Two years ago, with my 40th birthday looming, I decided I didn’t want the big day to pass without a really amazing memory to associate with it. With just over a month to plan I was starting to freak out, discarding one mediocre idea after the next. Finally, over a lovely glass of wine and dinner with friends, inspiration struck. I wanted to cook, I wanted to eat and I wanted to drink wine! Less than a minute later I had several great-sounding options at my fingertips. Narrowing it down to a country I enjoyed visiting but knew little about (and where I knew I could drag Jon, even for a cooking class), I searched online for cooking classes in Spain. Catacurian popped up on my screen.
Within a week we were booked on a flight to Barcelona, a ride to the tiny hill town of El Masroig, and five blissful days of cooking with the freshest ingredients I’ve ever known. Squid caught that day, olive oil squeezed from the groves outside the window, thyme picked from the local walking path – the colors and scents were overwhelming and the food was even more so.
One of my favorite recipes from that whirlwind cooking extravaganza was Spanish Tortilla, or “Truita amb Patatas” in the regional Catalan. This tortilla has nothing in common with its Mexican counterpart but is equally considered a staple of the Spanish diet. Served hot or cold, a wedge of tortilla makes a delicious and hearty breakfast. Sliced and served on bread it can be found in nearly every tapas bar in Spain.
Jon and I both fell hard for tortilla and have learned to recreate it at home using the recipe taught to us by our instructor Alicia, a Barcelona native. The following is my little recipe pictorial which walks you through the steps of making a truly authentic tortilla.
First, here’s what you’ll need:
4 Yukon Gold or Russet Potatoes (peeled), 3 Large Eggs, Sea Salt, Olive Oil
Large saucepan, 8″ non-stick omelet pan, slotted spoon, wooden spoon
Peel your potatoes and, instead of cutting them, break them into pieces by inserting the knife and snapping it upward. Try to break into consistently sized pieces as shown. Do the same with a medium onion (sweet white or yellow) – be really careful, it can be slippery!
Combine potato and onion pieces in a bowl, add 1 Tbsp. sea salt (coarse or flake if you have it), and mix together. Set aside a few minutes until they begin to sweat. Meanwhile, heat one cup of olive oil to medium high in a large pan or cassola (a thick, low sided, earthenware pot). You don’t want it so hot that it will fry your potatoes, just hot enough to cook them through. Carefully slide your potato and onion mixture into the hot oil.
The potato mixture should be nearly covered in oil but it’s okay if the top pieces are uncovered. They’ll settle in once the potato starts to cook. Cook 12-15 minutes uncovered, stirring every 3-5 minutes until soft, but not mushy.When ready, onions will be transparent but not browned, potatoes soft enough to eat. Pour potato mixture into a colander to strain oil and allow to cool for a few minutes.
While the mixture is cooling, whisk three large eggs. At this point, taste the mixture and add salt if desired (the eggs will tone down the flavor a bit). Gently stir eggs into mixture.
Now put a splash of olive oil into an 8″ non-stick omelet pan and heat to medium. Pour in the mixture. Use a wooden spoon to spread it evenly, trying not to leave large gaps or air bubbles.
Now comes the exciting part! You’ll flip the tortilla several times throughout the cooking process to give it that strange disc-like shape with the nice round edge. This part takes some getting used to. I cook the tortilla 3-5 minutes on the first side, just long enough for the edges to set for flipping. The edge should be browned and hold its shape when you wiggle the pan. The insides will still be liquid, which is what makes this a little scary.
Getting ready for your first flip:
Start by turning the heat down on the burner. Place a round plate over the pan and grab the handle of the pan. Hold the plate tight against the pan with one hand and hold the pan handle with the other. Now take a deep breath and FLIP that mother!
Here’s the sequence:
Now slide the tortilla back into the pan and use the wooden spoon to gently tuck the edges in. Turn the heat back up to medium and cook another five minutes. Once the bottom has set you will flip again, allowing the remaining liquids inside to fill any nooks and crannies.
You can flip the tortilla as many times as you like, or just let it cook through after the first flip. I usually give it three flips to allow the liquids to move around inside. The tortilla is done when you press the center with a spatula and get resistance. At this point, flip it one last time onto the plate.
I like to let the tortilla cool to room temperature before serving. You can reheat it anytime, or just eat it cold with your hands like a maniac. And here’s a little fun psychological trick: Did you know if you call non-fat plain yogurt ‘sour cream’ while you’re spooning it onto your food it tastes just like real sour cream? True story. And yes, it’s really delicious with tortilla.
Authentic tortilla is just eggs and potatoes, but it’s a great base to play with too. We’ve mixed in spinach, sauteed red bell pepper, and fresh rosemary and it’s worked out great.
If you decide to give this recipe a try I’d love to hear about it. Please share in the comments below!