Very early on Saturday, with my husband still in a deep slumber, I snuck out of bed, put on my thickest pair of socks and tiptoed down to the kitchen. I held my breath as I passed the guest room, fearing that even my breathing would be loud enough to be heard. The wagging of the dog’s tails against the wooden walls magnified across the hallway and I tried to calm them down to prevent anyone from waking.
Finally, I got to the kitchen… “I made it!” I thought. I was finally going to have a few hours in the kitchen all to myself!
Because as you all know, when Mom’s are visiting – you pretty much have to give up whatever rights you have in the kitchen because, when they’re around the kitchen ain’t yours… it’s theirs!
I wanted to make this this Tortilla Espanola (Spanish style Potato Omelette) for a tapas party I was throwing for New Year’s day. Made with only four very accessible ingredients (eggs, potatoes, onions and olive oil), a really good tortilla is guaranteed not only to bring any Spaniard to their knees, it’s also sure to please any guest for a tapas party. It’s also great eaten cold or at room temperature so you can make it in advance for any occasion.
And whatever happened to my covert CIA operation? It pretty much lasted a whole five minutes before I turned around, saw my Mom and heard her ask “Can I help?”
So how do you make a great Tortilla Espanola? It’s easy… but you’ll first have to get the flipping right. Unlike a frittata, the tortilla is cooked over a stove top and it is shaped by “flipping” the omelette several times until it is cooked through. So first you’ll have to find a non stick skillet that is light enough for you to be able to ensure that when the weight of four eggs, four potatoes and one onion is on top of the skillet, you are able to flip the omelette on to a plate (so you can proceed to brown the other side)… oh and you’ll also have to make sure that your plate is larger than your skillet (yes, I have made the mistake of scrambling around at the last minute finding a plate large enough for the tortilla). I have found the best skillet for me are the ones measuring 20 cm wide by 5 cm deep.
The next thing to remember is that you don’t want to fry or get any colour on the potatoes or onions – so you will need to cook this over a low heat, as if you are going to poach the potatoes and onions in olive oil until the onions are translucent and the potatoes are soft enough to pierce through with a fork but not too soft that they go mushy.
Okay, now you know this, you’re ready to begin….
Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Potato Omelette)
Adapted from Penelope Casas The Foods and Wines of Spain
I have made this dish previously, but a good tortilla is worthy to be blogged again. I remember a short conversation I had with Dan Hunter, head chef of Royal Mail who spent several years working at some of Spain’s top restaurants, including two Michelin starred Mugaritz. I asked him what his favourite Spanish dish to eat was… it wasn’t any of the fancy dishes he must have cooked or eaten at the number of Michelin starred restaurants he worked or dined in, his answer was the Tortilla. Once you taste a great tortilla, you will understand why.
- 125 ml olive oil
- 4 large waxy potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
- Heat some of the olive in a 20 cm skillet. Add some of the potato slices so that you cover the skillet with a layer of the potatoes. Next, add some of the onions and season with salt. Alternate the potatoes and onions, adding olive oil as you go. So basically it is potatoes, then onions, the salt, then a drizzle of olive oil before you add on the next layers. Potatoes, onions, salt, olive oil etc. Cook this over medium heat, turning the mixture once in a while until the potatoes are tender but not browned. This took me around 15 minutes but cooking times can vary.
- When the potatoes are done, they should be tender enough to be pricked with a fork without any resistance, drain them in a colander, reserving the olive oil to use for cooking the rest of the omelette. If there is more oil than what you need, don’t throw it away – this can be used for cooking other things as well so save it for future use.
- Cool the potato mixture slightly, around 10 minutes and place this in a bowl with the beaten eggs. Allow the mixture to rest for around 10 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
- Clean the skillet and heat 2 tablespoons of the olive in the large skillet until very hot and add the potato mixture, rapidly spreading it out in the skillet. Lower the heat to medium and shake the pan often to prevent sticking. Use a thin spatula to run along the sides of the skillet so that some of the egg can run under and cook more evenly. This takes around 6 to 8 minutes.
- When the mixture begins to brown and just before you flip the tortilla, loosen it by sliding a thin spatula between the egg and the side of the skillet walls. Place a plate slightly larger than the skillet over the skillet. Remove the skillet from the heat and flip the omelet on to the plate so you can brown the other side.
- Add about 2 tablespoons more to the skillet, and then slide the flipped omelet back on to the skillet so that the cooked side is facing the top. Cook the omelet for another 5 minutes over medium heat.
- Flip the omelet 2 or 3 more times (this helps to give a good shape), cooking briefly on each side.
- Transfer to a plate, use some kitchen paper to drain the excess oil. Sprinkle with chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)