In North America, we know this as the Spanish tortilla but in Spain it’s just a Tortilla (de patatas), the humble and endlessly snackable omelet stacked high with potatoes!
Eggs and potatoes happen to be two of my favourite foods and therefore, I knew I’d love it.
I have to admit, I was a little intimidated. Sometimes, even with my native Italian cooking, the simplest dishes are the hardes to get right. You’ve gotta take your time getting to know the tricks, the textures, the temperatures…
Apparently, in Spain there are those that swear that a traditional tortilla must only contain potatoes and there are those who say there must be onions! Are you team potato or team potato and onion? When I went to Mercado Little Spain in New York, I had it with onions and liked it so I added it to mine but I’d go either way.
Here are some of the things I learned when making mine.
- You need to slice your potatoes about 3mm thick (mine were slightly too thick)
- You need to fry your potatoes in olive oil for the best and most authentic flavour (don’t worry you can strain and re-use it).
- Start with your oil on med-high and lower to medium (You’re looking for a light constant bubbling)
- Let your cooked potato slices cool a little and add to the beaten eggs. Let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature. The starch in the potatoes will thicken the mixture for a better texture.
- When flipping your omelet onto a plate (before sliding it back into your pan), ensure the plate is bigger than a pan, otherwise there will be spillage. For the record, there may be a little spillage no matter what. So don’t be too hard on yourself 😉
- If your large pan is too heavy for you to flip with one hand, opt for a smaller frying pan and make two smaller tortillas.
- If you’re team onion, you can either fry them with the potatoes or fry them seperately. What’s better? That’s up to you. Frying the onion with the potatoes will ensure the flavour infuses the oil and potatoes. Frying them separately allows you to control the level of caramelization. I wanted mine really brown, soft and caramelized.
- Cook your tortilla gently, on medium or even medium-low. If it gets too dark, you’ll have a tougher exterior
- Serve fully set, runny or somewhere in between. I’ve seen some tortillas where the inside is very runny and I’ve had one that was overcooked and a little dry. The sweet spot for me was almost fully set but ever so slightly undercooked between the potato layers. That slight moisture is key.
Traditional Spanish Tortilla (Tortilla de Patatas)
- 1 10-11 inch non-stick or smaller to make 2 tortillas
- 1 High sided skillet or pot for frying potatoes
- 1 Slotted spoon or spider
- 1 Flat plate larger in diameter than your pan
- 1 Rubber spatula
- 2 lbs waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold or red
- salt to taste
- 8 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 large white onion thinly sliced
- extra virgin olive oil for frying
- Peel the potatoes and rinse them under cold water. Slice them thinly (about 3-4 mm thick) using a sharp knife or mandoline.
- Pat the potato slices dry with paper towels and put them into a large bowl, then sprinkle with salt and mix well.
- Heat a ½ inch to an inch of high quality extra virgin olive oil in a large, preferably high-sided frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, lower to medium-low. Add the potatoes and add more oil if necessary until all are covered.
- Cook the potatoes on medium-low heat for approximately 20 minutes. They may break down a little; this is okay.
- While the potatoes are cooking, beat the eggs in a large bowl and season with some salt.
- Fry onion slices in oil over medium heat in a separate pan until it begins to caramelize, about 10-20 minutes. Add a splash of water now and then and you can put the lid on to help the process along. Drain off any excess oil allow to cool slightly. Then and add to the egg mixture.
- Once the potatoes have fried for 20 minutes, remove them with a large slotted spoon/spider into a colander and allow them to cool and drain for at least 5 minutes.Strain the oil from the potatoes and save it for another use.
- Add the potatoes to the egg mixture and stir well. Let the egg mixture sit for about 15-20 minutes.
- Place your non-stick pan over medium-low heat and pour in the egg mixture.
- Cook over medium-low heat for about 6-8 minutes. Make sure the heat is low enough or the tortilla will cook too quickly and be rubbery. You can run a rubber spatula along the edges to make sure the tortilla isn’t sticking.
- To flip the tortilla, take a large plate and put it over the pan and flip quickly. Some uncooked egg mixture will likely slip out, but that’s okay. Slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook the other side, and cook for another 6-8 minutes.
- Slide the tortilla out of the pan onto a serving plate and let cool a little before slicing.
- Enjoy warm, at room temperature or even cold!