In Spain, a lot of controversy surrounds the Spanish Omelette aka the Tortilla Española or Tortilla de Patatas (potatoes). Probably akin to how to make the best apple pie here in the US.
I had no idea there was so much to know about this traditional Spanish dish, until I began to read some Spanish bloggers’ posts about this iconic food.
There is discussion over whether or not to brown the potatoes just a bit, and how fully cooked the eggs should be. Some insist the eggs should be slightly runny and leave a mess on the plate, while others look for a firmer texture. The type of potato used is also under debate. Whether or not to use onion is also a major point of disagreement. It’s optional to use the onion or not, so feel free to choose. The thickness of the potato slices also varies from chef to chef and kitchen to kitchen.
There is even a national competition for the best Tortilla Española.
So, as with so many dishes, there is no universal “correct” or “right” way to make a Spanish omelette. Every chef and cook will insist they have the best method. But we all know that the one mom or dad or grandma made, the one we grew up with, the familiar flavors of home make the best dishes.
I personally like to cook the Tortilla on low heat. That way the eggs stay tender and soft. But I like to cook it through enough that it’s not runny in the middle.
You may not be comfortable flipping the tortilla to cook both sides as the recipe instructs. If you’re not, there’s another, easier way to do it. I’m not sure if this is “acceptable” by all chefs, but who cares? Instead of flipping the tortilla, you can simply stick your pan under the broiler for a few minutes until the top is gently browned and the center is cooked to your liking!
When I visited Spain many years ago, I remember this dish as amazing bar food served hot, or served at room temperature cut neatly in squares or diamonds as a tapas dish. I was always astonished at how quickly they prepared it hot and how tender it always was.
You will love this dish because you can eat it for a meal, you can cut it up for a snack or hors d’oeuvres, and you can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It goes well accompanied by a nice salad, or as a snack with other little plates. It’s also so easily portable and can be served hot or at room temperature.
As you know, I like to offer a take away, something bigger than just another recipe, with each post. With the Tortilla Española, don’t think you just know how to make this recipe now.
You have a recipe you can now tweak in so many different ways. You can add cubes of cheese, chopped ham, roasted red peppers, or whatever other addition you’d like to the recipe. There are so many ways to mix it up, now that you have this basic under your belt, use your imagination and go from here!
Please don’t be afraid to spend a little money on some good olive oil and use it abundantly. Frying your potatoes in olive oil first is what gives the tortilla its magical flavor. And because the potatoes won’t impart any flavor to the oil, save it for reuse in another recipe.
Don’t be put off by the large quantity of potatoes, as these will shrink quite a bit when cooked. You can either slice them by hand, or for a more uniform cut, use a mandolin. I suggest slicing them at least a quarter of an inch thick.
Be sure to get the right type of potato, which is one that falls in the middle on the starchy versus waxy scale. Kennebec, Yukon gold, Superior, and Katahdin potatoes all will work just fine. These are moister than baking potatoes and will hold up well when sauteed in oil.
You’ll need a 12″ sautee pan, preferably non-stick.
Don’t worry that your potatoes break up a bit either when frying or when mixing with the egg mixture. And don’t worry about adding the hot potatoes to the eggs. It’s ok if they cook a little.
Make sure your seasoning is just right by tasting the egg and potato mixture after letting it sit a few minutes before the final cook. It should taste salted just right. Even try a little bit of this soupy egg and potato mix on a piece of bread-it’s amazingly good.
- 9 eggs
- 3 pounds Kennebec or other white potato peeled and sliced into quarter inch rounds, salted
- 1 small yellow onion roughly chopped
- 3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- Put two and half cups olive oil in a 12 inch sauté pan.
- Heat to medium-high. Test by dropping a potato slice in – it should sizzle and bubble when hitting oil.
- Add all potatoes and lower to medium heat, cooking gently for about 12-15 minutes or until just barely browned. Your potatoes should be fully cooked at this point. Strain potatoes and save oil.
- In another saute pan, add the remaining half cup olive oil and heat to medium heat. Cook the chopped onion until just barely browned. Strain and save oil for another use.
- Meanwhile, crack the eggs in in a large bowl, add salt and beat well.
- When potatoes are done, add the warm potatoes to the egg mixture, then add onion. It's ok if some of your potatoes break up. Allow to rest 15 minutes.
- Heat a 12" saute pan again to medium heat and add a few tablespoons of the olive oil to coat well. Then add in the mixture of potatoes, eggs, and onion. Cook until just done on bottom.
- Using a large plate, cover top of pan, then flip the tortilla carefully onto plate. Don't worry that the eggs are still runny.
- Slide the tortilla off the plate (it will be runny on the bottom) back into the saute pan and finish cooking gently. You may allow the tortilla to cook until solid, or remove when the center is still slightly soft and runny.