I remember sitting at the kitchen table of a friend’s house when I was in high school. Her father was from Italy and her mother from Spain. Some of my closest friends had parents from Europe and as a teenager I thought European parents were always the best; they pretty much let you come and go as you please, you could talk to them about anything, they always offered you great food and on occasion even a glass of wine. But I digress…my friend’s father was slicing a baguette while he smoked a cigarette and her mother was at the stove cooking something that smelled delicious. The conversation was lively, with melodious changeovers to Spanish – almost like they forgot I was there for a moment. Her mother turned around and placed the dish in the center of the table, while her father placed the sliced baguette just beside the dish. It smelled delightful and looked fantastic, but I had no idea what it was. “It’s a tortilla“, her mother said. I was so impressed with this Spanish comfort food, that it became my ‘go to’ dish as I was first learning how to cook and it has remained one of my favorite dishes over the years.
In Spain, the Tortilla Española or Tortilla de Patatas, is possibly one of the most well-know dishes. The ingredients vary by region, but the most common version is a simple combination of potatoes, onions, and eggs. It is a versatile dish, which can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or even cold. It’s great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even just as a snack.
- ⅓ cup olive oil, plus 6 Tbs
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼ inch slices (keep slices submerged in cool water if not using right away – this will keep them from turning brown)
- 2 large onions, cut into ¼ inch slices
- 5 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Heat ⅓ cup olive oil in a 8-9 inch skillet (nonstick helps). Add the slices of potato in a single layer, covering the bottom of the pan, then alternate layers of potato with layers of onion slices. Cover the pan and cook on medium-low heat, lifting and turning the vegetables occasionally until the potatoes are fork tender. This will take approximately 30-45 minutes.
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl, until slightly foamy. Once the vegetables are tender, lift them out with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander.
- Once the vegetables have drained and cooled, season with salt and pepper, lift and turn the potatoes and onions to combine.
- Add the potatoes and onions to the beaten eggs (make sure the vegetables have cooled, you don’t want to scramble the eggs). Press the onions and potatoes down until they are completely submerged. Let mixture stand for 10-15 minutes.
- Wipe out the pan, then heat 2-3 Tbs of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the egg mixture to the pan and quickly spread it out with a spatula. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low and cook very gently. Shake the pan occasionally to prevent it from sticking. Around 8 minutes gently lift the edges of the tortilla – the potatoes should begin to brown underneath and the edges will shrink slightly. Cook for approximately 2 more minutes or until golden brown underneath. Remove from heat.
- Very gently, using the thinest and most flexible spatula you have (I use a fish spatula), work your way around the tortilla carefully working the tool all along the sides and then underneath to loosen the tortilla. Place a plate (slightly larger than the pan) on top of the skillet. Using oven mitts, quickly turn the tortilla upside down on to the plate. Don’t worry if some of the tortilla sticks to the pan when you turn it over, simply remove the pieces and press them back into the tortilla.
- Over medium-low heat add the remaining 2-3 Tbs of olive oil in the pan, then slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook the other side – about 3-4 minutes. Transfer the tortilla to a plate or board and serve with toasted baguette slices.