Tortilla Española

A piece of tortilla española at Alhambra Restaurant in Madrid

As I said in my last post, tortilla española is a common Spanish dish eaten in a variety of ways.  For that reason, any Spanish-themed meal or tapas dinner party ought to have some tortilla española.  Much like its short list of ingredients, the preparation is fairly simple.  The most daunting aspect is flipping the tortilla while frying!  If you follow the cooking instructions carefully, though, you shouldn’t have a problem.  When I lived in Madrid, my sister and I futilely tried to make this on our own without looking up a recipe.  We boiled potatoes in water and threw it into some beaten eggs.  We didn’t use enough oil, didn’t know to set the potatoes in the eggs or sear the tortilla and used a spatula while frying the tortilla.  It came out more like a potato onion mess than a tortilla.  After following Teresa Barranechea’s recipe, however, I’ve only made (mostly) beautiful tortillas since!  It continues to impress friends and coworkers to this day.

Last week, I made two tortilla españolas for a work picnic.  I usually use a 9-inch non-stick skillet to fry the tortilla.  I’ve never used a cask iron, but you’d probably get great if not even better results with one.  Unfortunately, I made them at my boyfriend’s place and he only had a 10-inch paella type pan.  I had to make do, but know that it’s easier with a nice long handle.  You’ll see why!  I also increased the recipe by 50%, so my tortillas came out bigger than they normally would with this recipe.  Anyway, off to the recipe!

  • 2 lbs of boiling potatoes, peeled and crisscut in 1/2 inch wedges
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of olive oil (preferably Spanish, Trader Joe’s has a good and reasonably priced 100% Spanish olive oil)

Using a 9-inch skillet (I also use a larger wok for the initial frying), fry the potato wedges and onions in the olive oil on medium heat with salt to taste.  After about 10 minutes, flip the wedges with a spatula and allow the potatoes to cook on the other side.  Sometimes, I add the onions at this point because the onions have a tendency to fry too much for my taste if you put them in with the potatoes.  I like them more al dente, and if you add them at the beginning, they practically disappear from the pan.

Allow the potato/onion mixture to cook for another 10 minutes, stirring once and a while to make sure the potatoes cook evenly.  When the potatoes are tender enough to stick in a fork easily (they will look kind of mushy by this point), bring the heat to high, and fry stirring rapidly for a minute.  This makes the potatoes a little crunchier on the outside.

Using a slotted spoon, dish out the potato/onion mixture and place it into a bowl with the eggs already beaten.  You’ll probably have to gently push on the potato/onion mixture to make sure it all gets in there.  Allow the potato/onion mixture to set in the eggs for a few minutes. Reserve the remaining oil for future tortillas and the frying of the tortilla you will do in a few moments.

Using the same 9-inch skillet (or different if you use a larger wok like myself for the initial frying), add a table spoon of the reserved olive oil and heat the oil on high until the olive oil is smoking.  Add the mixture to the frying pan keeping the heat on high for 30 seconds to allow the tortilla to sear and then bring the heat to medium.  As soon as you add the mixture start moving the skillet handle back and forth in a semi-circular motion and you should see the tortilla begin to circle the skillet.  This prevents the tortilla from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Continue to make this motion while the tortilla cooks for the next 6-8 minutes or until the tortilla cooks all the way through.  You should begin to see the egg set toward the top of the skillet at this point.

Frying the tortilla

Now, the moment of truth!  Remove the pan from heat.  Place a plate that will fully cover the pan upside down over the skillet.  Carefully hold the the skillet handle and firmly hold the plate with your other hand.  In a quick motion, flip the skillet and the plate and hope for the best.  If all has gone well, you should have a beautifully seared tortilla when you remove the skillet.  If anything gets stuck to the skillet, remove that as best as possible before frying the other side of the tortilla.  This happened when I used my boyfriend’s paella type pan.  Just like before, add a tablespoon of reserved olive oil and heat the skillet on high until the oil smokes.  Carefully slide the tortilla back onto the skillet to fry the bottom of the tortilla.  Again, lower the heat to medium after 30 seconds and continue to make the semi-circular motion with the handle.  Cook for another 2-3 (maybe less if you like it runnier in the middle) before flipping it again onto your serving plate.

This is what I had at the end of the night.  Usually, my tortillas come out more seared, but the pan my boyfriend had wasn’t cooperating with me.  The seared part of the tortilla stuck to it each time and so, it didn’t come out as brown as I like.  It still tasted the same though!


3 thoughts on “Tortilla Española

  1. Pingback: Adobo | Adventures of a Gastrophile

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