A World-Class Chef takes a shortcut and creates a fantastic take on a Spanish classic.
It is almost unimaginable to think of a World-Class Chef taking short cuts with one of the signature dishes of his home country. But that’s exactly what Ferran Adria did with Spain’s iconic Tortilla Espagñola. This Spanish Omelette is made with eggs and potatoes and optionally an onion. Often served at room temperature, it is then served as a ‘tapa’, Spain’s version of a snack or appetizer. Adria often called the World’s Greatest Chef, did something shockingly easy. In his 2003 cookbook “Cocinar en Casa” (Cooking at Home), he replaced the thin-sliced potatoes with…Potato Chips. This cuts down the work of making the dish—the peeling, slicing and frying of the potatoes. Adria’s use of crushed, thick potato chips, softened in beaten egg, gives you just the right amount of tenderness when the omelet is cooked.
Enter Jambon de Bayonne, France’s answer to Serrano ham and Prosciutto.
I am certainly no Ferran Adria, whose restaurant, El Bulli, won Best Restaurant in the World for 5 straight years before it closed in 2011. But just as Adria felt he would gussy up his Tortilla with roasted red peppers and sliced serrano ham, I felt that I too could play with the recipe. I added soft herbed cheese and instead of Serrano ham, I used Jambon de Bayonne, France’s gift to the world of cured ham. Bayonne comes from Basques country, nestled up against the Spanish border in the far southwest of France. Jambon Bayonne is a member of the same family as Spain’s Serrano Ham and Italy’s Prosciutto. They are basically cured the same way–that is to say, air-dried for a period of months. The difference is in the hogs themselves. Jambon Bayonne must be made from one of eight breeds of pig raised in a clearly defined part of France. They must follow a strict diet with no steroids, no fish oils, and no anti-biotics. Everything is highly regulated from how the hogs are transported to what temperature they are cured at.
And how does Jambon de Bayonne taste?
Rich and savory, complex and refined in flavor, Jambon de Bayonne has been processed the same way for at least 1000 years. Rubbed with salt from the Estuary of the Adour River, the hams are hung in the drying room for three months. Then a mixture of pork fat and flour called ‘pannage’ is used to seal the joint where it was cut. Pannage actually slows the drying out process during the warmer months of March, April, and May. Many Jambons de Bayonne are rubbed with a paste of Piment d’Espelette which gives the Jambon its unique tang. The ham is slightly sweet, delicately flavored with little salt to its taste. You’ll find it is cut very thin and it has a decidedly chewy texture compared to good old American ham. I also discovered that the American Classic, Cream of Tomato Soup and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich, is made even more wonderful by putting a slice or two of Jambon de Bayonne between the layers of whatever cheese you choose. Before the recipe for the Tortilla, some other recipes where you can swap out Prosciutto for Jambon de Bayonne.
Tortilla Espagñola with Potato Chips and Jambon de Bayonne
A fantastic short-cut from Ferran Adria for Spain's iconic Omelette, the Tortilla Espagnola, enhanced with France's gift to the world of cured ham.
- 4 oz. (about 2 1/4 cups) crushed thick-cut potato chips, like Cape Cod brand
- 2 oz. thinly sliced Jambon de Bayonne
- 1⁄4 cup finely chopped canned piquillo peppers or pimentos
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 8 eggs, lightly beaten
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- Step 1 1. Heat broiler to high. Combine the potato chips, ham, peppers, thyme, eggs, and salt and pepper in a bowl and let sit to allow the chips to soften in the eggs, about 5 minutes
- Step 2 In a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil.
- Step 3 Add the egg mixture and cook, without stirring, until bottom begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the broiler, and broil until set and golden on top, about 3 minutes. Cut into wedges to serve.