February 27, 2014

Tortilla de patatas: A Classic Spanish Dish

If you haven't already visited her blog, Chic Soufflé regularly posts some delicious recipes there. It'll make you hungry to read it! They are mostly sweets and desserts, but there are also some savories and drinks recipes, too. (I'm still licking my lips over her recent "Caramelized Garlic Tart"! Mmm, garlic! And some say, "¡España huele a ajo!") There are few things more Spanish than the Spanish omelette, so I've invited her to share her recipe here along with tips and thoughts on this quintessentially Spanish dish.
"I <3 tortilla de patatas" via Kukuxumusu
Tortilla de patatas, tortilla española, Spanish omelette… different names for such a delicious and humble dish, and yet somehow this simple staple of Spanish cuisine often gets misrepresented in US recipes. It’s as if they want to make what is essentially a super easy combination of—a very few—ingredients into something complicated. But the truth is that a Spanish omelette does not need to be a complicated affair, and that’s the beauty of it. This is no paella. This is a dish you can make pretty much in ANY country, anytime, easily, and with very few basic ingredients. You don’t even need olive oil (that’s right, I said it!) Finding potatoes, eggs, and onion (optional) shouldn’t be hard in most parts of the world, and you only need a decent nonstick pan to cook it.

Now, just like with every classic staple recipe in any cuisine, everyone has a different take on it. I mean, I learned my tortilla de patatas from my mom, and our versions don’t even taste that similar! If you have eaten it in Spain and are a fan of this potato-rich goodness, you’ll certainly have noticed the differences. More or less gooey interior, smaller or bigger diced potatoes, onion or no onion, fatter or thinner…I love them all.

On the recommendation of a friend and fellow blogger,
we tried these enormous, delicious tortillas at Bar Santos, Córdoba

Despite being a simple dish, there are a few things you MUST know to perfect a classic tortilla de patatas:
• First of all, you do not need to waste a “quart of olive oil” to cook it. Many people make it with sunflower oil (great for deep-frying and used often in Spain—it’s our canola oil), and if you do use nice olive oil, know that after you remove the fried potatoes you shouldn’t discard it. It is totally fine to reuse it, and it will be infused with a nice potato flavor.
• Pick the right potato. Those flavorless potatoes you find in some supermarkets do not do it justice. You want tasty potatoes (Russet works great), because it is the main ingredient, after all.
• There’s a great trick for turning the tortilla that always works. You just need two dinner plates that are a little bigger than the pan you’re using. The rest is not that complicated (see below.)
• Thicker and smaller is better than thin and big. In my experience, it’s always better two use a smaller pan and make a thick tortilla (but no more than 2 inches, or it gets complicated). A thicker tortilla tastes better, looks better, and is easier to handle.
• The way the potatoes are chopped is probably the biggest difference you’ll find among recipes. Some people like it in small cubes, small pieces, little sticks, big chunks…we all have our favorite style. 
• The texture of the tortilla can be quite different depending on where you try it, but it should never be dry! I noticed that in Madrid (in my opinion, one of the best cities to eat tortilla) they like it very, very gooey in the middle. In Valencia, however, they usually cook it thoroughly until the middle is set. The way I make it is leaving it a little gooey on the inside, but not runny. It’s a matter of how long you cook it, so you can experiment with that and see what you prefer.
• It’s a well-know fact that tortilla de patatas tastes awesome leftover, so don’t be afraid to make too much! :)

¿Qué es para usted una tortilla? In our house, we eat both types of homemade tortillas!

Ready to make a tortilla de patatas?

Here’s my recipe, which I have been using for over 10 years. Whenever I’ve made variations, I’ve always come back to the basics because it tasted better. With tortilla de patatas it’s just best to keep it simple!

Ingredients
1 big potato
3 or 4 eggs
half an onion (optional)
sunflower or canola oil for frying (or olive oil, which you can reuse)
a pinch of salt


1. Peel and chop the potato. This is what I like to do: I grab a small slicing knife and cut uneven chunks while rotating the potato. I feel these bigger chunks give it a more interesting texture, but you can cut it differently and just adjust the cooking depending on the size. If you choose to add onion, chop it thinly.


2. Fill an 8-inch pan (20 cm) with oil (enough to cover the potatoes.) Heat up until the oil is very hot and add the potatoes. If you’re using onion, add it now as well. Cover with a lid to avoid splatter mess. Fry until the potatoes are cooked through, but not crunchy. They should look pale. Remember, they will cook a bit longer with the egg.


3. While the potatoes are frying, crack the eggs in a medium bowl and beat with a fork. Add a pinch of salt.

4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes (and onion) and put them in the bowl with the egg. Mix with the fork.



5. Unless you’re using olive oil, discard most of the oil from the pan, leaving only about one spoonful to cook the tortilla. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the egg and potato mix. Cover with the lid. When the tortilla is set around the edges but still gooey in the middle, it’s time to do “the plate trick”. Slide the tortilla onto one of the plates (carefully detaching the sides with a spatula, if needed). Put the other plate on top to cover (the plates must match sizes) and quickly flip the plates. Now your tortilla is flipped and you can slide it onto the pan with the help of a spatula to drag any potato pieces left behind.

The "transfer" doesn't have to be seamless to lead to a shapely final product.

6. Cook uncovered for a few more minutes, only until the bottom settles. If you like it gooey in the middle, then it won’t take very long to cook, but it will always depends on the thickness of the tortilla, so just watch out to get that perfect texture. Whatever you like will be the best recipe you can always use. :)



Where did you try your favorite tortilla de patatas? Have any cooking tips of 
your own to add? Post your comments here. They are welcome!

7 comments:

Ladybird said...

Good Job guys! 👍

leftbanker said...

Here is my opinion of where to find the best tortilla de patatas in Valencia.

leftbanker said...

But I've never tried yours so who knows?

raul said...

Any idea on why so many Italians have opened restaurants in Valencia?I think maybe 10 % on Paseo Neptuno and more in the city It is really noticeable over the last years. Where are the good quality Spanish restaurants it is really a shame ?

Trevor Huxham said...

I love how everyone has their own distinct way of making tortilla de patatas…thanks for sharing your recipe here! I really appreciate the tip on using two plates to flip the half-cooked tortilla. After all these years I’m still messing up the flipping motion >.<

Suburban Bushwacker said...

mine comes out looking a lot like yours, but when eating tortilla with the GF's people in Alicante they serve it much paler, and as you say cooked through which i guess is a climatically influenced tradition? More cooked in the hotter regions?
SBW

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