Tuesday, March 13, 2007

You say Tortilla and I Say Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

Food 911 with Tyler Florence
Tapas Premiere

Potato and Chorizo Tortilla
Stewed Chickpeas and Calamari
Mussels in Green Olive sauce
Serrano Ham and Melon
Manchego Quince Skewers

To get the recipes:
Click here

I’m happy to see that Tyler is going to focus on Spanish Tapas, which trust me, is something you want to add your culinary repertoire. The dishes may seem a little strange and yet old fashioned at the same time, but they are muy rico, creo me…His “souschef” for this program is a USC film student, Jed Jenkins. Wait a second…My daughter went to USC. And she was a film student…Who did Jed know to get Tyler to come to his digs and cook for him?? Oh my gosh, there’s the USC campus. FIGHT ON! AND Jed is wearing a YELLOW USC shirt. (Not the typical red but a really good look.) I must say, though, that poor Jed looks a bit pale for living in southern California. Maybe cooking some robust Spanish dishes with the robust Tyler Florence is just what he needs.

Tyler starts with a Spanish Tortilla, which he distinguishes from a Mexican tortilla by explaining that it’s a ‘big fat egg pie”. Ok, maybe not the most poetic description, but he’s not exactly dealing with Wolfgang Puck here (or as we’ll see later, not even Dave Thomas). Our chef to the rescue does a heavy solid on the egg-breaking by doing it with one hand. (He is a bit of a showoff, but I kinda like it.) I would have liked to have seen, though, a complete hand-washing after all the eggs are cracked and he goes onto ANYTHING else. Adds ingreds to the pan – chorizo (awesome), potatoes…and starts frying. STOP! Where are the onions? I’m getting worried. No way is a Spanish Tortilla getting made in my house, even if it is only on television, without onions. ADD the onions, Tyler. Even
Jed-boy should notice the difference. Ty’s putting some stuff into the eggs –MILK? Say it isn’t so - and pouring it over the potatoes..AND THEN he’s putting it in the oven! Quelle Horreur! It should be cooked on top of the stove; onions; no milk – it’s pretty basic.

Ok, I know having had two babies in Madrid may not qualify me as a tortilla expert, but eating over 7000 of them does and studying MANY different recipes does and this ain’t your mother’s tortilla. Do yourselves (and your mothers) a favor and get a copy of Food and Wine of Spain
by Penelope Casas. HER Tortilla Espanola is a perfect example of the best of Spanish cooking – simple ingredients, handled with care and if that doesn’t work, tart up the whole thing with a heck of alot of olive oil. Penny learned Spanish cooking at the stove of her mother-in-law and has translated it perfectly in this book for all of us Norteamericanos.

Learn more about Penelope Casas
. I’m guessing she doesn’t want to part with her superb Tortilla Espanola recipe, except in her book, but here’s her
Tortilla Milagros (and it is a miracle of good eating) which is much the same. The Milagros uses cubed and chopped onions, instead of sliced and in 1982, she felt that ONE cup of olive oil was enough to cook all those potatoes and onions in, but now she says TWO cups. Start with one and use more if you need to coat the potatoes more. You’re draining off the oil anyway. Think of all the calories you’re saving for the Cerveza. Ok, back to Tyler and his biceps (Oh, don’t pretend YOU haven’t noticed them), it turns out in his recipe on the FN website, he mentions onions. He just couldn’t be bothered to add them for a bunch of college kids who don’t know the difference between a tortilla and tarantella. Disaster averted, except in this southern California apartment, where they’ll never know how sublime the addition of onions can be.

No, we’re rolling with the quince. I swear it looks exactly like a slab of raw tuna. Remember that when you’re searching it out. He rolls squares of it in ground almonds. Nice. Makes little squares out of a hunk of Manchego cheese.

If you don’t know Manchego, try it. (I love sheep nectar!) Toothpick the quince squares, snag a watercress leaf on it and add a Manchego square at the end. Very nice, especially before a night of heavy drinking.

Before the break he says, ZSCHAaaah-ON, instead of Haaaaah-MON, for Jamon - the wonderful Spanish cured ham. Puleez. Just call it ham then. Those cute blue (?) eyes are having to make up for a lot today. He’s saying it over and over. How could no one have told him that he’s butchering the word? Jed tastes the Jamon and pronounces it the best HAM he’s ever had. You’re learning J-man.

Luckily, we leave the Jamon debate for the moment while he deals with his melon. I thoroughly approve of his expert handling of this fruit. He cuts off both ends, stands it on a flat end and, using his chef’s knife in a downward motion, peels the skin off the cantaloupe. Friends, I do this when chopping and peeling ANYTHING, except perhaps a banana. It makes for neater edges. It allows the peeler to grab onto something and also you can suck the juice out of the cut ends if you want (oh, ok maybe that’s just me)– and, of course, that’s when I’m peeling an orange, not an onion, for goodness sake.

He’s showing Jed how to shave the skin off and then halve it and scoop out the seeds. “I’ve never seen one of these.” Jed exclaims. Tyler doesn’t know what he means. He explains that he’s NEVER seen a whole cantaloupe before, he’s only seen the pieces. Oh my, our young people are in more trouble than I thought. Someone should make a movie about that.

Tyler will not quit saying ZschaaaahMON for Jamon (HaaahMON). We have a problem, Houston…New York AND LA. Wait a minute, didn’t he mention at the beginning of the show that he got this misbegotten tortilla recipe from someone in Barcelona? Now, there are Castilians
and then there are Catalons. In Castilla (Madrid and surrounds), it would unequivocally be Hahhh-MON. But these Catalons (Barcelona is their capital)…they have a poetic culture and perhaps - like the Portuguese do at the END of their words - they zscheush at the beginning, resulting in a zschaaaahMON. So could it be that I’m misinformed?

I get on the phone with my man in Barcelona (ok, so it’s my husband on an business trip) who talked to HIS man, actually men and a woman too. Of ZschaaaahMON, he said: “This is nothing that they recognize in Spanish, Catalon or Portuguese.” There you have it. Tyler is certifiably insane, or at least unfleet of tongue, which is almost the same thing. Perhaps, he’s giving it what he thinks is a FRENCH pronunciation. We know the word for ham in FRENCH is JAMBON, which is, in fact, pronounced with that singular zschhhh at the beginning. By jove, I think we’ve got it. That MUST be what he’s doing. But stop it, Tyler, just stop it. You’re distracting me from your recipes.

His chickpea and calamari stew is a prime example of a perhaps icky first impression of a dish that would prove to be really satisfying, if you all would just try it. Beautiful combination of ingredients in the pan. He adds “Paperika”. Ok, I’m sensing a pattern here. COO-MIN, which isn’t quite as bad, but I do prefer Cue-min. He’s soaked the chickpeas and is adding them. Tyler, let’s take a minute here. Don’t you really think that if this guy, Jed the filmmaker, has NEVER even seen an entire cantaloupe, that you could give him a break and use CANNED beans? BTW, Steven Spielberg used to whirl up amazing mixtures in his mother’s blender and then let it rip WITH THE LID OFF, so it would hit the ceiling and he could film it. I bet he knew what a whole cantaloupe looked like. (Sorry, that was my only filmmaker and cooking story).

Then Ty did something else strange. After charring red peppers, instead of placing them in a brown paper bag and leaving them for 5 minutes (as every single person has ever done since the beginning of time - or at least since paper lunch bags were invented), he puts them in a glass bowl (one more thing to be washed) and covers it with plastic wrap and instructs young J to wait fifteen minutes. Way longer than is necessary.

Ok, let’s get on our way, the mussel dish is a very authentic dish – unlike his pronunciation of a major ingredient…. Tyler is using the trendy Santoku
(I always get it confused with Sudoku) knife. They ARE great. The knives, not the game. Well, I like the game too actually. The knives have that trademark ridge with prevents potatoes or other sticky type things from sticking as you’re slicing. He has a hot pot with oil to which he adds a number of ingredients and lookie here…Tyler is adding an entire half a lemon right into the hot oil with the other sauteing stuff. I REALLY like that. I’ve never seen that before. I’ve seen the GrillMaster himself, Bobby Flay, grill a lemon, which was muy interesting, but sauteing a whole lemon half? Great idea, Tyler. You’re not just a pretty face.
I just LOVE learning something new.

Olives, capers, cilantro, parsley and fresh lemon juice in the processor. Ooh, I’m not sure Jed knows what cilantro is. “Why do you squeeze the lemon through your hand?” asks the boy wunderkind. TO GET OUT THE SEEDS, GENIUS. No, patient Tyler knows that there are no stupid questions, but let’s face it, there are!!! And Jed would be asking a lot more of them if Tyler hadn’t realized what he was dealing with and just took over all the cooking. He stirs the green puree into the cooking mussels. It looks good enough to suck down with many loaves of bread, sopping up those savory juices. Except…is this really a good idea for a student party? Where will all those mussel shells end up? Might they just be left on dirty plates until the semester ends? And you certainly wouldn’t want them interfering with the beer pong festivities.

Tyler brings out the tortilla. Covers it with baby greens. That’s just wrong. These are Spanish dishes, not from the OC. Plus the salad cuts the grease much more than a Spaniard would think was necessary. Now he’s telling Jed that the zschahhhMON is so good, because it’s cured with Paperika. Oh my gosh, I think I’ll go listen to my Berlitz tapes while I eat Penelope’s tortilla and watch a fine (student) film.

Jed was charming in his culinary naivete. Tyler, always easy on the eyes, had some good results in the kitchen, but needs to go back to school to study intensive pronunciation.


HATCH said...

After reading this I can see that you are clearly an over qualified cook and should have your own show on the food network. Better yet run the food network. This is amazing... I am blown away by the way you have written your articles they are funny yet informative. I am also a avid watcher of the food network and I love the way you challenge the shows and give it your GorDON Flava. Everyone should know a good cook from trying the food. I think the world knows you’re a GREAT cook from reading your words. Keep up the great work. KUDOS TO YOU!!!

P.S. Can you start a cooking show and stream it on your page?

P.P.S. Are you Single?

Take Care,

Your number one fan Hatch

Anonymous said...

Really liked the beer pong comment. Way to relate to the younger gen and expand your audience. A+.