Spanish Vanilla Marshmallows

Last Friday we had a marshmallow party. It was fluffy and delicious, thanks for asking. And after the festivities I shared my favorite flavor with my coworkers, some of whom asked for the recipe, so here it is!

I call these “Spanish Vanilla” because it makes sense; there’s honey, vanilla, and almond–just like in Spanish nougat. The name is kind of a contrast with French vanilla, which is vanilla and hazelnut.

We originally got the proportions and the how-to from Cooking for Engineers’ post on marshmallows, but I did tweak some things.

Hardware you’ll need:
Stand mixer (or hand mixer and tall bowl if you’re not afraid of boiling hot sugar)
9 X 13 cake pan–glass or metal
two quart pan (or taller)
candy thermometer
Rubber spatula

Powdered sugar

1/2 cup water
3 sachets gelatin (aka 3 tablespoons)

1/4 cup water
2/3 cup honey
2 cups sugar

~1 tbs vanilla extract
~1 tbs almond extract

Making marshmallows involves a lot of anticipation; there’s not much to do but wait for things to happen, and when the moment’s right, there’s a flurry of activity then you wait again.

To start, butter the pan to make sure the fluff doesn’t stick, then generously sift on powdered sugar. Now set the pan aside.

Next, prep the gelatin. That involves pouring the first 1/2 cup of water and the gelatin into the bowl you plan to mix in. If you have the option, use a taller bowl. Not only will that help protect you from fast-moving molten sugar, it will also make fluffier marshmallows. My awesome Kitchenaid works really well for this.

While the gelatin is blooming (absorbing the water), combine the sugar, water, and honey in the pan and heat on the stove just under medium. A problem you’ll face when making candy with honey is that it will puff up. When using corn syrup, I can set it to full-blast medium and walk away, but that’s not something you can do with honey. If it starts to puff up on you, lower the heat and start stirring. If it’s happening very fast, pick it up and move it away from the heat–that should deflate it pretty quickly. This needs to heat until it has reached 250 degrees. Once that’s happened…

Turn the mixer on low, then pour in the sugar-lava slowly, in order to avoid a fiery and painful demise. It will be hot and sloshy for a while, but increase the speed to high as quickly as you safely can. A tall bowl helps with this, but either way you should be there after a minute or two. Oh and be warned, it smells kind of horrible. Gelatin is made of ground up bones, and heating that up isn’t pleasant. But don’t worry–you don’t taste it at all in the final product and the smell goes away after a minute of mixing.

It will start to lighten and fluff up. That’s a good thing. Keep mixing for five minutes or so, and when it seems like it’s not going to get any bigger, add the extracts, then mix a little more and turn it off.

Now quickly pour the liquid marshmallow into the prepared pan. The faster the better, because it starts to set and get really thick and unmanageable. Then sift on some more powdered sugar and let sit for 24 hours. You will then have a slab of marshmallow. Cut it if you want, but the temptation to just bite in will be strong.

Spanish Tortilla

From one country to another, a single word can mean very different things. Tortilla is a good example of that. In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is made of flour or corn and houses delicious, delicious tacos. In Spain it is more like an omelet. Also very good.

I had this dish for the first time at a friend’s pot luck and really liked it. In fact everyone did–it was one of the first dishes to vanish. So I decided to try to make my own.

What you need is:
2-3 baking potatoes
1-2 yellow onion
8 eggs
olive oil
salt and pepper

One of the key things here is to slice your potato consistently.

If the slices aren’t the same, they won’t cook the same and you’ll end up with some overdone, some raw, and a couple perfect ones. If you have a mandolin, now would be the time to use it, but if you don’t, a good knife will get the job done just fine.

You need to cook these in a good amount of olive oil, so coat the bottom of the pan then let it warm on medium. Once the pan’s ready, cook the potatoes until soft and delicious.

While the potatoes were cooking, I sliced the onions. After taking out the potatoes, I tossed the onions in the pan with some garlic, salt and pepper then let them cook until soft.

In the meantime, whisk together the eggs in a bowl on the side.

Once the onions are done, toss the potatoes back in and mix together. Next, pour on the eggs and let cook on a med to med-low heat for a few minutes.

Once the bottom’s cooked comes the challenge of flipping it. It helps to have two people, but it is possible on your own. There is a technique to it, which helps a lot. For this you’ll need a flat plate that fits perfectly within the pan or is slightly larger. Put that plate upside-down over the pan, then holding the plate, flip the pan over. This is kind of hard because of the awkward weight distribution, but not impossible. Once that’s done, put it back in the pan, raw side down, to finish cooking.

After a few minutes, take it out the same way you flipped it, and voila!, delicious Spanish food.

Ceviche is actually pretty easy

Not only that but it’s also quite tasty.

Basically ceviche is cured seafood. Shrimp, in this case, but many different types of whitefish are also used. It’s something to be played with, but there are some basic ingredients:
Seafood (1 lb shrimp)
Peppers (1 poblano)
Onion (1/2 yellow onion)
Tomato (1)
Citrus (combination of lemon and lime juice)

It’s definitely a patient food, especially when you use shrimp, so expect to spend a lot of time waiting. We let it sit for about an hour, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start with the first step.

First, cut up your veggies. Smaller parts will distribute flavor better, but you can be as coarse as you want. It’s optional to cut up the shrimp, but I did in hopes of it being done sooner.

Next mix it all together nicely and cover with lemon and/or lime juice (some people throw in other flavors like orange or pineapple, which are good for taste, but aren’t as acidic as lemon or lime, so they shouldn’t be the majority). Add a little salt too, just because a little salt is almost always a good idea. Then here comes the tough part: let it sit for an hour in the fridge. You can stir every once in a while as you like (I definitely did–I hate waiting), but it’s not necessary. When the shrimp have become opaque and pinkish (when they look cooked), they’re done.

To help kill the time, I decided to make my own tortilla chips. I’ve fried tortillas before, which makes a good, hearty, crunchy chip, but this time I decided to try baking.

They came out thick and still kind of bready, but they served their purpose. They are very simple and easy to play with. I went with the basics and just brushed on some olive oil, salt, and pepper. To cook them, I heated the oven to 375 and flipped them often. When they first came in the oven, I flipped them after 30 seconds, to make sure they didn’t stick, them let them cook on each side, 5 min at a time, until they were the consistency I wanted. It’s kind of an involved process, so it really helped pass the time.