When I studied in Madrid, I was obviously living on a university student’s budget. One of my favorite, and cheap, things to eat for just about any meal was Tortilla Española, or potato tortilla. They could be found in just about every cafe around town and the ingredients were inexpensive enough to make in our small kitchen. These days, it’s still one of my favorite things to make for my family for an easy dinner–it pairs perfectly with any salads–and, if there are any left over, the tortilla is great for breakfast or lunch the next day.
(image and recipe from Smitten Kitchen)
3 to 4 (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds) Yukon Gold potatoes
1 small onion
1 cup olive oil
6 extra-large or 7 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare potatoes and onions: Peel potatoes and onion and slice them very thin with a mandoline, the slicing blade of a food processor, or by hand. If either are on the large side, first cut them in a half lengthwise so the slices will be in half-moons.
Cook potatoes and onions: Heat oil in an 8- to 10-inch skillet, ideally nonstick, over medium-high until very hot, about 3 minutes. Add potatoes and onions in even layers and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 15 minutes, flipping and nudging potatoes around to ensure they cook evenly. Potatoes are done when they are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. They should not get brown or fall apart in flipping (unless you like your tortillas with softer, more broken-up potatoes, as some do).
Drain potatoes and onions: Transfer potatoes and onion to a colander set over a bowl and drain them. Season potatoes and onion with salt and pepper and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. [Go make your salad now! Or start cracking those eggs…]
Make the tortilla batter: In the bottom of a large bowl, lightly beat eggs with a couple good pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in drained potatoes and onions. If you have 10 minutes, definitely let them soak together for that long; it makes a difference in how well the finally tortilla stays together. If you’re in a rush, it’s not going to ruin the dish if you skip it.
Cook the tortilla: Add 2 tablespoons of the drained cooking oil* (back to the skillet over medium-high heat. Pour potato mixture into skillet and flatten the potatoes with a spatula until they’re mostly even. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, moving and shimmying the skillet and nudging the egg around (so it runs underneath) for a minute before letting the tortilla cook undisturbed until the top is wet but not very runny, and it is golden underneath.
Loosen the tortilla with a spatula then slide it onto a large dinner plate. With your hands in potholders, invert the skillet over the plate, take a deep breath, and flip it back into the skillet. You can do it! Shake the skillet to straighten the tortilla and use a spatula to gently tuck the edges back under, if needed.
Return the skillet to the stove and cook tortilla to your desired doneness, another 2 to 3 minutes if you like an ever-so-slightly loose center (try it and see if you can go back), 3 to 4 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry, for full doneness.
Serve: Slice onto a plate and serve in wedges, hot, cold or at room temperature, plain, or with a dusting of smoked paprika and/or squiggle of aioli or mayo.