The Spanish tortilla is the most common gastronomic specialty you can find all over Spain. There are hundreds of variations even in one specific region, but the most common is the one made with eggs, potatoes and onion.
The potatoes, ideally starchy rather than waxy ones, are cut into thin slices or in small dices. They are then fried in olive oil together with the sliced onions at a moderate temperature until they are soft, but not brown. Browning is often avoided by an excess of olive oil, which can later be strained and reused. The potatoes and onions are then removed, drained, and mixed with raw beaten and salted eggs. This mixture is then returned to the pan and slowly fried.
The tortilla is fried first on one side and then flipped over to fry on its other side. Flipping is accomplished with the help of a plate or a "vuelve tortillas" (a ceramic or wooden lid-like utensil made for this particular purpose). The plate or “vuelve tortillas” is placed on top of the pan and then, with one hand on top of the plate and the other holding the pan, both are inverted, leaving the tortilla upside-down on the plate. The tortilla is then slid carefully back into the pan.
The tortilla may be eaten hot or cold. It is commonly served as a snack (tapa) or picnic dish throughout Spain. As a tapa, it may be cut into bite-size pieces and served on cocktail sticks, or cut into triangle portions (pincho de tortilla).
Unlike the American or French omelette, in the Spanish tortilla the main ingredient, in this case the potatoes, take precedence over the eggs.
When my family lived in Brussels in the 1970's they had a Spanish maid named Valeriana who came to clean on a daily basis. She was fabulous, as all Spanish domestics were in those days. Her lunch every day was a Spanish tortilla. Every day, without fail.
For an authentic recipe, I turned to Penelope Casa's book, The Foods and Wines of Spain, which is my mother's go to bible for Spanish food. She never disappoints.
Make a big tortilla, more than you would eat in one seating, and leave the rest covered at room temperature for snacks or cocktails.
|This one was made with leftover potatoes au gratin|
If you make potatoes au gratin, save the leftovers. The next day cook the onions first and then add the potatoes. Proceed with the recipe.
1 cup olive oil
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/8 inch slices
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 large eggs
Heat the oil in an 8 or 9 inch skillet and add the potato slices one at a time to prevent sticking. Alternate potato layers with the onion slices and salt the layers lightly. Cook slowly, over a medium flame, lifting and turning the potatoes occasionally, until they are tender but not brown. (The potatoes will remain separated, not in a "cake.")
Meanwhile, in a large bowl beat the eggs with a fork until they are slightly foamy. Salt to taste. Remove the potatoes from the skillet and drain them in a colander, reserving about 3 tablespoons of the oil. (The potatoes give the oil a delicious flavor, so reserve the rest for future use.) Add the potatoes to the beaten eggs, pressing the potatoes down so that they are completely covered by the egg. Let the mixture sit 15 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in a large skillet until very hot (you may use the same skillet as long as absolutely nothing is stuck to the bottom). Add the potato and egg mixture, rapidly spreading it out in the skillet with the aid of a pancake turner. Lower the heat to medium-high and shake the pan often to prevent sticking. When the potatoes begin to brown underneath, invert a plate of the same size over the skillet. Flip the omelet onto the plate. Add about 1 tablespoon more of oil to the pan, then flip the omelet back into the skillet to brown on the other side. (If your skillet was not hot enough, some of the omelet may stick to the pan. If this happens, don't despair; scrape off the pieces and fit them into their places on the omelet. With subsequent flips, the pieces will mesh with the omelet.)
Lower the heat to medium. Flip the omelet 2 or 3 more times (this helps to give it a good shape) cooking briefly on each side. It should be slightly juicy within. Transfer to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature. I prefer it after it has been sitting for several hours.
The kitchen at Madame Mere's is perhaps the cleanest you will ever find anywhere. There are two maids who take turns cleaning and taking care of her. She sweeps after them. Those are my Bottega Veneta shoes which I gave her when my feet went up a size. Much to my chagrin, she loves to clean and garden in them.
All photos Lindaraxa