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Spanish tortilla is a lovely egg, potato and onion concoction that is so flexible it can either be supper or an hors d’oeuvre; it can be served hot, warm, room temperature or cold.  It can be made ahead, is actually best made a couple of hours ahead, and can be reheated.  Best of all, it’s absolutely delicious!  The Spanish are nothing, if not frugal and tortilla española is the perfect foil for using leftovers. When most of us think of tortilla we think of the Mexican version of corn or flour “crepes” that are used for tacos, burritos, etc.  Spanish tortilla isn’t those.  It’s a thick egg and potato mixture, made with or without onions and garlic, sometimes with only onions, sometimes with shrimp, ham or sausage added.  The secret is low heat, letting the cooked potato/onion mixture soak in the eggs for at least 15 minutes and patience.  I think a non-stick skillet, if not essential, certainly makes it easier to prepare a good tortilla.

Spanish Tortilla (Tortilla Española)

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: Medium
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  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 Russet potatoes, peeled, sliced lengthwise and cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 1 large sweet onion, very thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, put through a press or finely chopped
  • Oil, as needed
  • 8-10 eggs, beaten
  • Salt as needed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed (optional)

Pour the olive oil into a 9-inch, non-stick pan (preferably with slanted sides); heat over medium-low heat.  Add the potatoes slices and cook, stirring often until they are just about tender, but not brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Sprinkle with a 3-fingered pinch of salt.

Add the onion and garlic; continue to stir occasionally until the potatoes are tender.  The total cooking time will be between 15 and 20 minutes.  Add another 3-fingered pinch of salt.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with 1/4 cup cold water.  Add the potato/onion mixture.  Toss in the thawed peas; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  You may add some red pepper flakes, if you wish.  Let the mixture stand for 20-30 minutes.  The potatoes should be completely submerged in the egg mixture.

Wipe out the pan; heat the pan and add 2 tablespoons of additional oil.   When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the egg/potato mixture. Cook for 30 seconds, gently shaking the pan to distribute the mixture. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the surface is nearly cooked but still runny in the center (I lay a cover over the skillet; I think the tortilla cooks more evenly).

Remove pan from heat and let sit for 2 minutes. Place a large plate over the pan. Holding the handle of the pan in one hand and the plate in the other, flip the omelet quickly, in one smooth motion and remove the pan. (If you are unsure of this, slip the omelet, semi-cooked side up, onto a plate and then cover with another plate and flip).

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat for 1 minute. Gently slide the tortilla, semi-cooked side down, into the pan.  Gently “smooth” the edges.  Cook until done, about 3-4 minutes. Slide the tortilla onto a warm platter.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  If you prefer not to flip the tortilla over, pack the egg/potato mixture into an oven-proof skillet.  Bake in a preheated 300-degree F oven for about 20 to 25 minutes.  When the center is just set, place a plate over the skillet and in one smooth motion, flip the skillet over and allow the tortilla to drop onto the plate.  Remove the skillet; let the tortilla rest at least 10 minutes.  Serve hot, warm or cold.  Cut into wedges for dinner or into small bite-sized squares for hors d’oeuvre.  Serve with saffron aioli, if desired.

Spanish Tortilla (Tortilla Española) Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015.  All rights reserved.

This sounds much more complicated to prepare than it actually is.  This is a great summer dish, as you can prepare it early in the day, let it set and reheat in the microwave or eat it at room temperature.  I prefer to slice the potatoes, but you can dice them if you prefer.  It will take a bit longer for them to cook.  I slice them just shy of about 1/4-inch thick.  They tend to hold up a bit better and won’t fall apart so easily.

I have an old cookie sheet, with no sides, that I use as a cover and I use it to flip the tortilla.  You can make smaller 6-inch tortillas that have different flavors and serve as tapas.  In the spring I use asparagus and garlic scapes.  In summer, I use fresh herbs and scallions.  In autumn, I add ham or prosciutto.  033In winter, I use the frozen peas, but add red pepper flakes or thin slices of jalapeño peppers.  You can, of course, use leftovers, as I mentioned previously, and experiment with different flavor combinations.

Flipping the tortilla isn’t as difficult as it sounds.  It’s a bit cumbersome, but after you make a tortilla a few times, you’ll get the hang of it.  A smaller skillet, about 9-inches, is easier to handle.  There are times when I have the oven on anyway, so I just slide the skillet into the oven and let it cook.  When I do that, I don’t flip the tortilla over, only when I serve it.

This is a favorite of The Latin Lovers.  He likes it served with spicy ketchup on the side.  We will often have this for dinner, then the next morning, I gently reheat a wedge in the microwave and place slices between 2 pieces of toast…YUM!