Tortilla - Tradtional Spanish Style

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.

Ingredients

 

6 eggs, beaten
6 potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
Oil, salt

 

 

 

 

Instructions

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.

Ready, set, poach.

Ready, set, poach.

Yes, it's a ton of oil.  but not all of it is absorbed so don't freak out.

Yes, it's a ton of oil.  but not all of it is absorbed so don't freak out.

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.)  

Slowly poaching away to a soft tenderness.

Slowly poaching away to a soft tenderness.

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.  

Drain the potatoes, and reserve the oil.  It can be used again.

Drain the potatoes, and reserve the oil.  It can be used again.

Mix with eggs while still warm, but NOT hot.

Mix with eggs while still warm, but NOT hot.

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.  

You can see that it's potatoes being held together lovingly by eggs.

You can see that it's potatoes being held together lovingly by eggs.

Slide it onto a plate.

Slide it onto a plate.

Then place the pan on top and flip it over.

Then place the pan on top and flip it over.

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.

tortilla.platter2.jpg

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!

Boquerones = Bow ka roe nays

Garnished with crushed garlic, chopped parsley and fruity olive oil

Garnished with crushed garlic, chopped parsley and fruity olive oil

A boquerón is a little white anchovy that didn’t get salt cured.  Yet this little fish can cure your any need for an elegant, and full of flavor appetizer.  Another big plus, it can be served in a variety of ways.  I love this tiny fish, and I think you will too.  Even people who don’t traditionally like anchovies like them because they are so completely different.  They aren’t salty, and don't have that dried intense flavor of the sea.  These are much more subtle with a vinegar flavor note (if you serve as they come).  Although these delicate delights are becoming more popular, you might not find them in your local market.  However, speciality stores such as Despaña have them readily available both in store and can ship them as well.  These happen to be one of their best sellers.

Skewered with cucumber & olive. Photo courtesy: asithappens.com

Skewered with cucumber & olive. Photo courtesy: asithappens.com

Now, I do admit that I love regular anchovies, so you make think I am biased.  But even if you aren't an anchovy lover,  these are a must try because these babies are not anything like salt cured anchovies. Toss those old notations out and dive in head first.

First off, a boquerón is a fresh anchovy that gets a salt water bath then a vinegar bath for several hours which helps to give them their crisp white color.  The most common and traditional way of serving these is with crushed garlic, chopped parsley and olive oil, as shown above.  I love them served swimming on a stream of fruity olive oil. However, one of my favorite ways of presenting them is on a skewer.  It creates an elegant appetizer and one that is incredibly cocktail party friendly.  Grab, bite and go. I first came to know this method when we prepared them for a big event that Despaña hosted. Shortly after that I added them to Despaña’s After Hours Catering Menu.  They are always a huge hit,  whether at my home or at a catered event, these fish go flying off the plate.

The skewered version is easily made by using a vegetable peeler to create super thin slices of cucumber.  I use either an English or Persian cuc. Simply fold the cucumber in a ribbon style and poke the skewer through.  Do the same with the boquerón and then finish with an olive.  What I adore about this version is that the vinegar flavor profile is highlighted by the olive and cucumber which keeps this app crisp and refreshing. 

There are so many ways to serve these.  Just fish around your creative mind and express your own artistic style. Below are a couple of other versions that I have used for delight my guests.  One, keeping the vinegar flavor.  The other adding the garlic, parsley and oil.  In either style, it allows your guests to take a little of this and a little of that.


Or you can take your cue from Spanish tradition, serving it as an individual tapa:  atop a slice of bread and tomato.

Here is the way  Despaña  traditionally serves them up. Photo courtesy of Despaña

Here is the way Despaña traditionally serves them up. Photo courtesy of Despaña


Any way you let these fish swim, they are sure to be a crowd pleaser.