Tortilla española

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It’s hard to believe that I’ve been eating and making tortilla for so many years, and never posted a recipe of it. Spanish tortilla is something that is very close to my heart – a dish that is served in big slices for breakfast, a mid-day snack, or in thick squares on toothpicks for tapas at any time. Serve it with sweet or savory pairings, it doesn’t matter. It can go alongside a café con leche, tinto de verano, a caña (small beer), or a glass of Casera manchada.

Ask around Spain and you’ll find that everyone and their mother (and aunt, and grandma) has their own style. Some people put onion, some put green pepper (which is a sin in other homes) – some people put jamón (ham) or chorizo and some would rather die than eat it any way other than “pure.” Usually, I am a purist when it comes to tortilla, and I make it the way I learned from Mercedes (a family friend, Spanish mentor, and Semana Santa host when I studied in Madrid). I almost always use only 4 ingredients, which is hard to believe when you taste it – olive oil, potatoes, eggs, and salt. This is one of those foods that, when made correctly, shines above and beyond the sum of its parts.

To me, this is Spanish comfort food, along with lentejas — it is a dish that can make your whole day better. The people I know who have tried my tortilla have had nothing but good things to say about it, so I’ll stick to my recipe. A few years ago, my husband’s best man liked it so much that when we packed up and headed for the lakehouse, he carried the leftovers with him in his backpack.

Here’s what you need:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large white flesh potatoes – russets work very well, but I have also used red-skinned potatoes and a number of others
  • 5 large eggs
  • generous 1 tsp salt – remember, you are seasoning everything at once!
  • 10” medium non-stick skillet
  • medium bowl (I recommend not using plastic)
  • 2 large plates(1 for holding cooked potatoes and 1 for flipping)*
*Note: Until a few years ago, I used a plate to flip, but now I use a wooden flipper designed specially for making tortilla – it was a gift from a Spanish friend!

How to make it:

  1. Add the olive oil to the skillet and turn the burner to medium heat.
  2. Crack all 5 eggs into the bowl, add the salt, and mix until the eggs are a uniform color. Set aside.
  3. Slice the potatoes thinly, in about ¼ inch slices.
  4. When the oil starts to bubble, lay the potato slices in a single layer in the oil. Do not overlap them.
  5. Fry them until they are tender – I use a fork to turn them over about 3 minutes in, then use the fork to remove them from the pan.
  6. When the potatoes are cooked, transfer them to a large plate.
  7. Repeat steps 3-5 until all potatoes are cooked. Remove the pan from the burner.
  8. Add the potatoes to the egg/salt mixture (which will have changed to a darker yellow) and use a fork to lightly mix it together.
  9. Pour the remaining oil out of the pan (into a bowl or glass measuring cup – do NOT pour into the sink). Do NOT clean the pan – leave the residual oil.
  10. Put the pan back on the burner and pour the potato/egg mixture into the pan. (Purists — ignore the cubed ham!)
  11. Use a fork to pat the potatoes into a flat layer.
  12. Let it cook on medium heat until the egg is mostly set in the middle – about 8-10 minutes.
  13. Carefully use the plate (or wooden flipper) to flip the tortilla over. 
  14. Add a spoonful of oil back into the pan, then slide the tortilla back into the pan.
  15. Cook the other side for 5-6 minutes.
  16. Slide onto a plate. 
  17. Serve in wedges or cut into squares.
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Kat Salemno

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