This fall, I decided to take a course in Latin America food regulation. The course began by asking us to name a particular Latin American dish that we enjoyed or considered to be our favorite. While I could not think of a favorite Latin American dish, I immediately thought of the Spanish potato omelet.
My own experience learning how to make the Spanish potato omelet, otherwise known as "tortilla de patata" or "tortilla española" in Spanish, was neither easy nor fun. However, my first failed attempts taught me the most important technique while making the tortilla: it is the thorough mixing of the cooked potatoes and beaten eggs before frying that helps give the tortilla its perfect blend of flavors. Two years in Spain fortunately gave me plenty of opportunties to practice and practice again. Here are a few other important key tips to remember:
1. Salt the potato mixture periodically throughout the entire process.
2. Combine the eggs and potato mixture into a large mixing bowl, mixing well and letting the mixture sit for at least a few minutes to allow the eggs and potato to blend well together.
3. Stick a fork in the cooked tortilla after flipping it a few times to determine whether it is done. Depending on preference, a “done” tortilla can range from a slightly runny center to a thicker center. I personally prefer tortilla with a thicker center.
This particular recipe serves four people (yielding four large slices), or it stores well for leftovers (enjoy within two days!).
Medium- or large-sized non-stick frying pan
Thin plate or pot/pan lid large enough to cover the frying pan (for flipping)
Large mixing bowl
Small mixing bowl
Fork or whisk
Between ½ and 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil (light for cooking; exact quantity will depend on the size of the pan used)
½ medium white onion, chopped (quantity is optional)
6 medium-sized potatoes
Salt (the amount used is discretionary, but in total, I probably use about ¼ cup of salt throughout the entire tortilla-making process)
1. Wash and peel the potatoes.
2. Dice the potatoes into very small pieces (the size is at your discretion), and season them with salt. If you choose to add onion, you may dice the onion at this point, too.
3. Begin heating the oil in the non-stick frying pan. Heat the oil slowly on a low to medium flame. As the oil begins to bubble at the bottom of the frying pan, begin adding the potatoes. Add the potatoes slowly – a few at a time, creating a pile – to avoid burns. If you choose to use the onion, you may also add the onion at this time.
4. Add more oil if necessary so that the potatoes are mostly submerged in the oil. The potatoes must cook very slowly, so avoid high heat so that they do not fry. The potatoes should cook for about 20 minutes on low-medium heat. Stir/turn the potatoes to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan, and add salt occasionally. It is okay if some of the potatoes stick together during this step.
5. After the potatoes turn a light-brown color and are soft, (some of them may even fall apart) drain most of the oil from the frying pan. Carefully put the potatoes into the large mixing bowl, and set the bowl aside.
6. Beat the four eggs together in the small mixing bowl.
7. After beating the eggs well, add them to the large mixing bowl containing the cooked potatoes. Mix the potatoes and eggs all together, adding salt. Set the mixture aside for about 10 minutes.
8. In the meantime, coat the large frying pan with a thin layer of oil. The mixture does not need to be submerged in oil this time, so about ¼ cup of oil should be enough to cover the bottom of the large frying pan. Slowly begin to heat the oil again. When the oil is hot, add the potato-egg mix, and set the flame on medium. The goal is not to fry the tortilla but rather to lightly cook the outside of it to give it shape and a light-brown color. Use a spoon to help round the edges of the omelet as it is cooking.
9. After about one to two minutes, flip the omelet using the plate/lid. I recommend flipping the omelet over a nearby sink if possible to contain the oil.
10. Repeat step nine a few times to provide shape to the tortilla. The tortilla is finished cooking after both sides of the tortilla are light brown in color. Four flips should be sufficient, and I suggest waiting about two to three minutes between flips to allow the tortilla to take on its shape and color.
11. Use a fork to determine if the tortilla is cooked inside to your liking. I recommend that the tortilla have a soft yet firm texture, although some Spaniards do like it a bit runnier! Whatever your preference, enjoy!
Season of consumption: All
© 2017 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved.
First image above: Shutterstock.