La Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelet)

By Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Origin: Spain

"This is the tortilla, or flat omelet, that you find in every tapas bar in Spain, often considered a glory of Spanish gastronomy. Spanish chefs use copious amounts of extra-virgin olive oil, in this case a top-ranked Spanish oil—perfect with potatoes".

Ingredients (makes 6 to 8 servings as an appetizer, 2 servings as a main course)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 large eggs

Use a straight-sided iron skillet, if you have one, for this recipe. Warm the oil in the skillet over medium-low heat and cook the onion gently for about 5 minutes, or until it starts to soften. Do not let the onion brown.

Add the potatoes to the middle of the pan, pushing the onion out to the sides. Continue cooking, stirring and turning with the spatula, until the potatoes too have softened. The potatoes are done when you can easily chop through a piece with the blade of the spatula. Remove the potatoes and onion from the pan using a slotted spoon and leaving the oil behind. Set the vegetables aside in a bowl to cool slightly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Beat the eggs together with a fork until they are well blended. When the potato mixture has cooled enough so that it won’t cook the eggs, stir it into the eggs (or stir the eggs into the potatoes, whichever is easier) and mix gently with a fork to make sure all the vegetable pieces are well coated.

Turn the heat under the skillet back to medium low. When the oil starts to sizzle, pour in the egg mixture and cook, shaking the pan to keep the eggs from sticking to the bottom. As soon as the eggs begin to solidify around the edges, start to run a palette knife around the edges, occasionally lifting up the egg mixture from the bottom of the pan so that it will all cook uniformly without sticking. (With a well-seasoned black iron skillet, this should not be a problem.) You must keep the tortilla mix moving gently, by both shaking the pan and running the palette knife around, throughout the entire cooking time—which in any case should not be more than 5 to 7 minutes. When the top is still not set completely, invert a plate over the skillet and turn it over (being very careful not to burn yourself with the hot oil). Then slide the tortilla back into the skillet, uncooked surface now in contact with the heat, and finish cooking the other side.

If this all seems like more than you can cope with, you can cheat, as many home cooks in Spain do: instead of turning the tortilla over, simply run it, in its skillet, under a preheated broiler to cook the top.

The tortilla is done when it’s still quite moist and even a little runny in the middle. When it’s done, slide it out of the pan and set it aside on a plate to cool to room temperature before serving.

About the author: Nancy Harmon Jenkins is a food writer and journalist with a long list of publications to her credit, including books, magazines, and journalism. She divides her time between a home on the coast of Maine and an olive farm in the hills of eastern Tuscany. Nancy is the author of eight books about food, mostly about Italy and the Mediterranean, including Virgin Territory, recounting her experiences in the world of olive oil.

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