Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tortilla Espanola

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While living in Spain, I was lucky enough to have a wonderful home-stay family.  Pepe and Margarita were two wonderful individuals who had welcomed foreigners into their home since before I was born.  As it was my first time in a foreign country, they were also respectful to my sometimes sensitive American palate.  When they served me sardines with bones in them, they immediately understood my petrified look and never offered them to me again.  I am an adventurous eater, but I can absolutely not tolerate bones in my fish.  That being said, Margarita consistently prepared some of the best Spanish food I've ever eaten.  One of those dishes was a traditional Spanish dish, tortilla española.  

To make this dish you will need:  
  • 3/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 3 medium Russet potatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 6 eggs

To begin, peel the potatoes.  This can be a time consuming task if you don't have a proper vegetable peeler, but my mom is an expert.  She peeled the potatoes so fast we were having trouble snapping a picture of her in action!
Next, finely slice the potatoes.  For this step, you can simply use a knife and cutting board, but we were lucky enough to use a mandolin for the first time!  I must say, this is an awesome kitchen tool and highly recommend it after seeing how easy it made slicing the potatoes.  It would have taken us ten times as long, at minimum, to accomplish the same task using a knife.
Once the potatoes are prepped, set them aside in a large bowl.  Next, peel the onion and slice it into thin slivers.
Now you are ready to begin cooking.  Heat the olive oil in a large and deep frying pan.  When it is sufficiently hot, add the potatoes and onions to the pan.  Continuously mix the potatoes and onion, ensuring they are cooking evenly, about 20 minutes.
When the potatoes are almost done cooking, beat the eggs in a bowl until they are a pale yellow color.  Transfer the potatoes from the frying pan to the egg mixture using a slotted spoon.  Keep the remaining oil in the frying pan. 
At this point I want to emphasize the importance of the egg-to-potato ratio.  The mixture should be egg heavy, with a fair amount of potatoes.  As you can see in the picture above, we had more of a potato-egg bath situation going on.  Truthfully, we should have used half the amount of potatoes that  the original recipe suggested.  You will see the result of this misstep below.

Back to our regularly scheduled program.....

Return the mixture to the frying pan and cook uncovered until the bottom is golden brown.  
The next step is where the tricky part comes in.  You have to remove the tortilla from the frying pan so you can flip it and cook to the other side.  To accomplish this, we flipped the frying pan onto a strong flat surface (baking sheet, plate, etc). An expert like my Spanish mom could do this in her sleep and make it look like a piece of cake.  In our case, it took three of us to accomplish this task....and we still weren't totally successful.

Once the toritlla is on the flat surface, add a tablespoon more olive oil to the frying pan and return it to the frying pan. Let the dish cook thoroughly, another 3-5 minutes.
When you are done, slide the tortilla out of the frying pan onto a plate and slice to serve.  The photo below is what this dish should look like when complete.
Tortilla Española
Photo courtesy of Saveur
As you can see below, the shape of our tortilla ended up being somewhat less perfect. Actually, it looked kind of like a scrambled tortilla española! But we promised to share our kitchen success and failures with our readers.  For perfectionists like Liz and myself (OK, mostly me) this was a tough hit to our cooking egos. Although it wasn't in the perfect form, the flavors were still perfect and it was truthfully one of the most popular dishes of the night!

If you try this recipe, let us know if you have more success in getting the proper shape than us!  What was your biggest cooking fail?

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