(This recipe is part of “A Tapas Experience.”)
My Camino de Santiago Journey and Tortilla Española
You would have thought that after 42 days of hiking the diverse landscape of Northern Spain and having tried all the regional varieties of the Spanish mainstay dish Tortilla Española, I would have grown tired of it all, especially the Tortilla. But NOT AT ALL! I would have to say I ate this simple dish almost every day of my adventure along the Camino de Santiago route. It was my sustenance as I traversed the great Pyrenees Mountains, roamed the fertile plains during the mid part of my journey and finally explored the lush, rolling hills of Galicia.
While a friend and I prepared ourselves for an average 24 kilometers hike on any given day, we would devour the protein and carb packed breakfast of Tortilla Española along with a twisted off piece of crusty bread and maybe some fresh fruit. You can seriously find this dish on any menu at any time of the day in any little bar, cafe or fine dining establishment – breakfast until midnight and beyond. Also, Spain loves their crusty bread. It accompanies every meal; and who can deny themselves this little piece of heaven.
Burning 3,000 Calories a Day
My body was about to burn an average of 3,000 calories that day and, boy, was I enjoying guilt-free eating. I’ll tell you a sad little secret though: my guilt-free eating did not contribute to losing an ounce of weight on the first part of this 500-mile physical trek, which was quite shocking and very disappointing. I noticed relatively no decline in my waistline until, around the two-third mark of the journey. It was at this point I decided I should cut back on my over-indulgence a bit. It was an interesting observation I notice of most of the sojourners along the way as well.
(As a side note, my “Peregrino” friend, Rebecca, who was my constant companion along this adventure, was forever longing for a place to get chips and queso dip. Wrong country, my Amiga. I do have to admit, that touch of home, if Tex-Mex counts as home, would have tasted pretty dang good on any given day. But of course, anything tastes good after a 15-mile hike.)
Tortilla Española – Part of Spanish Culture for Generations
Interestingly enough, even as simple as the dish is – potatoes, eggs and maybe an onion, Tortilla Española have been part of the Spanish culture for generations. According to Wikipedia, an early reference to the tortilla in Spanish is found in a Navarrese document. It is an anonymous letter addressed to Navarra’s Court in 1817. After listing the sparse food eaten by Highlanders, the next quote follows: “…two to three eggs in tortilla for 5 or 6 [people] as our women do know how to make it big and thick with less eggs, mixing potatoes, breadcrumbs or whatever.
If you are planning a Tapas party at home, this recipe is a must for a few reasons. Tortilla Española is authentically Spanish, it is altogether easy to make, and you can prepare the dish two days ahead of time. You will find it just as delicious cold as it is hot.
We Eat with Our Eyes First
I love the Tortilla Española presentation because once you cut it, you have this beautiful cross-section which displays the layers of egg and potatoes. Depending on how many different tapas you are providing for your guests, you can slice the tortilla and serve it on small plates or cube it in bite size samples with fun cocktail picks. I choose not to dice the onions when I make it but thinly slice them and leave them round. I think it adds some nice dimension from an over the top view.
I use red potatoes as they are a waxy potato and tend to hold their shape better. I love to leave the peel on, as it adds color to the dish and gives it a more appealing look. Also, I use a mandolin because I prefer the consistency of the thickness of each slice.
The truth is, we do eat first with our eyes and, to me, it is all about the presentation before the taste. My husband doesn’t care what it looks like – he likes it however it comes to the table, just as long as it tastes good. At that crossroads is where we part ways. The visual introduction, in my opinion, is just as important as the flavors.
Many Variations for Tortilla Española
There are many recipes for Tortilla Española and many variations out there on the internet. I received the inspiration for this Tortilla from www.savvyeat.com. It is the one that I believe has the best presentation and is the easiest. Julie from Savvy Eats uses the oven broiler to finish the cooking process. Although the potatoes and onions can be diced and chopped, I prefer the thin slicing of both the potato and the onion. It doesn’t necessarily taste any different, but the layers are more defined.
View the full “Tapas Experience” here.
- Wikipedia has an interesting fact – a large tortilla was made by 12 chefs in Vitoria, Spain, in 2014, claiming to be a record. It was 5 m (16 ft) in diameter and used 1.6 tons of potatoes, 16,000 eggs, 150 l (33 imp gal; 40 US gal) of oil, 26 kg (57 lb) of onions, and 15 kg (33 lb) of salt.
- According to Wikipedia, legend has it that during the siege of Bilbao, Carlist general Tomás de Zumalacárregui created the “tortilla de patatas” as an easy, fast and nutritious dish to satisfy the scarcities of the Carlist army. Although it remains unknown whether this is true, it appears the tortilla started to spread during the early Carlist wars.
- On the other hand, the book Culinaria Spain – declares “tortilla de patatas” (or tortilla española) has been around at least since late 1500 when it was mentioned in a notebook belonging to the head chef for Kings Philip III and Philip IV of Spain.”
This Tortilla Española is a favorite Spanish Tapas. Consisting of potatoes, eggs, and onion, it has a beautiful cross-section presentation when sliced. It is delicious both hot or cold.
- Prep Time: 15 min
- Cook Time: 10 min
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Spanish Tapas
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 pound of red potatoes, skin on
- 1 1/2 large sweet onion
- 9 large eggs
- salt to taste
- Thinly slice the potatoes and onions with a mandolin if you have one. If not, use a sharp knife and try to slice with a consistent width – about 1/8 inch for the potatoes and 1/4 inch for the onions. Mix the potatoes and onions in a large bowl.
- While you are slicing the potatoes and onions, heat the olive oil to very hot over medium-high heat in a large 10 inch cast iron skillet. Add the potatoes and onions and cover with a lid so it does not splatter everywhere. Cook them until they are tender and not crunchy and browned like french fries. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the skillet and set them on a plate with paper towels in order to remove some of the oil. Drain and strain the oil while leaving about 1 tablespoon in the pan. Reserve the remaining oil for another use and return the skillet to the heat.
- While the potatoes/onions are cooking, crack open the eggs into a large bowl and whisk until frothy. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the eggs (or whatever your preference). I tend to always use more salt than most, so I probably used 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Return the potatoes/onions to the skillet and add a little more salt to your liking. Pour the egg mixture over the top of them. I lift the potatoes somewhat while I am pouring the egg mixture. I want the mixture to get in between the layers to make a nice presentation when it is done. Cover with a lid and turn the heat down to low. Let cook about 3-4 minutes. You will want to shake the skillet periodically so the eggs do not stick to the pan.
- Once the eggs begin to brown on the bottom, remove from heat and put the cast iron skillet under the broiler. Broil for an additional 3-4 minutes or until the top of the Tortilla Española is starting to brown and the eggs are predominately cooked through.
- Remove from the oven and let the flipping begin. Take a plate that is a little large than the diameter of the skillet and place it on top. Hold securely as you flip the tortilla over onto the plate.
- Serve warm with a garlic aioli – you can find the recipe here at www.thespruce.com. Chill the aioli and serve the tortilla cold or at room temperature.
- You will want to use good olive oil as the potatoes soak up a good amount as it cooks. Don’t be afraid that you will waste the oil. You can re-use it with the infused potato/onion flavor.
- Leave the skins on the red potatoes as it makes for a beautiful presentation. It also adds a dimension to the dish.
- This dish is great no matter how you serve it – warm, cold or at room temperature. That is why it is good for an entire evening of entertaining.
- Make sure and take the tortilla out of the cast iron skillet, otherwise, it will rust the bottom of it and not be fit to serve – yuck! I hate to admit it, but, yes, I did that very thing and wasted a whole tortilla.
- Serving Size: 1/8 of Tortilla
- Calories: 140
- Sugar: 4 g
- Sodium: 305 mg
- Fat: 7 g
- Saturated Fat: 1 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 6 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 18 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 g