spanish potato chips: rebel with a cause

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When I got married almost fourteen years ago my husband and I honeymooned in Thailand. After the prerequisite stop in Bangkok, we ended up on the tiny island of Koh Samui where we saw other equally enamored tourists sweating their way through their first days of matrimony on bicycle rentals, something that may have seemed a good idea in their brochure back in Hackensack, but trust me, in the humidity and heat of Thailand, was not fun.

Mr. and Mrs. Martinez (you know, these were the days when I practiced saying Mrs. Martinez, Mrs. Martinez, Mrs. Martinez in giddy gulps of newness) thought otherwise and rented a motorcycle. It was nothing fancy, we aren’t Harley-types, but rather a dusty red Yamaha dirt bike that we used to zoom along the narrow and crazy island streets, exploring each new corner of our love vacation and finding an abandoned beach or two in which to celebrate it in.

So, aside from being a wild, crazy and unsafe detour to our now-domesticated life (take Dani to gymnastics, take Jonathan to hip hop, buy milk, call a/c guy), motorcycles hold special meaning to our relationship because it sealed our thirst for adventure and foolishness with fun and free delight. There have been many motorcycle escapades throughout our history together: viewing the pyramids in the Valley of the Kings (Kawasaki blue bike), skimming along gridlocked streets in Caracas, Venezuela (Suzuki, midnight black) and zipping around the impressive Roman Coliseum in the perquisite Italian Vespa (silver).

On our last trip to Spain, we found ourselves zooming around on another Vespa (red) winding amongst the congested streets of Madrid like two free lovebirds with the wind whipping through our helmet-clad hair and my camera bouncing in my hand determined to capture each vicarious moment. We had handed our children over to my brother-in-law and sped off for a two-hour tour of both the city and our lost youth with equal freedom and love. I snapped pictures of our journey along the way. It is an inevitable thing to do while being caressed by the impressive buildings of Madrid. There are too many grandiose statues, prestigious architectural gems, and enchanting balconies that beg digital remembering.

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And along the way we found other interesting spots, like a candy shop whose entire display window was covered in the Spanish staple snack food of potato chips (I made my husband do a crazy illegal U-turn to photograph that one). It reminded me of those ball pits I used to take my kids to when they were little: an endless drop into thousands of hundreds of bright colorful balls children would jump into and get lost- my daughter especially loved those (my son would tend to spend hours trying to empty the bin by throwing each and every ball out). I’d sit and watch, feverish with worry; would they get lost in the bottom like quick sand, swallowed by spheres of red, yellow and blue? But they’d always pop up with a gregarious smile, give enough time for a quick second of eye contact with me before diving back down to the depths of their plastic bliss.

Madrid offered a chip pit of sorts, most certainly more tempting to dive into than a kiddie germfest. Of course, no one was found swimming in this national snack. It was more so an outright and proud message of how serious the Spaniards take their chips. We were busy zipping through Madrid so we didn’t stop to enter the store. Still, the chips haunted me so. I had seen them and fallen for them and I now was constantly craving them. It didn’t take much arm-twisting to tell my husband we needed to stop for chips. Stopping for chips meant stopping for beer, and we immediately found the nearest cerveceria (beer bar) for a cold one and a large plate of potato chips.

As I munched I closed my eyes and wondered how the Spaniards managed such a perfect snack. Was it the fact that they were fried in Spanish olive oil? Was it the kind of potato or the perfectly thin slice that allowed for air bubbles to form for that extra, salty crunch? Pontificating on such urgent matters, I took a big gulp of cold beer and a smile filled with adventure and glee grew on my face. This ride had come full circle, and as I looked at my favorite companion shamelessly devour the chips alongside me I realized that youth and adventure where always just a motorcycle ride away.

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Patatas fritas españolas: rebelde feliz

Cuando me casé hace casi catorce años mi marido y yo fuimos de luna de miel a Tailandia. Después de la parada necesaria en Bangkok, terminamos en la isla de Koh Samui donde vimos a otros turistas igualmente enamorados sudar como perros con sus alquileres de bicicleta, algo que puede haber parecido una idea buena en el folleto que vieron en casa, pero confía en mí, en la humedad y el calor de Tailandia, no es ninguna diversión.

Sr. y Sra. Martinez (usted sabe, éstos eran los días cuando practiqué el refrán de la Sra. Martinez, Sra. Martinez, Sra. Martinez en tragos vertiginosos de novedad) alquilaron una moto. No era nada grande, no somos de estilo Harley, mas bien era una Yamaha roja en que solíamos zumbar a lo largo de las calles estrechas y locas, explorando cada nueva esquina de nuestras vacaciones de amor y encontrando una playa abandonada o dos donde celebrarlo.

De este modo, aparte de ser un desvío salvaje, loco e inseguro a nuestra vida ahora domesticada (llevar Dani al gimnasio tomar a Jonathan a Hip Hop, comprar leche, llamar plomero), las motocicletas sostienen el sentido especial a nuestra relación porque selló nuestra sed de aventura y tontería con diversión y libertad. Hemos tenido muchas aventuras de motocicleta en todas partes de nuestra historia juntos: viendo las pirámides en el Valle de los Reyes (Kawasaki color azul), navegando a lo largo de calles congestionadas en Caracas, Venezuela (Suzuki, color negra) y disfrutando el bellisimo Coliseo en Vespa (color plata).

En nuestro último viaje a España, nos encontramos zumbando en otra Vespa (color roja) entre las calles llenas de gente de Madrid. Con el viento que volaba por nuestro pelo y mi cámara que brincaba en mi mano, anduvimos determinados de capturar cada momento. Mi cuñado se encargo de los niños y nosotros paseamos dos horas por moto, visitando la cuidad y nuestra juventud con libertad y amor. Tomamos muchas fotos durante nuestra aventura. Esto es una cosa inevitable de hacer siendo magreado por los edificios impresionantes de Madrid. Hay demasiadas estatuas grandiosas, gemas arquitectónicas prestigiosas, y balcones encantadores que piden recordarse digitalmente.

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Y a lo largo del camino encontramos otros puntos interesantes, como una tienda de caramelo cuyo escaparate entero fue cubierto con el alimento de bocado básico español de patatas fritas (hice mi marido hacer una vuelta en U ilegal para fotografiar aquello). Esto me recordó de aquellos hoyos de pelota que solía tomar a mis niños cuando estaban chiquiticos: miles de cientos de niños dentro de un mar de pelotas brillantes brincarían y se perdían – mi hija sobre todo lo amaba. Yo me sentaría y miraría, febril con la preocupación; ¿serían perdidos ellos en el fondo como la arena rápida, ingerida por esferas de rojo, amarillo y azul? Pero ellos siempre aparecerían con una sonrisa gregaria, me mirarían rápidamente antes de que saltarian a las profundidades de su felicidad plástica.

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Madrid ofreció un hoyo de patatas. Por supuesto, no encontramos nadie nadando dentro de este bocado nacional. Era más bien un mensaje absoluto y orgulloso de que tal seriamente los españoles toman sus patatas fritas. No llegamos a entrar a esa tienda pero paramos en una cerveceria para una fría y un plato grande de patatas fritas.

Probando esta delicia cerré mis ojos y me pregunté como los españoles logran una merienda tan perfecta. ¿Es el hecho que fueron freídos en aceite de oliva español? Pensando en tales asuntos urgentes, tomé un trago grande de cerveza fría y una sonrisa llena de aventura lleno mi cara. Este paseo había terminado con esta merienda y cuando miré a mi compañero favorito desvergonzadamente devorando las patatas fritas junto a mí, realicé que juventud y aventura siempre anda esperando en sólo un paseo de motocicleta.

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PATATAS FRITAS DE ACEITE DE OLIVA

(adaptado de Gourmet Magazine, mayo de 1997)

4 patatas (aproximadamente 2 libras)

1 taza de aceite de oliva

Quitar la concha de la papa y picar en rebanadas muy delgadas. Cubrir en agua fria. Seca las rebanadas.

Calienta el aceite en un sartén grande sobre fuego medio alto. Trabajando en hornadas de 8 a 10 rebanadas, fría patatas, girando un par de veces, hasta que esten doradas, 1 1/2 a 2 minutos. Transfiere las patatas fritas con una cuchara grande para drenar y rociar con sal de mar.

Las patatas fritas pueden ser hechas 2 días delante y guardadas en un contenedor hermético.

Olive Oil Potato Chips

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(adapted from Gourmet Magazine, May 1997)

4 russet (baking) potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1 cups olive oil for frying

Peel potatoes and put in a bowl of cold water to cover. Pat 1 potato dry. Using a mandoline or other manual slices cut potato into paper-thin slices (about 1/16 inch thick) and let potato slices stand 5 minutes in another bowl of cold water to cover.
Drain potato slices and spread without overlapping on a triple layer of paper towels. Blot slices completely dry with another triple layer of paper towels.
In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high (note that olive oil heats quicker than other oils). Working in batches of 8 to 10 slices, fry potatoes, turning once or twice, until golden, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, making sure oil not to crowd the skillet before adding next batch. Transfer chips as fried with a large slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with coarse sea salt salt. Continue to pat dry, cut, dry, and fry remaining potatoes in same manner. Potato chips may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container.

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8 Responses to “spanish potato chips: rebel with a cause”

  1. Daniel says:

    I feel the same way you do about these chips. They certainly put American-style chips completely to shame.

    And once again, I always feel rewarded whenever I stop by your blog… you have a great writing style, and it’s a pleasure and a privilege to get a chance to practice my Spanish too. Keep it going!

    Dan
    Casual Kitchen

  2. Alona says:

    Don’t they??? I miss them every day. Actually, then it is a good thing I don’t live in Spain!
    Thanks on your blog comments as well! Please keep visiting and TELL YOUR FRIENDS !

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