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Thursday, May 24, 2007

My Muse: The Spanish Tortilla

Over the years, very few dishes have tormented me more than a traditional Spanish tortilla. Eggs, potatoes, onions, and olive oil in one skillet, sounds easy enough, right? This staple of Spanish cuisine is so easy to screw up. I've done it many times. So do alot of chefs.

But one must be brave when it comes to cooking.

The execution of a well made tortilla can excite pure bliss which will leave you always struggling towards this state of being. Like a gear head when it comes to perfecting the tortilla, I'm always tinkering with recipes, equipment, temperatures, timing and techniques. Making a tortilla has been a good exercise in cooking zen for me. The recipe alone won't save you. This is a dish that has a tendency to jump off the paper. So practice.

1 large onion, chopped
4-6 potatoes, peeled and chopped. I used Yukon Gold.
olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 eggs

Start with a good round cast iron skillet if you can. I would not trade my $25 cast iron skillet for the entire All Clad collection. Whatever pan you use, make sure it is oven safe, because you will be finishing the tortilla in the oven.

Make sure you heat the skillet to medium-high on the stove before you add a good amount of olive oil. Essentially you're goal is to poach the onions and potatoes in olive oil, so you'll need enough to generously cover all the onions and potatoes.

Once your skillet is heated and oiled, add the onions, you should hear some sizzling. Cook the onions until they are soft, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the potatoes, stirring theme often so they don't stick to the pan and burn. Adjust your heat if the onions and potatoes start to brown too much. When you can poke a fork easily through a potatoes, it's done.

Season the potato/onion mixture with salt and pepper. You can be generous with the salt if you dare. Since I usually make home made garlic aioli to accompany the tortilla, I try not to oversalt it too much.

Lightly beat the eggs with grated Parmesan. The cheese adds a subtle touch of complexity, upping this dish's umami quotient a few notches.

Before you add the egg mixture to your skillet make sure to pat down the potato & onions to even out the top. There should be enough egg to cover almost all of the potato mixture. Keep some extra eggs on handy if there's not enough.

The egg will quickly start to bind the onions and potatoes together, forming a crust on the rim of the skillet. When that happens you can use a spatula to press down the cooked egg on the edges. The uncooked eggs will seep into the open spots and help to add density and reduce cooking time.

Cook the tortilla on the stove for 8-10 minutes, until almost all of the egg is cooked. I rotate the skillet on the stove top so that it will cook evenly under the direct heat of the flames. You will find your own tricks in the process.

Place the tortilla in the oven at 350 degrees, for about 15 minutes, or when the egg is completely cooked through.

Dislodging the tortilla from the pan is the most dangerous and nerve racking final step that is akin to delivering a baby. I recommend drinking a glass of Cava while you're doing this, to ease the nerves.

Make sure the tortilla cools down in the pan. It is meant to be served cold or at or temperature.

If you did a good job, you will notice that the tortilla naturally separated from the edges of the pan. Take a knife to score the edges of the tortilla to loosen the residual "cling."

Using the handle of the skillet. Shake the tortilla back and forth to loosen the tortilla. More often than not this can lead to a full on shimmy throughout the kitchen. Go with it.

Place a plate on op of the skillet and flip the tortilla onto the plate. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Congratulations! You have just given birth to a tortilla de patatas!

Meanwhile, make some homemade garlic aioli to go with your tortilla.


3 egg yolks
3 tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
4 pressed garlic cloves
salt & pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
2 tbs chopped parsley

I use a Braun Stick Blender for whipping out quick aioli in a large liquid measuring cup. You can use a food processor, blender, or if you have strong arms, a whisk.

Whisk the egg yolks, mustard, garlic salt and pepper in one dish and set aside.

Slowly begin to add in streams, the olive oil, while blending.

The mixture will begin to thicken as you make your way through half of the oil. Add parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice and blend.

Taste the concoction before you serve it. Add lemon, salt and pepper if needed.

Voila....zesty, addictive fresh garlic aioli!
Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Paella Party
Over the winter Spanish cooking has earned a place in our kitchen since Ilan took the crown of Top Chef with his Spanish inspired fideos and baby eels. One of the most memorable meals was cooking seafood paella with friends who were visiting for the holidays. Everyone gathered in the kitchen, prepping, sipping on homemade sangria, and taking turns stirring the pan, contributing in some way. It was a perfect cooking party dish that everyone is still talking about to this day.

Trust Yourself
Above all else you need to trust yourself in the kitchen. Remember if you know how to eat, then by all means you can teach yourself to cook. Cooking is about knowledge of ingredients, proportion, seasoning and presentation. Focus on your strengths, and avoid your weaknesses. I'm no good at baking --I've tried it. When I do bake it is from a box mix, but I do try to make the presentation look good. I mean really good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this looks amazing! thanks!!!!