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It's Porrusalda Time!
by Jose A. Zorrilla
It's porrusalda time!
Days get shorter, light's scarcer and I long to be home to feel the familiar gust of warmth in my face as I push the big, stained glass gate. I'm wearing no coat, it's still fall. Yet it's rainy'n foggy, as usual in this part of the year...feeling sort of blue, you know? Time has come for a real soul-warming showdown, a true gateway to the winter to come. Something neither greasy nor meaty, yet filling and upbeat. I'm talking of food, of course, what else?
So, guess what. It's porrusalda time!
I've been brooding over this for quite sometime. While lurking around I came across with folks out there who knew they were basques only because they carried ethnic, unpronounciable names but who never had had exposure to the real thing. They considered-consider,too- themselves basques. Of course it's OK with me, be my guest, feel comfortable, welcome. Some of them are very active, they organize or attend events, folklore gatherings, pelota championships and the like. Yet they were born in the US and they know very little of the living basque society. They cant even play mus! Not for a moment would they know what porrusalda is. How come? A basque without basque food?
We have postings of songs, poems, legends, would-be heroes and thehelluva weird stuff in this infamous and smokey tabernatxu. Yet, no gastronomic lifejacket for the other half is provided. Well, from now on, you, that is, the other half, are gonna have a homemade meal posting a week. My word, brothers. Not a dish, a whole meal. "The way we eat" for u.
If you were raised in a basque family you may skip the posting. Nothing to write home about. But if u happen to be an american basque, without access to the homeland or knowledge of Spanish or Basque or French- therefore no understanding of the original recipes- or one of these godknowswherefroms interested in basque affairs *and* u would like to share with us the taste of home this will be your place (hope).
Preliminary remarks. All my writings shall assume that u know nothing and that u come from a non decimal country. So I'll keep everything simple and inchy. I'll assume too that where u live there is no way u can obtain the necessary ingredients and that u need tips on how to get them. Some of them, anyhow.
OK, so its porrusalda time and we are gonna kind of dinner. Let's say porrusalda to begin with and then fried eggs with roasted red peppers. Sounds intimidating? Not a bit. Everyday fare in a normal basque family. From September to November, that is. Red pepper season is short, better watch out. Kitchen of the lowly, sure, we were always a poor country, no showing off. And we'll be back to our cherished heritage soooooon. We are at it, stay tuned, it's coming!
Sorry chaps, kind of overreacting, politic's everywhere. Back to business. I take for granted that u have eggs and potatoes at home. So all we need is olive oil, some leeks, six cloves of garlic and six big red sweet peppers.
As u arrive home switch the oven on (300F) or if u are as daring as a paleolithical warrior light the grill. Proceed to peel the potatos (Dam Quayle's spelling) slowly. Listen to the music on the FM, according to your preferences. As to the tubers variety the opinions are endless. My favourites are the ones who tend to produce thick broth.
Now that the oven is hot put the red peppers inside and a) relax b) do what u want c) continue with the porru action.If u settled for the grill u are on your own. Good luck!
To make a porru is simple. Grab a pan or pot, cut the potatoes in pieces and throw them inside. Add the leeks (same amount is OK,that's 50% pots and 50% leeks), cover with water, pour a shot of oil, and boil medium heat stirring ocassionally. Stir's important, it thickens the brew. DO IT! So,forty five minutes have elapsed and visual inspection confirms the porru's OK. Since at about 22.5 minutes you have turned the reddies upside down they now look floppy and have black blisters all around.It means that everything is under control.
Pepper time has come. Since I profoundly dislike fingertips burnin, put the reddies in the freeze - KEEPING THE JUICE OF THE ROAST SOMEWHERE- and wait till you think it's safe to peel them. To peel roasted reddies is messy, OK, but it's the only way- stop pouting, babe, big girls don't cry. Now,if you did things by the book the peeled reddies are tender but not crispy or overdone. Takes time to tame it, cooooool, cool, you'll improve. Cut the pps in long slices and clear the mess. No, sliced peppers non datur. They are not bread, sorry.
For those of you possessed with yankee urgency, the micro oven works wonders. You can bake the reddies in barely four minutes.(Heat 3-4) I seem to prefer the black blisters, though. There is something special about it. Flames, yes, fire, the original heat...(sigh)
Grab a pan, pour three ounces of olive oil into it and fry six pieces of garlic, peeled and sliced, at low-medium heat. When the garlic's light brown add the reddies and the JUICE. Cook slowly and lovingly, hear the plis-plas with enthralled respect and turn the red stripes around every now and them. Add salt and after 45 minutes or so, try them. Peppers normally need some amount of sugar to counteract their natural acidity. Every brand's different, so u'll have to try them every time. They tend to be very hot at this stage, so watch out, buddy!
45 minutes is average. Once you become proficient it'll take much longer. Yeah, I know sounds kind of weird, but this is the way it is. For the moment-I expect- they are mellow and neither acid not sweet.
Now for the eggs.
Here the amount of oil is critical. The eggs have to float in it. So, dont be shy or thrifty.
Apply heat without restriction. When the oil smokes and not before throw the eggs one at a time.
Tips. The white's edge has to become brown and look like lace (puntilla). Sunny side over and other abominations need not apply. This is a different technique altogether. Of course u can pour boiling oil over the yalk while the cooking is in progress. As a matter of fact u can do what u want but the final result has to be a foundation of white that looks like light brown lace and a liquid yalk. How or where would you dip the *non* sliced bread otherwise? For, or course, the bread that goes with the dish has to be french, italian or portuguese. Got it? No sliced bread in here today!
Leave the fried eggs on an old newspaper to get rid of the oil excess. We are going to gain weight anyhow; no need to overkill. And no, it's no poisonous, otherwise I wouldn't be here to tell the story.
Put together eggs and reddies. Leave it in the warm oven (if u used the oven as i expect u did, my son) and enjoy the hot porru (Yes, it's still hot, though edible)
Smelly? Yes. Ethnic? Definitely. Messy? A bit. Tasty?
Excuse me, this is a basque kitchen.
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Jose A. Zorrilla