I didn’t fall in love with my husband for his cooking, but fortunately he does make one delicious tortilla de patata. This is a dish that he grew up with and although my Spanish mother-in-law is an excellent cook, he is the big winner in this category. This is something she can’t truly accept. Especially after finding out that he doesn’t cook it in a similar manner. The tortilla de patata is basically an omelette intermixed with fried potatoes and onions. It is usually served as a tapa with a slice of bread and this basic and simple, yet hearty dish is ubiquitously found and enjoyed all over Spain.
What my mother-in-law can’t seem to believe is the way her son cooks the tortilla. During one of her visits to Prague, she was shockingly surprised to witness how he fried the onions and the potatoes together! In her eyes, he had committed a sin.
In fact, there are many such opinions about how to cook tortilla and why it tastes better if made according to a specific way or technique. This is an endless topic of conversation among Spaniards and they can go on debating for hours around what we might think is a simple potato, onion and egg fare. There are several factors that some people believe that heavily influence the tortilla’s outcome, from the right frying pan, to the oil, to the type of potatoes, to how one should cook the onions and potatoes separately, to the plate or technique used to invert it and well, the list could go on and on. According to my father in law, cooking with high quality olive oil is the secret to a tasty tortilla. Heeding his advice we traveled back one summer, from Spain, with 15 liters of olive oil in the trunk of our car. We even purchased a special non-stick frying pan so that our tortilla would simply slip out when it came time to invert it.
Luckily, my husband’s tortilla de patata is consistent in texture, flavor and looks. He never ceases to satisfy me and our guests with this straightforward meal. This is what he had to say about his “technique”…
“Some people are going to say this is wrong because they like to put the potatoes and onions in the egg before it goes in the pan. I developed this system because I didn’t want to get more bowls dirty. It was out of economy. Soon enough, I discovered that this completely enhanced the marriage. It’s the egg. The egg is the traveler. The onions and potatoes are fine at home. Not a half-cooked meal traveling to a raw egg” J.A.
And this is how you cook it…
Tortilla de patata (a juicy version)
1 kilo of potatoes: peeled and chopped into quarters
1 large white onion: chopped
1/2 cup of very good olive oil (spanish preferred of course)
Heat the olive oil in the pan.
When hot, lower the flame and add the onions.
A few minutes later, add the potatoes.
The heat should be low so the onions and potatoes don’t burn.
Sprinkle salt on top (to taste)
Don’t be lenient, it really adds to the flavor.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and throw in a dash or two of salt.
When the potatoes have softened up, (this takes about 15-20 min) , drain the excess oil out into a glass bowl. (Vegetables should stay in the pan, it’s a tricky one and will take some practice.)
Then add the eggs to the onion and potatoes frying in the pan.
When the top looks almost cooked, place a sturdy flat plate on top.
Carry the pan and plate over to your sink.
Flip the omelette on to the plate and slide it back into the pan.
It should only need a few more minutes to cook.
Enjoy warm or cold with some fine bread and a tomato salad on the side.