Saturday, June 14, 2014

SPANISH OMELETTE: TORTILLA DE PATATAS (TORTILLA ESPANOLA)


Eggs, potatoes, onions: what's not to love?! I love this easy-to-make and easy-to-eat Spanish omelette. It's a classic tapas dish, served at room temperature and cut into batons, bite-sized pieces, or wedges. It's also terrific for brunch, breakfast, or a snack. Or any time you want, really.

If you look online, you'll find a ton of information on the nuances of this omelette, including the use of mad amounts of oil to crisp up the potatoes and etc. etc. Well, it's really unnecessary to glorify what is really just simple pub grub made with simple ingredients. I had a boyfriend from Zamora, Spain, and he made this often for us - minus any fuss or needless snoot.


This omelette or potato "cake" is not related at all to the Mexican corn tortilla. And why not? Well, the explanation is quite simple really. Torta in Spanish means cake. Tortilla is the diminutive of that, and means small cake. So anything that sort of resembles a small cake is a tortilla. Although they're all called tortillas, handmade corn tortillas are considerably thicker than the thin machine-made ones we buy in stores, and can easily be thought of as small cakes.



I made this with purple potatoes because I love the colour, but any potato that's not too starchy will do. I like adding a bit of garlic and some kind of pepper to this omelette: toasted black pepper, paprika, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, finely chopped jalapeños or other green chiles. They all work really well with the other ingredients. Sometimes I stir in a couple of tablespoons of finely minced parsley as well. You can add a bit of chopped ham or sausage too.

Two things I do to develop a nice texture and flavour, and to keep the eggs from sticking  to the pan are:

  • Add the cooled potatoes and onions to the eggs and let everything soak for 15 min. or so before adding to the hot pan. This is optional, but it develops the texture and flavour really nicely.
  • Add the egg, potato, onion mixture to a hot pan, then turn the heat down after a minute or so of cooking. This prevents the eggs from getting stuck to the pan.


Spanish Omelette: Tortilla de patatas (Tortilla española)
Makes: 1 12 in. omelette

- 6 eggs
- 3 potatoes, sliced or cubed (any waxy kind, not starchy like Russet)
- 1/2 large onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 chiles de arbol or 1 jalapeño, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
  1. Heat 1 tbsp. of oil on medium heat and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the potatoes and sauté for a few minutes, add 3-4 tbsp. water and cover. Cook for 7-10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the salt, pepper, garlic, chiles, and cooled potatoes and onions. Add the chopped herbs if using. Gently fold everything together to mix and let it soak for 15 minutes.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. oil on high heat in an omelette pan or skillet that has 1 - 2 in. tall sides. Pour in the egg mixture and quickly even it out if the potatoes are mounding in the centre. Cook for 1 - 2 minutes and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook until the omelette is almost set and the sides somewhat shrink away from the pan. Shake the pan to loosen the omelette - if the omelette doesn't move freely in the pan, slide a spatula under the omelette and loosen it. 
  4. Put a plate, eating side down, over the pan. Invert the pan so the tortilla flips on to the plate. Slide the tortilla back into the pan and top off with any uncooked egg mixture in the plate. Cook for about 5 minutes but not much longer or it will overcook.
  5. In the same way as step 4 above, flip the omelette back on to a serving plate or cutting board.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature by itself, over a salad, with bread, a bit of ham or Spanish chorizo.

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