Tortilla de patatas (The REAL Spanish Omelet)
Here's Brown-Bag Lunch #3. Any American diner'll offer the "Spanish Omelet" with peppers, onions and tomatoes, which is lovely and a helluva hangover cure, but in Spain the default omelet (called a tortilla, even though there is no flatbread involved) is made of potatoes. Seems boring? Not at all! This is the epitome of rich, satisfying, comfort food a la española.
With this recipe, you have to unlearn everything you’ve ever known about how to fry potatoes. No high heat to create a crunchy seal and keep the potatoes from absorbing all the oil. In fact absorbing all the oil is precisely the goal here. I said, rich, didn't I? This is one of those pre-foodie movement dishes where you use a lot of fat to make humble ingredients taste great. The thing is, despite the calorie content if you do it right, tortilla de patatas is fabulous.
Ingredients: (The austerest list you'll ever see)
1 lb potatoes
1 medium onion, diced
¼-1/2 cup olive oil
5-6 large eggs
Cut potatoes in half, longways and slice in ¼ inch thick slices. Pour as much olive oil as you can possibly force yourself to into a smallish non-stick frying pan, heat to medium-low and add the potatoes. They should be at least half submerged. Keep them at a simmer, not a bubbly frying pace. As they cook, break the pieces up with your spatula. After 15 minutes, add the onion and continue cooking and breaking up the potatoes. By the time the potatoes are tender and permeated with oil (Mmmm…keep thinking "olive oil is GOOD for you!") they will look like corned beef hash made entirely from potatoes and onions.
At this point tip the pan forward and allow the oil to pool at the far end, while you scoop up the potatoes into a bowl, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible. Turn off the heat. Allow the potatoes to cool for 5-10 minutes until they are cool enough not to cook the eggs as they are added in. Add the eggs and mix, add salt to taste. Turn the heat back on to high under the frying pan and get it very hot before adding the potato-egg mixture. Once you add it, swirl the pan slightly to keep the tortilla moving and not sticking to the pan. The edges should puff up. Once you have assured that a crust has formed at the bottom lower the heat to the lowest setting and continue cooking for about 15 minutes until the top is partially set. At this point, I suggest you follow my instructions, contrary to those of every Spaniard I have ever met*, and with your widest spatula under one corner of the tortilla, scoop it out onto a dinner plate. Then, invert the frying pan on top of the tortilla, hold the pan handle and the bottom of the plate really securely, think inspiring thoughts, believe in yourself (I think I can, I think I can…) and flip.
Now cook for just another 2-5 minutes. I like my tortilla completely cooked inside, solid but not dry. Some people, Gabriel for example, like a bit of uncooked egg in the middle (the nutters!). Tortilla can be eaten hot or room-temperature, so it's great for brown-bag lunches. Cut into wedges for a simple lunch accompanied by a green salad or cut into cubes, putting a toothpick into each one for the most popular appetizer at any party**.
*Spaniards will have you placing a plate upside down on top of the tortilla-filled frying pan and flipping and then oozing the upside-down tortilla back into the pan. To me that’s just too messy.
**at any party where there are Spaniards.