Spanish Tortilla

Slice of Tortilla de patatas cebolla

Tortilla de Patata y Cebolla

The Tortilla de Patata, known elsewhere as a Spanish Tortilla, is a simple and satisfying dish loved by all in Spain. I would be willing to bet that every Spanish restaurant in Spain makes tortilla. You can order a slice of it as a tapa or pincho, but most people here seem to like it stuffed into a sliced roll as a bocadillo (sandwich).

They have been making tortillas in Spain for 200 years. There are several different stories about the origin of the tortilla, the earliest dating to 1817 when the recipe was supposedly developed to feed hungry troops during the Carlist wars.

Like many traditional Spanish foods, there is some controversy about the ingredients allowed in a proper tortilla. A traditional tortilla contains only eggs and potatoes cooked in olive oil. Even the simple addition of onions can stir up a debate, although the Spanish government food website includes onions in their recipe (yes, the government website includes recipes!) There are also differences in opinion of what consistency makes for the best tortilla. Some like it firm and others like it soft and gooey in the middle. Personally, we like it both ways.

Our favorite spot in Valencia for a soft, velvety tortilla is Tasca de Salamanca on Carrer de Salamanca. They usually have a tortilla de patata and a tortilla de patata y cebolla (potato and onion), but on lucky days we might find tortilla with morcilla sausage or jamon. The bocadillo with several slices of moist tortilla stuffed into a warm roll is about as soothing as food gets. Together with a cafe con leche, fresh orange juice and a handful of potato chips, it’s the perfect breakfast.

bocadillo tortilla patata Tasca Salamanca Valencia

Bocadillo de Tortilla de Patata, Tasca de Salamanca

At home, however, we prefer a firmer tortilla that will last in the refrigerator to feed us for several days. I am fortunate to have a husband that enjoys cooking and loves to try new recipes, adapting them to his style and taste. After many tortillas, he has come up with a version that works well.

One major deviation from the traditional recipes is that he prefers to boil the potatoes in water, rather than olive oil. He finds that this releases some of the starch from the potatoes and helps to bind everything together. Our Spanish friends may scoff at this and say that it is not a tortilla. I respect that. We don’t have anything new to offer to the world of Spanish tradition, but we can share a more approachable way to achieve a pretty darn good tortilla. Most importantly, my guy can make it in our tiny rental apartment, with mismatched cookware on a tiny electric stove. Impressive!

The trickiest part of making the tortilla is flipping it out of the pan without sticking and achieving that nice round tortilla shape. Of course, I have always been happy to help get rid of the evidence when things didn’t turn out perfect. Round or not, the evidence is pretty delicious.

He now uses a two pan method for flipping that produces a beautiful tortilla every time. We have two 9-inch nonstick frying pans. One happens to have a slightly larger opening than the other, which works perfectly. The method for flipping the tortilla is easier to show than tell. However, if you want to skip straight ahead to the recipe, then head to the bottom of the page

Tortilla de Patata y Cebolla (Spanish Tortilla with Onion)

Step by Step Instructions

The beautiful thing about a tortilla is the simplicity of the ingredients. All you really need are eggs, potatoes, and olive oil. In this version we add onions, but the recipe is so versatile that you can add chorizo sausage, jamon, cheese, spinach…whatever you like. Waxy potatoes, like Yukon Gold or similar, work best. To begin, get your eggs out to allow them to come to room temperature.

Spanish Tortilla Ingredients

Ingredients for Tortilla de Patata y Cebolla

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 2 tablespoons of salt added. Peel the potatoes, cut them in half, and slice into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until a knife blade easily pokes through the potato, about 10 minutes. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon onto a plate and set aside to dry and cool.

While the potatoes are cooking, quarter the onions and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Cut the garlic into thin slices. Saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic slices and continue cooking for 2 additional minutes. Do not allow the onions or garlic to brown.

Remove onions and garlic from pan and set aside on a plate to cool. (If adding other ingredients like chorizo, bacon, ham, etc., cook separately and let cool as above.)

Whisk eggs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. When the onions, garlic, and potatoes have cooled, add them to the egg mixture and stir gently with a spatula until combined. (If adding cheese, grate and let warm to room temperature. Add cheese to the egg mixture at this point. Use a good melting cheese like Gouda or Emmental.)

10-egg-potato-mix

Mix it all together

Prepare two medium sized non-stick pans, preferably one slightly bigger than the other, by coating with a layer of olive oil making sure to coat the sides. Pour enough olive oil into the smaller pan to cover the bottom. This is the one you will start with.

9-two-pans

Warm the larger pan on low heat. Heat the smaller pan on high heat until just before the oil begins to smoke, then reduce to medium-low heat. The pan needs to be hot enough to set the eggs as soon as they hit the pan, but not so hot as to burn the tortilla. Pour the egg/potato/onion mixture into the pan and smooth down the potatoes on top so that they are immersed in egg.

cooking spanish tortilla

Loosen edges of tortilla with spatula

The egg should immediately begin to set around the edges. Every few minutes, run a spatula around the edges to keep the tortilla from sticking. Here’s a little secret – he keeps a small plate of olive oil nearby to keep the spatula oiled.

Place the larger pan on top of the tortilla to retain heat. This is important to help the top portion of the tortilla set. You could also cover the pan with a lid if you have one, but there are no lids in our little Spanish kitchen.

13-double-pans

Cover tortilla with the big pan

When the egg is firmly set around the edges but still jiggly in the center (about 15 minutes) place the larger pan on top and invert both pans so that the tortilla flips into the larger pan. Be careful and be swift – the top center of the tortilla will still be slightly wet and jiggly. This video shows the proper consistency of the center.

Bring the tortilla back up to medium-high heat to cook the bottom side. The amount of time will depend on how firm you want the tortilla to be in the middle.

spanish tortilla in pan

The flipped tortilla

In the meantime, wipe the smaller pan clean and re-coat with olive oil. This last step is purely aesthetic. The tortilla may have lost its nice round shape in the larger pan. When the bottom is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes, flip the tortilla back into the smaller pan and cook for another 1-2 minutes to reform the shape.

 

Slide or flip the entire tortilla onto a plate. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold from the fridge – however you like.

Spanish Tortilla

Tortilla de patata y cebolla

Spanish Tortilla

Ingredients

  • 4 medium potatoes, (Yukon Gold or similar) peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, quartered and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 7 large eggs, at room temperature
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil.
  2. Peel the potatoes, cut them in half, and slice into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices.
  3. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until a knife blade easily pokes through the potato, about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon onto a plate and set aside to cool.
  5. Saute onions in olive oil over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic slices and continue cooking for 2 additional minutes. Do not allow them to brown.
  6. Remove onions and garlic from pan and set aside on a plate to cool.
  7. Whisk eggs in large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  8. When vegetables are cool, add the onions, garlic, and potatoes to the egg mixture and stir gently with a spatula until combined.
  9. Prepare two medium sized non-stick pans, preferably one slightly bigger than the other, by coating with a layer of olive oil making sure to coat the sides. In the smaller pan, pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom. This is the one you will start with.
  10. Warm the larger pan on low heat. Heat the smaller pan on high heat until just before the oil begins to smoke, then reduce to medium-low heat. The pan needs to be hot enough to set the eggs as soon as they hit the pan, but not so hot as to burn the tortilla.
  11. Pour the egg/potato/onion mixture into the pan and smooth down the potatoes on top so that they are covered with egg.
  12. Cover with the larger pan (or a lid) to retain heat. Every few minutes, run a spatula around the edges to keep the tortilla from sticking.
  13. When the egg is firmly set around the edges but still jiggly in the center (about 15 minutes) place the larger pan on top and invert both pans so that the tortilla flips into the larger pan.
  14. Bring the tortilla back up to medium-high heat to cook the bottom side. In the meantime, wipe the smaller pan clean and re-coat with olive oil.
  15. When the bottom is cooked through, about 3-5 minutes, flip the tortilla back into the smaller pan and cook for 1-2 minutes to reform the shape.
  16. Slide or flip the entire tortilla onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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