June 3, 2007

Cheap & Tasty: Tortilla Espanola

If you've been to any of the trendy tapas places around DC - or any other urban area - you've probably seen Tortilla Espanola on the menu. It's very simple dish, basically a Spanish omelet/quiche hybrid. Cooking it is a breeze and leaves your house smelling of hash browns for a day afterward, which is a major bonus. Plus, it's SUPER cheap and is a classy way to make the those last few days before the paycheck go faster.

And though cheap and tasty, still swanky: Mario Batali made a Tortilla Espanola as part of his tapas plate in Iron Chef America's "Battle Garlic." So garnish with pride and pretend you're at Babbo.

I referenced recipes from the Washington Post and Epicurious in making this, but here's my version:

Tortilla Espanola

Approx. 8 eggs, beaten
6 cups peeled and diced (1/2 in.) potatoes
2 medium diced yellow onions
salt & pepper to taste

lots of olive oil

Heat about 1/2 cup of the olive in a 10 inch nonstick skillet (if your pan is slightly larger or smaller, it's fine) over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add half of the chopped onion & potato mixture. Cover and cook over medium heat until mixture is browned but not mushy; stir periodically to keep it from burning. Dump the cooked potato & onion mixture into a large bowl to cool; add more olive oil to the skillet and cook the rest of the batch in the same manner. (Note - you can cook them all at once, it's just a LOT easier and less messy this way. Unless you have a gargantuan skillet pan, in which case, go for it!)

Add the second batch of cooked roots to the first and let cool. Add the beaten eggs, salt, and pepper and thoroughly coat the potatoes. If you feel the need, add more beaten eggs. I wouldn't go above the Epicurious' suggestion of 10, but you're definitely going to need at least 6.

Back to your skillet - add 1/4 cup of olive oil and heat it up to medium. Pour all of the eggy mixture into the pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Keep heat low-ish to prevent burning - from experience, it will still taste good, but the tortilla is much less pretty when it's black. Cook for about 10 minutes, occasionally running a spatula along the rim of the skillet to loosen the tortilla.

Now comes the fun part - when you can feel the tortilla slide around a bit on the skillet, ensuring its doneness, get out a big plate. Invert the plate on top of the skillet and flip the tortilla onto the plate. Slide the not-as-cooked side of the tortilla back into the skillet and cook for about another 5 minutes, until the tortilla is solid. You're done!

For serving, there really is no "right" side up. The skillet side is usually rounder and prettier, but the non-skillet side give a better view of the potatoes and other tortilla innards.

Some other notes:

You must use a nonstick pan. I tried cooking some of the potato/onion mixture in an iron skillet and it was much messier. Had I attempted to add the eggs, the tortilla would not have stayed intact.

Do not be afraid of the salt! I grew up in a salt-fearing household, so I am conditioned to undersalt, but go ahead and pour it on (the pepper too, and any other spices you deem worthy) to make sure you're getting the most flavor out of your potatoes.

Oh, and if you're feeling decadent, add some bacon to the mix and make your kitchen smell even better. Just cut back on the olive oil a bit.

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