Spanish omelet, tortilla española or tortilla de patatas, is the most popular of all Spanish tapas. I dare you to find a restaurant, a bar, or a cafeteria in Spain that doesn’t serve it. I dare you to find one household in Spain that doesn’t make it. As popular as patatas bravas are when it comes to tapas, nothing overshadows Spanish omelet. And yet, like with patatas bravas, not two recipes are exactly the same. And like with paella, not all Spanish omelets are created equal, and the best one, for everyone you ask is, of course, “the one my mom makes”.
Spanish omelet is subject to variations: it can be cooked until the egg is just set and still very moist inside, or until the egg is well cooked and the omelet drier. It can be made thick (sometimes thicker than 2 inches), or thinner that 1/2 inch. A point of controversy among Spaniards when it comes to Spanish omelet is whether you should add onion to it or not. The ingredients for Spanish omelet are pretty simple: eggs and potatoes, salt and olive oil. That’s it. Onion is optional, and some people add it, some people don’t. But regardless of whether the omelet includes onion or not, it is still considered a Spanish omelet (sometimes the same dilemma comes up with paella, but I will keep things simple for you here: Valencian paella does not include onion).
You’ve probably seen it, the chef that masterfully flips the omelet in the air, to fall gently and perfectly on the pan to cook on the other side. If there’s one little trick to making the Spanish omelet, this would be it. But don’t fret, flipping an omelet is actually quite simple if you follow these tips:
- Use a non-stick skillet, which has sloped sides, rather than a sauté or frying pan, which has straight sides, so you can easily slide the omelet in and out of the pan.
- Use a plate that is at least 1 inch in diameter larger than the non-stick skillet you’re using.
- Make sure the omelet is not even lightly stuck to the pan by gently running a wooden spatula under it.
- Place the plate upside down on the pan, lift the pan slightly from the heat source, and with a steady hand on both the plate and the pan, flip in place. Voilà! The omelet is now on the plate, and all you have to do is gently slide it back into the pan.
My sons will be happy with this post. In fact, I have a confession to make: my two oldest sons have been a bit disappointed with my blog. Why? Because, according to them, it’s not Spanish enough —or in other words, it didn’t have the recipe for Spanish omelet. Yes, according to them, Spanish omelet is what makes a Spanish food blog, well, Spanish.
So here you have it (below), the recipe for Spanish omelet, the recipe that works for me, that makes two medium size, about 1 1/4 inch-thick omelets, juicy and tasty, to which I include a bit of onion for extra moistness. The very versatile Spanish omelet, that you can eat cold, lukewarm, or hot, as an entrée or as a tapa if diced in bite-size portions or placed on top of small slices of baguette. That can be eaten for breakfast, for lunch or for dinner, on a plate or inside crusty baguette. That is easily transportable for picnics or potlucks. The humble Spanish omelet.
Tortilla Española, or Tortilla de Patatas
A classic. It can be diced and eaten as small bites, or tapas. It can be cut into wedges to be eaten as a main course or lunch. It can be inserted into baguette bread and eaten as a bocadillo (the general name for a Spanish sandwich, always made with Spanish baguette bread and a myriad of fillings, usually including embutidos, cured pork products like ham and sausages). It can be eaten hot. It can be eaten warm. It can be eaten at room temperature. It can be thin. It can be thick (I’ve seen tortillas up to 4-inches-thick). Tortilla Española is not only versatile, but also comforting.
For 2 medium size omelets or 1 large, 1 1/4 inch-think
8 medium potatoes (or approx. 3 oz uncooked potato per egg)
1 large onion
Olive oil for frying (approx. 2 1/2 cups)
Sea salt to taste
I like to use a large frying pan (about 12-in in diameter) to cook the potatoes and onion, and a medium non-stick skillet (about 9-in in diameter) to make the omelet.
Wash and peel the potatoes. Slice them thinly into 1/8 inch-thick slices, then quarter them.
Peel the onion, cut in half, and slice into 1/8 inch-thick slices. Further cut the slices in half.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or skillet. Add the potatoes and fry for about 10 minutes, turning them over after about 5 minutes. Add the onion and fry for another 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender (check with a fork). With a slotted spoon or spatula, lift the potatoes and onion mixture and transfer to a bowl. Season with salt.
In a bowl large enough to contain the potato and onion mixture, beat the eggs. Add the potatoes and onion mix to the beaten eggs and let rest for a few of minutes (at least ten minutes for an extra moist tortilla).
Place the medium size skillet on the stove at medium-high heat. When hot, add one tablespoon of olive oil and swirl the skillet so the oil is evenly distributed on the bottom and sides of the pan. Slide the egg and potato mixture (or half of it if making two omelets) into the skillet, moving the pan gently in circular movements to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Cook for about 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the edges of the omelet start to set and wrinkle. At this point, gently slide a wooden spatula under and around the edges of the omelet, to make sure it’s not even slightly stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Place an inverted, flat plate about 1 inch wider than the skillet, over the pan, slightly lift it from the heat source and, with a steady hand on the plate and the other one on the handle of the skillet, flip it. Lift the empty pan and place it back on the stove. With the help of a wooden spoon or spatula, gently slide the omelet, uncooked side down, back into the skillet. Shake the pan gently to evenly distribute de tortilla and cook the tortilla for another 2 or 3 minutes, rounding the edges with the wooden spoon or spatula.
Slide the tortilla onto a clean plate and let cool for a few minutes. If serving as a tapa, cut into squares and pierce each portion with a toothpick. If serving it as an appetizer or light lunch, divide into wedges.
Note: Olive oil is the oil of preference to make Spanish omelet, but if you don’t want to use a large quantity for frying, rather than substituting the oil by a different vegetable oil, I’d suggest you place the potatoes and onion in a microwave-proof bowl, drizzle with a few spoonfulls of olive oil, and microwave on high until the potatoes and onion are tender, about 7-8 minutes, stopping the microwave at the 5 minute mark to stir the vegetables and check for doneness. This method of cooking the vegetables is preferable to using an oil different than olive oil.