Hurray! It’s time for everyone’s favorite series: the Best Recipes of 2014!

Every night is recipe-testing night here at Cookbook Central.  Yet over the course of the year, only a few dishes turn out to be so unforgettable, so ravishing, so droolworthy that they make it into the regular rotation.  This year, there were 11!  Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks, and we’ll celebrate and sample each one together.

The book:  A Mouthful of Stars, by Kim Sunée (Andrews McMeel, $27.99 – here’s my complete review)

The recipe:  Crab & pork Spanish tortilla

Why I tried itI have a sort of weakness for what you might call “trayf combos” – especially shellfish and pork.  Also, I have a daughter who has a reluctance toward crab, but a profound, overriding enthusiasm for pork.  I figured that I’d likely end up with something I could feed the whole family, so long as I could refrain from eating the whole thing myself.

Why I loved it:  Haunted by the memory of many liquid, eggy disasters, I had the usual momentary panic when I went to flip the tortilla.  But – miracle! – it held together as firmly as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!  I realized later that the bean thread noodles acted as a stabilizer, creating a webbed substrate in which all those fine and flavorful elements could hang suspended.  And the flavors – the crab, the pork, the ginger and garlic and condiments, all mingled together – were like something you’d find in your very favorite dumpling at your very favorite dim sum place.

Estimated preparation time:  45 minutes, if you don’t muck about.
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Photo credit: Leela Cyd

Crab and Pork Spanish Tortilla

Sunée recommends a sturdy non-stick skillet – it helps with the flipping.  If you’re scared of flipping, you can use a cast-iron pan and run it right under the broiler to cook the top.

Makes 1 (10-inch) tortilla, serving 4 as a light meal.

3 ounces bean thread or glass noodles

6 large eggs
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream or half-and-half
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, grated or minced
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
8 ounces fresh lump crabmeat, picked through for any shells or cartilage
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
8 ounces ground pork
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
Fresh cilantro, mint, or Thai basil, for garnish
Julienned carrots, for garnish
Bean sprouts, for garnish

For serving: fish sauce, soy sauce, hot chili sauce, or black vinegar with sliced ginger or shallots

1. Place the noodles in a large bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Let soak for about 10 minutes, until the noodles are soft and plump. Rinse under cold water if still hot and drain thoroughly.

2. Combine the eggs, cream, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the crabmeat and stir. Add the drained noodles to the egg-crabmeat mixture.

3. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Drain off any excess fat and let cool slightly; add the pork to the egg-noodle mixture.

4. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add another 1 teaspoon oil and the butter. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg-noodle mixture to the pan and cook on medium heat, tilting the pan and using a spatula all around the edges of the tortilla, pressing the egg mixture toward the center so that the liquid runs to the edge of the pan; repeat several times and cook until most of the liquid starts to set, about 5 minutes. Set the pan evenly on the heat and let cook until the bottom begins to turn a nice golden brown and the tortilla starts to firm up, another minute or two. Keep checking the bottom so it doesn’t get too brown. When the eggs are still slightly loose and just a little runny, slide the tortilla onto a plate. Cover with another plate and, holding both plates tightly, invert them so that the golden cooked side is facing up. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the pan and slide the tortilla back into the pan. Quickly use the spatula to tuck the edges under and round out the sides. Let cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, shaking the pan. You don’t want to overcook the tortilla; it will continue to cook once it’s off the heat. (If you are not feeling fearless, instead of flipping the tortilla, heat the broiler to high and place the tortilla under the broiler to cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Make sure your skillet is ovenproof if you do this.)

5. Transfer the tortilla to a large plate or platter and let sit for at least 10 minutes to firm up. Garnish with the herbs and vegetables. Serve warm or at room temperature with fish sauce, soy sauce, hot chili sauce, or black vinegar with sliced ginger or shallots.

From A Mouthful of Stars: A Constellation of Favorite Recipes from My World Travels by Kim Sunée/Andrews McMeel Publishing