spanish potato tortilla
In October 2009, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful Spanish city of Seville for our high school’s graduation trip. We walked around Seville for five days, discovered its rich architecture and history, partied like there was no tomorrow, and ran on two hours of sleep per night. We also ate lots of Spanish food, which for most of my classmates consisted of a variety of traditional tapas from seafood to ham. Given that I don’t eat seafood or ham, I was lucky if I could find something dairy or made with a kosher fish that I eat. For most lunches and dinners I had several slices of potato tortilla — known by locals as tortilla española — fuelling my body with all the energy it needed to keep me going. As delicious as they were, how many potato tortillas can a girl handle for five days in a row? How much of too-much-anything could one possibly handle? I haven’t eaten salami for over a decade after eating only salami sandwiches on a Bat Mitsva trip to Italy in 2002. Ok, that’s not entirely true. I could probably have one of these peanut butter cookies every day and still want more. But by Day 2 in Seville, My stomach was craving anything but potatoes, keeping me off of them for months after the trip and killing my love for potato tortilla all together for the four years that followed.
I changed my mind when Jon and I started dating in 2013 and his mother served potato tortilla as a side dish one night for dinner. Ta-da! My love for potato tortilla was back, growing stronger and stronger the more times I ate my mother-in-law’s famous tortilla española. She doesn’t make it that often, claiming that it’s ultra-greasy and fattening, but when she does I can’t help but smile remembering how I swore off of potato tortilla four years ago. I was so happy to find her recipe as part of a big folder I received at my bridal shower last June, comprising tons of recipes from my family and friends all over the world. For one of our first nights as a married couple, I decided to prepare a potato tortilla for dinner to surprise Jon with one of his mother’s signature dishes when he got home from work.
I’ve made it a couple of times since, perfecting my skill with each new attempt. Making the perfect potato tortilla is truly an art, as Jon would say, and can only be learned through trial and error. When I think back to my first potato tortilla I can’t help but laugh — it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good, definitely not close to my mother-in-law’s, buy hey, she’s Spanish and grew up with them, I’m not and didn’t eat one nor look at one for years.
I stick to my mother-in-law’s recipe pretty much all of the time, but lately I’ve decided to include a pinch of paprika to the mix of potatoes, onions and eggs. The paprika gives the dish a smokey flavor while complementing the potatoes and eggs so wonderfully well. The trick to creating the perfect tortilla is to slice the potatoes in thin half circles, cooking them in vegetable oil with onion slices until soft and slightly crispy on the edges. Once the potato and onion slices are cooked through, it is time to drain them of their oil and then mix them together with eggs. The rest of the recipe is pretty much like you’d cook a gigantic omelette, returning the egg-potato-onion mixture to the pan and letting it turn golden on one side before flipping it to cook the other side. I decided to film the entire recipe (watch below) to help you visualize the process better.
Although I still can’t eat potato tortilla for days in a row, I don’t mind it from time to time — especially during Passover when potatoes become a huge chunk of our diet. I still haven’t eaten salami though, and nothing will convince me otherwise — unless my mother-in-law turns it into something I can’t get enough of. She’s taught me to enjoy lemon pie, restored my love for potato tortilla, so who knows what’s next?
- 650g potatoes
- 1 big onion
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pinch of paprika
- 5 eggs
- Peel the potatoes and slice them in half. Thinly slice lengthwise, then cut in half to form half circles. Peel the onion and slice in half. Thinly slice lengthwise.
- Heat oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Don't let the oil overheat if not the potatoes won't cook but will burn. Add the potato slices, mix with a wooden spatula to coat each slice in the oil, and let cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes to soften. Add the onion slices, salt, pepper and paprika and mix to combine. Cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and golden.
- Drain the potatoes and onion in a colander to remove most of the oil.
- Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and onion and mix to combine. Pour the mixture into the hot skillet and let it cook until golden on one side, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn over the tortilla by placing a plate over the pan, turning the tortilla onto the plate. Return the tortilla to the pan to cook on the other side until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes more.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
How did your spanish potato tortilla come out? Share photos of your recipe on Instagram by tagging #savormania