Tortilla de patata (Potato omlette)
This dish, in addition to being eaten at home, is one I regularly make when travelling. It can be made the night before and cut into chunks and put into a tupperware box with some cocktail sticks to make the ultimate in-flight snack. Also, I’m surprised at how long it’s taken me to document this recipe, guess it’s a case of “technique” over contents..
It’s essential to have a proper pan to make your tortilla. Personally I prefer mine to be slightly moist on the inside, so that requires a smaller, deeper pan than your average frying pan. The one in the image below is 20cm in diameter and 6cm deep.
Also important is the quality of the eggs – definitely a case of organic or the best you can buy. Then (unfortunately) there is the olive oil. In the images below you can see an olive oil that is really thick and gloopy and costs 4 euros per litre, something of the same quality in the UK costs around 12 – 14 pounds. The oil can be used for other dishes when the tortilla is made, so I often make my Italian Fried Chicken to go with this just to use up the oil.
Finally, before we get cracking there is the “with or without onion” dilemma. Personally I prefer it with onion however, each to his own. Simply omit onion from the instructions below.
Ingredients 6 x medium organic eggs, beaten in a large (25cm+) bowl.
500ml of top quality olive oil**
350g of sliced and salted potatoes (approx 3 medium sized)
1/2 an onion (optional) chopped coarsely. 350g potatoes cut into slices (see below)
1 x 20cm diameter fring pan with high sides
1 x 23cm (or larger) dinner plate
First place 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan and gently fry the chopped onion, we are aiming for soft, translucenct bits. We don’t want to burn the onion since this will impair the flavour. While the onions are frying off, peel the potatoes and cut into slices approx 0.5cm in depth. Lay these out on a board and liberally sprinkle them with salt. Then, turn them over and sprinkle them again with salt. Don’t worry about the huge salt content since most of this salt won’t make it into the final dish.
Cut the potatoes into 1/2 cm slices and sprinkle with salt both sides
When the onions are done, remove them from the frying pan and add them to the beaten egg in the bowl. Now put the remaining oil (yes all of it!) into the frying pan and heat up, taking care not to overheat it. We’re after a medium heat, trying always not to burn the olive oil, ie we want it to remain dark and gloopy, not liquid and smoking.
When the oil is hot, slip one piece of potato in gently. The piece should bubble but not ferociously. Too hot and you’ll be making chips! Very carefully, put the remaining potatoes into the pan and allow to bubble away. What’s happening is we are boiling the potatoes in oil, so the water from the potatoes will escape as steam and the flavour will be more concentrated.
Gently fry the potatoes submerged in the olive oil
Incidentally, at this stage we’re making another Spanish dish called “Patatas a lo Pobre” which means “Poor peoples potatoes”. There is a link here to make this without the egg element. Keep an eye on the potatoes while they are frying. You should see them slowly change colour and texture from the outside in, taking on a kind of waxy texture. Until they are like this all the way through, we’re not done. When they are ready, carefully drain the oil into a container where we can use it later. This oil has no flavour from the potatoes and can be used for frying other food so don’t waste it.
Purists would tell you that the potatoes are now ready for the egg. However, I like to fry mine off a little more without all the oil to caramelise/crisp up the edges. This gives (I think) more texture and flavour to the tortilla but it’s up to you… Here goes Turn up the heat under the pan containing the potatoes to about 80% of max and crisp up the potato slices. When they are done one side turn over and repeat. Notice the colour change in this image.
Note the texture if we crisp up a little before we make the omlette
(end of optional stage)
Now put the potatoes into the egg mixture and give it all a good stir. Add a good sprinkling of salt (trust me!). Gently mash the potato into the egg mix about 25%, ie we don’t want it to become mash potatoes but we do want some of the egg mixed into the potato.
Now for the fun part : we have to make the tortilla. Put a spoonful of the olive oil back into the frying pan and bring the heat up to maximum.
As soon as it starts smoking empty the oil back into the storage container.
Now pour the egg/onion/potato mixture into the pan and lower the temperature to 4 or 40% of maximum. Make sure that the potato is evenly spread around in the pan and then LEAVE ALONE watching carefully for about 5 minutes. You’re looking for “chimney holes” to appear in the tortilla, ie : escapes of steam from the mixture. The tortilla should still be raw on the side facing us. If the edges appear to be cooking through we’re more than done – Get your dinner plate out ready for the flipping!
Ready for flipping
Place the dinner plate over the frying pan and hold handle with one hand, plate with the other. Now flip the pan over, the tortilla should flop out onto the plate.
One side down, one to go!
Put it down for a second. make sure the frying pan is clean, ie no remains of egg from the tortilla. If required, clean with a paper towel, add a little olive oil and raise the temperature. As soon as the oil starts to smoke, slip the tortilla from the dinner plate back into the pan and lower the temperature to 4/40% again. You should only need a few moments on the other side. The tortilla shouldn’t be completely cooked inside (unless you like it that way) in any case it will continue “cooking” itself anyway while the residual heat dissapates.
Incidentally if from the flipping you have any residue raw egg on the upper side of the tortilla simply use a clean plate and flip it once more for a few seconds to clean it up. The tortilla should look like this :
Ready to eat!
Before you dive in, the tortilla will improve if allowed to rest for about 30 minutes before eating,. If you’re making for a picnic or to store etc, then after 20 minutes or so cover with foil or place in tupperware to prevent it drying out. This can be cut into chunks, it’s great with mayo and crunchy bread or you can go on and put it in a tomate frito and slowly cook it (covered) for another 30 minutes to make it totally divine.
Finally, although I like my tortilla “sloppy”, I appreciate that not everyone does. If when you cut a slice, yours is too wet inside, simply return the tortilla to the pan for a minute extra on each side or 1 minute in the microwave will do the job. To be honest, it’s harder to undercook it than overcook it. Enjoy.