We spent the past week in the Basque country, mostly in Spain but a few nights in France as well. It is really a beautiful part of the world and well worth a visit. I thought that I would collect recipes while we were there for some of the wonderful tapas we had in the bars of San Sebastián – there called pintxos – and put them on my blog, but in retrospect this doesn’t seem like such a good idea: A lot of the ingredients we love best are not generally available (foie gras, jamon Ibérico, salt cod, fresh anchovies, albacore tuna, piquillo peppers, wild mushrooms) and then the skewers and canapes that sparkle on the bar counters are mostly a lot of trouble to make. So I’m just going to give my version of the most universally popular tapa of all – tortilla de patata – and hope that you will be able to make it to San Sebastián sometime soon to experience the tapas for yourselves.
Eggs are much loved in Spain and the tortilla is the most loved of all egg dishes. And why not? You can have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, hot, warm or cold, take it on picnics, put in in a sandwich or serve it at your tapas party.
Not to mention it’s quite delicious.
Most Spaniards know how to cook a tortilla and most think that their version is the best. You can fry the potatoes in a lot of oil with a little onion, mix it with the eggs, and then cook it fairly slowly. Some don’t flip it but put it under the broiler to finish the cooking but I think this makes it tough. Some cook it for as long as 20 minutes, also a mistake. Here is my version which I of course think is the best.
4 medium potatoes, peeled (preferably Yukon Gold)
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Boil the potatoes over medium heat until almost cooked, about 15 minutes. In the meantime, fry the onion in one tablespoon olive oil in a 8″ non-stick skillet over gentle heat until well softened, 10-15 minutes. Set aside. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them into 1/4″ rounds. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the same skillet and fry the potatoes until cooked through and browned around the edges, about 10 minutes. Stir the cooked onions, the garlic, salt and pepper into the potatoes mashing them up a bit and being careful that the mixture doesn’t stick and burn.
Meantime, beat the eggs until well mixed, adding a little salt and pepper. Turn up the heat to high, add a little more oil if necessary and when the pan and the potatoes are sizzling, add the eggs. Flatten the mixture with a spatula so that it covers the pan fairly evenly. The eggs will immediately begin to set around the edges. Turn the heat to medium and with a spatula, start pulling the set eggs into the center, going round and round the pan so that the uncooked egg runs to the outside. When all the egg is lightly set but still moist, run the spatula underneath the mixture to make sure it hasn’t stuck. This should take 2-3 minutes.
Now comes the tricky part: You will need a rimless plate, slightly larger that the pan. Place the plate over the skillet and quickly invert the tortilla onto the plate. (Practice will make this easier.) Add the rest of the oil to the skillet and slide the tortilla back into the pan, uncooked side down, straightening it into a round shape. If the pan is hot enough, it will only take a minute or two for the bottom to cook – you don’t want it to get rubbery and dry. Invert it on to the cleaned-up plate, blotting it with paper towels if necessary. It should be beautifully round and lightly browned.
You can eat it immediately for brunch or supper with a tomato or green salad and some crusty bread. Cut it into wedges like a cake. It’s also great warm or cold on a picnic. And if you want to serve it as a tapa, cut it into squares and serve it with toothpicks.
Variations: While I think a straight potato tortilla is the most authentically Spanish, feel free to add sauteed red peppers (or piquillos) or chorizo or ham or even veggies such as artichokes or asparagus for variety.