a total of eleven people sitting round and staring at it.
With this family in particular, having them over for a visit became a game in our household – we would run a mini-sweepstake in advance of their arrival, the winner being the one who come closest to guessing the number of last-minute guests they bring along.
I also take comfort in the fact that at least the tortilla incident didn’t involve a proper meal. I’ve now learned that I have to stop taking some of what my husband says at face value. He’s been known to call me at lunchtime saying he’s on his way home, and to let me know that “Pepe’s with me”. Even though I’m about to serve lunch, this doesn’t faze me. Four can eat just as easily as three.
I wish I could have seen the look on my own face when “Pepe” turns out to be Pepe, his wife, their two kids, plus one child apiece from their respective previous marriages, and Pepe’s Mum. Total = seven, where I thought there was just one.
Now it’s completely clear to me why my mother-in-law always cooked several times more food than was actually needed. You really never do know. In the campo days, of course, any leftovers could be fed to the animals anyway.
Taking my cue from my elders and betters, I discovered the solution to this problem. Always make large amounts of the sort of food that can be saved for the following day if not consumed.
- 1 1/2 lb [0.7 kg] of waxy potatoes (approx. 2 large potatoes)
- 5 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 lb [0.23 kg] of white onions (approx. 2 large onions) chopped finely
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly-grated nutmeg
- 5 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon of salt
Boil unpeeled potatoes over medium heat for 10 mins (counting from when it breaks a boil).
Remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature. Peel, if you cut the potatoes you should notice they're only partially cooked (see photo). Grate with the coarser side of the grater.
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over very low heat. Add onions and cook stirring occasionally until they turn translucent. Season with nutmeg and mix well.
Remove onions from the heat and mix with the shredded potatoes. Season with 3/4 teaspoon of salt (reserve remaining salt), mixing well.
Separate egg yolks and whites. Season whites with remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and whisk.
Pour yolks on potatoes, stir with a fork until they are thoroughly mixed. Reserve.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a 10" [25 cm] nonstick flip pan over very low heat.
In a deep bowl, combine the potato mix with the egg whites, whisking until thoroughly mixed and it has some bubbles.
Pour the mixture in the flip pan. Cover and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes, or until golden brown at the bottom. Flip and cook on the other side for 10 minutes.
Serve hot with a salad for a complete meal.