February 7, 2010

Tortilla de Patatas

Spanish food is not very exciting. I know tapas bars are all the rage here in the U.S., but a lot of the tapas served here are variations on a theme, not exactly authentic. (One of my favorite Bay Area restaurants, Cesar, is a good example of taking tapas to a new level.)

Spanish food is not spicy (hot). Nor is it spiced much, other than with salt and pepper. It is not uncommon for Spaniards to make white rice and top it with a fried egg. When I lived in Spain, I would buy a canned mushroom pasta sauce, then sautee some onions and bell peppers with spices to add to it. My Spanish roommate just bought the plain tomato sauce. When he tried some of mine, the mushroom kind--before I added anything to it--he was blown away at how flavorful it was. Really. It had not occurred to him to get the mushroom kind until then. It was exotic.

Now, I'm not trying to be disparaging here, just telling you what I experienced. There are many things to love about Spanish food, for sure, but my absolute favorite Spanish dish is tortilla. It is only eggs, potatoes, onions, oil and salt, but it is fantastic. Comfort food. Savory and satisfying. (And improved by a dash of hot sauce. I'm sorry, I am from California--the land of ubiquitous Mexican food--and I am used to a little heat.) My favorite meal while living in Madrid was a hot bocadillo de tortilla from a little take out place near my apartment. It cost extra to add roasted pequillo peppers, but worth it. I'd run home and slather on a layer of Cholula (imported from back home) and enjoy every last bite. Especially on a wintry afternoon far from home.

Tortilla de Patata
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 medium-small potatoes, cut into half-inch cubes.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat plenty of oil in a large frying pan over medium. Add potatoes and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add onion and fry for a few minutes, until translucent and potatoes are nearly cooked. Turn up the heat and fry until potatoes are done and slightly crunchy, a few minutes more.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and salt. With a slotted spoon drain potatoes, leaving extra oil in the pan. Add fried potatoes to the bowl with eggs. Pour off any extra oil, leaving a small amount in the pan to cook the egg mixture. 
  3. Reheat the pan over medium. Add egg mixture and cook until mostly firm. (It will be undercooked on top.) Cover the frying pan completely with a very large plate. Here's the tricky part---quickly flip the frying pan over so the plate is on the bottom. Your tortilla is now on the plate. Slide the tortilla back into the pan, so that the undercooked side is now in the frying pan and the cooked side is up. 
  4. Cook a couple of minutes more, until the bottom has browned and the tortilla is cooked through. 
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Tortilla can be served hot or cold, which means it is just as good as leftovers. You can eat it as is, or turn it into a sandwich like we did. 

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