Tortilla Espanola is a simple delicious dish that can be served as a main meal or appetizer. In Spain the country of origin of this wonderful dish, it features prominently as a tapas (appetizer) and is served cut in small portions. At home we normally enjoy this dish accompanied with a healthy helping of salad greens.
Tortilla Espanola consists of 4 basic ingredients: potatoes, onions, eggs and olive oil. Salt and pepper are added to taste. As far as the origins are concerned, my research yielded nothing concrete. In my opinion it arose out of someone’s need to create something interesting and good from humble ingredients.
The secret to a good Tortilla Espanola lies in cooking of the potatoes to the correct tenderness. You cannot let the potatoes get crispy, as this will completely alter the soft texture required of this dish. Basically then, you almost have to slowly “boil” the potatoes in the olive oil along with the onions until they are tender.
Another little secret I want to share with you is in regards to the olive oil. I save my olive oil in a container in the refrigerator after each use. This oil becomes extremely fragrant and imparts a delicious taste on your next tortilla. It does not spoil, trust me!
Another helpful tip has to do with the flipping of the Tortilla. I use a tandem pan that I purchased at Sur La Table, as a Christmas gift for my husband years ago. It works amazingly well and you don’t have to worry about the possibility of your Tortilla falling when you do the flip If you don’t have a tandem pan, make sure the dish you are flipping onto is large enough. You can flip it a few times until you get a really nice color and the pie firms up in the middle.
Now, everyone’s taste buds are different, but in my opinion a Tortilla Espanola tastes just as good cold. I recommend that you try this at least once, it might just become one of your favorites!
Amazon carries a tandem pan that is perfect for flipping a large tortilla.
Here is a summary of steps, tips and techniques on making a great authentic Tortilla Española. As a side note, I like to use two cooking vessels to make this dish. I have a large dutch oven I use to simmer the onions and potatoes in the olive oil and then I use a tandem pan for the final dish and it makes flipping very easy. To get started, slice all the onions and potatoes first and have them ready.
I like to use an OXO Mandolin Slicer and set it to 1/8 inch. This works perfectly for the potato and onions. Next the olive oil; you want to be using a nice extra virgin olive oil. I have a large quart jar I store in my refrigerator just for tortilla Española and I use it each time I make the dish. The oil will solidify so just pop it into the microwave on medium for a minute to get it flowing. Put the oil in the Dutch oven on medium heat while slicing the onions and potatoes. Leave the lid off during the entire process.
Add the potatoes and onions in alternating layers to the oil but watch the temperature so that it is just simmering lightly. You don’t want to deep fry them, just cook them to a nice soft consistency. I like to keep checking my potatoes during the cooking process to get them just soft or almost – al dente. They will cook down a bit and this is why I start with a large dutch oven.
Place a large colander in big bowl and pour in the potatoes and onions draining off the oil. Capture the oil in the bowl and once it has cooled store in back in the refrigerator. The oil will keep getting more flavor infused each time you make the dish! Yummy! Once most of the oil has drained I will set the colander on a plate to catch the final drips of oil. Now you have to let the onions and potatoes cool completely. This will take a while but your patience will be rewarded.
While they are cooling, beat the eggs and once the potatoes onion mixture is cool pour them into the beaten eggs. Now you let them soak in eggs and this step is critical. The potato and onions will soak up a lot of the egg mixture during the step. After they have soaked for about ten minutes get your tandem pan hot, add about 2 tbsp of the dripping olive oil to the pan and pour in the mixture. Put the top on the pan to keep the heat in and it will help to slightly solidify the middle of the tortilla. After 8-10 minutes take the lid off and check if you have a nice brown color on the bottom and you are ready to flip.
I like to preheat the top side of my tandem pan on another burner for about 2 minutes on high heat before the flipping step so it is really hot. If you are using a plate to flip just be sure the middle of the tortilla not too runny or it may fall apart. I would use some grilling gloves and place the plate on top of the pan, hold it on tightly, flip it over onto the plate and then slide it back into the pan. Let it cook for another 5-10 minutes until the middle is cooked through and the bottom is golden brown.
If you want to bring the flavors of Spain to your home I have several great recipes to share with you.
Prueba de cerdo is a classic tapas dish of thinly sliced marinated pork that is grilled fast and is so easy to make.
Croquetas de jamón y pollo take a little effort but you will be rewarded with a delicious appetizer that is crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.
If you visit bars in Spain one popular tapas dish is mushrooms in sherry sauce served on a nice crusty bread.
Empanadas are savory turnovers filled with meat or cheese. Most are fried but I like to cheat and bake mine using pre-made pie crust.
Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Potato Pie)
This simple yet classic potato and onion 'omelette' is popular throughout Spain, and is one of my very favorite things to eat. Perfect with a side salad. Tortilla Espanola or tortilla de patatas is a dish with simple delicate flavors you will love.
- 2 lbs baking potatoes peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 onion medium, sliced thinly
- 6 eggs beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups olive oil
In a large skillet or Dutch oven heat oil on medium heat uncovered. (Make sure the oil does not get overly hot because olive oil is a low temperature oil. Too much heat destroys the phenols in the oil.)
- Add the potatoes and the onions in alternating layers.
- Allow to cook until both potatoes and onions are tender. This should take about 10-12 minutes.You want the potatoes to be soft, but not fall apart.
- Once the potato and onions are cooked, place a bowl with a colander on top. Set in the sink. Slowly empty the contents of the skillet onto the colander. (the bowl below will catch the oil).
- Allow to cool for several minutes (10-12). It is important that the potatoes are cool so they don't immediately cook the egg when combined.
In a large bowl, combine the beaten eggs and add the potato and onion mixture. Add the salt.
- Let the eggs soak into to potato egg mixture for 10 minutes.
- Heat your skillet and pour the mixture in. Cover and cook for about 8-10 minutes. Remove the cover and flip onto a large flat plate. Slide back into pan and cook for an additional 8 minutes.
- Flip again, slide onto large plate and serve.