The quintessential dish from Spain, tortilla de patatas is as simple as it is delicious. There are many different incarnations of the humble tortilla, but none as basic (in a very good sense) than this potato & egg version. Tortillas are quite popular all over the Spanish peninsula, with some delicious variations such as eggplant, green peppers, spinach or even tuna.
Mind you, that the word tortilla in Spain means something quite different from the Mexican idea of a tortilla. In Spain we are referring to a luscious omelet with a filling of some kind, usually vegetables. The only thing in common with a Mexican tortilla is the round shape. That is where the similarities end. In Italy they have a comparable dish called fritatta , and it more closely resembles a Spanish tortilla because the ingredients used are pretty much identical.
My fairly traditional tortilla de patatas, uses very few ingredients and it is cooked on the stove top with no special equipment or other frills. It is quite easy to prepare and it will keep very well in the refrigerator. You can serve it warm or cold and it is particularly well suited for summer picnics and outdoor celebrations.
Traditionally, the potato slices are fried in a large amount of olive oil. I prefer a lighter (but not less flavorful) version of tortilla, so that you’ll find that I parboil the potatoes ever so slightly BEFORE I fry them. I feel that this extra step allows for a less heavy, less oily version of this beloved Spanish dish.
Enjoy it in the company of friends with a generous glass of tinto de verano (a robust red wine with a hint of lemon juice and plain soda water). There is nothing better for a summer afternoon.
2 large potatoes (Yukon Gold are very good)
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onions
1/4 cup extra virgin Spanish olive oil
4 large eggs
1 tsp sea salt
Wash and peel the potatoes. In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the potatoes are only slightly softened. The texture and appearance of the potatoes should be the same, but they should be heated all the way through.
Slice each potato into thin and even slices. Mince the onion and set aside.
In a 7 or 8 inch non stick frying pan (I prefer ceramic or enamel) heat up the olive oil. Reserve about one teaspoon of oil for later when you’ll need to flip the tortilla over and return it to the pan (don’t fret…you’ll be ok).
Fry the sliced potatoes until golden taking care to stir them often so that they don’t brown too much. Use medium low heat. It will allow you to control the process better. Salt the potatoes and add the minced onion. Do not allow the onion to become dark. Once it is transparent, check the texture of the potatoes with a fork. They should be soft and easily broken.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until fluffy. Add the potatoes to the egg and fold well. Use a little bit of the reserved oil for the pan and return the egg & potato mix to it. Carefully separate the edges of the tortilla from the pan with a silicone spatula without breaking or disturbing it. Lower the heat and cover with a lid. The tortilla should move within the pan when you shake it a little. This is an indication that it is not sticking. Stay put and watch the egg gradually solidify along the edges.
When the outer portion of the tortilla is cooked but the center is still runny, cover with a plate, place your hand firmly on top of it and grip the frying pan from the handle. In one swift move, flip the tortilla so that it lands squarely on the plate. Add the rest of the oil to the pan and slide the tortilla back in with the uncooked side facing the bottom. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown on that side.
Tortillas are very forgiving. Don’t worry if the shape is not perfect or your flipping technique needs a bit of work. The best thing to do is to start by making small tortillas that are not heavy and difficult to handle. Be patient and enjoy the fruits of your labor.