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Latin Twist: Typical Spanish Tapa, La Tortilla Española

[1]The tortilla española (Spanish potato omelette) has so many attributes: it’s easy, tasty, versatile, and comforting!  I’m just back from Barcelona, and filled with inspiration, new ideas, and of course, new recipes!  Thanks to my friend Victoria’s mom (an incredible 82 year-old woman who has now set the bar for me as far as what I want to be like when I grow up!), we enjoyed this one for a seaside breakfast in Mora (near Tarragona, on the Costa Brava in España). But, mis queridos amigos, the tortilla española is really an any-time snack; it goes just as well with a glass of wine as with café con leche. Here, and as I mentioned on my In the Kitchen with Arlen blog [2], the lines between breakfast food, lunch, snack, and dinner, are often blurry–and this, my friends, is a good thing!  (We get so used to our ways and though I know there’s comfort in that, sometimes you just need to color outside the lines! Life is way too short to always do the same thing!)

Back to my Barcelona-inspired post, I have to tell you a quick story. As easy as a tortilla española might look, there is a bit of wrist involved. Since I just got back from Spain, where I was reunited with my study year-abroad pals, and my former roommate (from, gasp, 34 years ago!), I was reminded of the first time I ventured to cook this typical Spanish treat. My three roommates had kind of challenged me (maybe more like a rite of passage!) to make one. Well, it looked easy enough, but I messed up one key step: the flip. Instead of neatly flipping it onto a plate, and then back into the pan (to cook both sides), I didn’t wait long enough. The result? My tortilla slid off the plate into the stove. Well you probably know the smell of burnt eggs (not so lovely!) and the nightmare of cleaning a gas stove with egg drippings (more like a punishment than anything else!). But, well, live and learn. Now I know–and I pass this knowledge over to you, that you need to wait until the eggs are, for the most part, set before doing the ol’ wrist-dominated flip-a-roo onto the plate, and then back into the pan. Once it’s cooked on both sides, you can do a few more flips for shape-building.

Now that I’ve shared that wisdom with you, let me also tell you that part of this savory snack’s versatility is not only in timing (could be served any time of day–or night!), or temperature (warm, room temperature)–and even cold–can work) but also in ingredients. You can definitely “play” and vary according to what you like or what you’re in the mood for (I’m thinking spinach, mushrooms, and more!). Bottom line? Have fun! ¡Buen Provecho! Enjoy!

Tortilla Española,

Adapted from Mambo Mixers [3],© 2005, Arlen Gargagliano

Serves 8 to 10

1/2 cup olive oil
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 large eggs

In a medium-size skillet, about 10-inches wide with sloping sides, heat the oil. Add the potato slices one at a time, making a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Add salt. Then add the onion slices on top, followed by the remaining potato slices.  Add additional salt and pepper if desired. Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and lightly golden. Remove the potatoes and onions with a spatula, and let drain on paper towels.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork until foamy. Add the potatoes to the egg in the bowl, pressing down so that they’re covered by the egg. Let sit for about 10 or 15 minutes.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in the pan; it must be very hot or the eggs will stick. Add the egg and potato mixture.  Use a spatula to spread it out evenly. Lower the heat, and shake the pan frequently to prevent sticking.

After about 8 minutes, or when the eggs start to brown underneath and they’re mostly set on top,  invert a plate that’s slightly larger than the skillet on top of the pan, and carefully (this is truly the tough part!) flip the tortilla onto the plate. Add about a tablespoon more of oil to the pan, and slide the tortilla back into it for about 5 minutes, to brown it on the other side.

Turn the tortilla over several more times to let it cook briefly on each side; this helps to shape it as well as cook it more. It should be lightly golden on the outside, yet still juicy on the inside. Transfer to serving plate and let cool slightly. Cut into thin wedges or squares to be served using toothpicks.