My Version Of Spanish Tortilla (Omelette)

tortilla1.jpg

One of the things I love about the new forum is the members sharing their favorite recipes. Recently, Jiza, who is from Spain, shared a recipe for a classic Spanish tortilla. (A tortilla in Spain is a potato omelette, not the flat flour or corn bread or wrapper that's known as tortilla in North America. That kind of tortilla comes from Mexico.)

Jiza specifies that the potato slices should be almost 'boiled' in oil. She and Loretta, another Spanish member of our community, agree that parboiling the potatoes is not an option. Loretta recommended slicing the potatoes very thinly and cooking them in the pan with a lid on, to steam-cook them.

That's when I thought, why not make the potato pieces even smaller by grating them, as they are for a classic Swiss rösti? Rösti are crispy potato pancakes, made with shredded raw or parboiled potatoes. I am firmly in the raw-potato side when it comes to rösti, since I think that the creamy-starchy texture of raw potato cooked in butter or oil is far superior. The advantage of shredding the potatoes for speeding up the cooking process is quite obvious.

Anyway, first I made a proper tortilla following Jiza's recipe to the letter, with 5mm (about 1/4th inch) thick potato slices cooked in olive oil until tender. The resulting tortilla, especially when cold, was delicious. But, as Jiza said it does take about 30 minutes of cooking time, plus the time it takes to peel and slice the potatoes.

So next, I tried it with shredded potatoes. I could get by with a lot less olive oil for cooking the potatoes, and the total cooking time was reduced to about 15 minutes (plus the time it takes to shred the potatoes). The taste was just as good as the original I think. It's great hot, but really seems to develop a wonderful flavor when cold. Perfect for bento!

So then, here's my take on the Spanish tortilla, with a small Swiss influence.

Spanish tortilla with shredded potatoes

This makes 2 servings; each serving is about 380 to 450 calories each, depending on how much oil you use.

  • 3 'large' eggs
  • 3 small (around 2 1/2 inches / 5-6 cm diameter) boiling-type or 'waxy' or 'low-starch' potatoes. In Europe go for varieties like Nicola, Bintje, Charlotte or (in the UK) Maris Piper. I used a rather unique variety I got at the market called Mona Lisa. In North America, the red skinned boiling potatoes or Yukon Golds should work well.
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tbs. good quality olive oil

Equipment needed: A small (20cm / 8 inch or so) non-stick or cast iron frying pan; another frying pan or a large plate; spatula; grater

Peel the potatoes and grate them coarsely with a grater or mandoline or food processor. Wrap the pile of grated potato in a few layers of paper towels, and squeeze out the excess moisture. This makes the potatoes cook quicker.

Heat up a frying pan with about 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Put in the squeezed out grated potato, and sprinkle a little salt over them. Cook over medium heat with a lid on until the potatoes are soft and a just a bit crispy. Take out and drain off any excess oil.

Beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp. salt, freshly ground black pepper. Add the cooked potato and mix well.

Heat up the frying pan again with about 1/2 Tbs. of olive oil. Pour in the egg mixture. Cook, uncovered over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the bottom is crispy and the top is almost set. Flip the omelette over - you could use a big wide spatula, or two spatulas, or flip it over onto a plate or a second frying pan inverted over the pan. Cook on the other side for another 5 minutes until the omelette is set.

tortillabento_500.jpg

Let cool before packing in a bento box. You could cut it into wedges, as I did here, or into small squares. The omelette alone is just about a meal unto itself, so I just put some fresh, unadorned mâche or lamb's lettuce with it. The subtle nutty flavor of the mâche goes so well with the cold, hearty omelette. You could also use it as a filling for a very substantial sandwich.

You can make this the night before. I haven't tried freezing it, so I can't say if it hold up well there.

Tortilla variation: Using potato chips?

Both Jiza and Loretta mention a sort of 'student version' of tortilla, which uses potato chips mixed into the egg! I haven't tried it, but you might want to give it a go, especially if you are a student with limited cooking space. (I actually may try it sometime myself...it sounds intriguing.)

Some produce porn

Here are the Mona Lisa potatoes I mentioned earlier.

Green and white

Inside, they are regular potatoes, but that ghostly white skin is so striking, isn't it?

And some mâche or lamb's lettuce:

mâche (lamb's lettuce)

Both taken at one of my favorite places in the world, the Marché Agricole (farmer's market) in Velleron, just a few days ago.