Oh so many years ago, I had the awesome experience of living in Spain. Madrid, to be specific. And I loved every minute of it. Including the moment I arrived and ordered a Tortilla Tradicional.
Tortilla, in Spain, is quite a different thing than that of Latin American countries. In contrast to the flour or corn flat bread, the Spanish tortilla is made with eggs, potatoes and onions, and is considered more of a cake or torta. Tortilla being the diminutive form, means little cake. Hence this egg/potato combo is less omelette and more cake. In Spain, it is simply known as Tortilla, but to distinguish it from a French omelette or from the South American flatbread, it is often called tortilla de patatas or tortilla española.
No matter what you call it, this 'cake' is a delight to eat either as a snack, which is how the Spaniards usually eat it, or for breakfast/brunch. Heck, why not a slice for dinner with a vegetable or salad on the side. (A true Spaniard would be appalled at that suggestion. But I am here in the U.S., and we need our greens!)
I will admit that making this was new to me. Years ago I tried my hand at making a tortilla but it didn't quite turn out to the thick, dense omelette it should be. A few reasons for my failure as a true Spaniard. I didn't have an equal amount of eggs to potatoes which is what creates both the thickness and density. Plus I didn't poach the potatoes first. I cooked it altogether in a frittata style. Working at Despaña has taught me a ton, including how to make a proper Spanish Tortilla. After asking Chef Jaume Guerra, and watching the cooks make countless tortillas, one after another, each looking exactly the same, I felt ready to attempt it again. Please, do not get me wrong, I'm still not an expert. Mine did not look as stunningly perfect as theirs but I have more confidence that I have the right technique now. With that, an ever-good student knows how important it is to teach after she has been schooled. So here is the proper way to make this famous, delicious, versatile Tortilla. Best part, It requires very few ingredients.
6 eggs, beaten
6 potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
Slice the potatoes and onion thinly. I use a mandolin. You can use the single cutter side of a box grater, or simply cut thinly with a knife. In a sauté pan add at least 2/3 cup of oil and slowly heat, and add the potatoes and onions. Beat the eggs and set aside.
The key in cooking the potatoes is to poach them in the oil not fry. So low and slow is the goal. Let them cook in a gentle manner until the potatoes break apart. Then drain them, reserving the oil. (Since the oil was not heated to the boil point you can reserve it and use it to cook at a later time.)
Let the potatoes cool slightly. You don't want to add them to eggs when they are too hot, but you do want them to be warm so that when you mix them with the eggs it creates almost a custard.
Put some of the oil back in the pan and add your egg/potato mixture. Cook over low heat slowly. Let the mixture set a bit and then using a spatula start to form sides and keep the omelette moving. Allow this to cook 3/4 of the way. Then once it is set with rounded edges, slide it out of the pan onto a plate and then place the pan on top of the plate and flip it over back into the pan to let that side cook.
Despaña makes a variety of tortillas. Some have chorizo, others have cheese, or zucchini. The traditional is made of just the ingredients listed above but you can add whatever floats your Spanish Armada. With Mother's Day approaching, this could be a nice way to start the day and treat your 'reina' - aka Queen.
I made this for dish when my niece, Lauren who studied in Barcelona, came for a visit. She loved living in Spain too, and has a passion for Spanish food and culture. So I thought it only fitting to make this classic tapas treat for her.
It was the perfect offering for a late Saturday lunch along with a charcuterie and cheese platter. Slice the tortilla up by cutting a pie wedge, serve with a glass of red wine and some crusty bread. Can you say OLE! Sure can. And now you, too, know how to make a proper Traditional Spanish Tortilla. Viva España!