Friday, October 31, 2008

Striving for tortilla de patatas

Tortilla de patatas—Spanish potato omelette—is one of those things I try to make all the time but never get exactly right. Oh, I come up with something good enough to satisfy myself (and occasionally others), but it's never anything like the comforting wedges of rich, soft-textured omelette that I remember eating in Barcelona and Valencia. Not as good as the ones made by my brother's co-worker for their office parties, either.

Nonetheless, when I have the ingredients on hand I give it a shot. I dutifully slice the potatoes and onions, saute them in olive oil until they're cooked through and not brown, and then pour the beaten egg, seasoned with some salt, over the onion and potatoes in the pan. I let the combination sit until the bottom is firm. I cover the pan with a large plate, invert the pan so the omelette falls onto the plate, and then slide the uncooked side back into the bottom of the pan. I let the new side cook. Then I tip the omelette out, let it cool, and cut myself a wedge.
It's never as good as I want it to be: the potatoes are either not soft and creamy enough or the textures aren't melded. I assume either wrong potato variety or improper technique, usually; here, I've clearly not sliced the tubers fine enough. Yet it never tastes bad, because eggs and potatoes and onions are a magical combination. When placed between two halves of a lightly toasted roll, even my botched omelette is close enough so that I'm reminded of how the bocadillos tasted in Spain. One day, I'll get it right.

Enter the giveaway!


  1. that tortilla looks pretty good! I'm sure the real key is more salt and more fat (it always is)

  2. True…I did make this one with mostly egg whites and a minimal amount of oil in the pan, in an attempt to keep things lighter.

  3. I was taught how to make tortilla by a Spanish relative and they generally turn out pretty well (as to whether they quite match up to what you'd get in Spain - well, that's up for debate :)

    3 key things I got from that lesson: you need to slice the potatoes as thinly as you can; the potato and onion should be well cooked before you get to the egg stage; lastly, mix the cooked potatoes and onion with the beaten egg and salt *before* you put the whole lot back in the pan - that way, the egg starts to cook through before it ever gets to the pan;

    after all that, it's never less than tasty!

  4. Mmmm...I love a good tortilla! I think I'll make one next week after all of the fanfare of Thanksgiving...

    I don't usually do this because I don't have the patience, but I think that if you strain the potatoes and onions after you cook them (holding onto the oil for cooking the tortilla later) and then pour them into the egg mixture and let it sit for a while, it helps meld the flavors.

  5. Hola!!

    It's always fun and really curious to see how pleople from around the world cooks other countries recipes, in this case spanish recipes.
    I love tortilla de patatas!
    For the fotos I can see that there is not enought egg in the tortilla and the potatos are cut to thick. See this, even if you do not understand spanish it may help you

    Important things: the potatoes, very thin sliced must be "boiled" in oil (not olive oil, too strong flavour. Not good to fry), so low hit (be careful and do not stir them too much, they would absorb to much oil). Put a bit of milk in the beet eggs and leave the "boil potatoes" for a few minutes in the eggs first of doing the tortilla. Garlic gloves to aromatize the oil where you will boil the potatoes. Onions and green peper are optional.


  6. Daily Spud, I will definitely try your suggestions next time. I knew at least part of it was not slicing the potatoes finely enough! Mixing the egg with the potatoes and onions first is a new one, too.

    Mindy, thanks for your suggestion! I usually try not to use too much oil when I make these, but I guess it really is the key.

    Itsasne, thank you for the youtube link and for your advice! Adding milk to the beaten eggs makes sense, I will give that a try sometime.