“It’s a… frittata… omelet… potato…. thing…” a Spanish teacher explains haltingly to her students. “You can’t really describe it in English. It’s delicious though.”
As the daughter of a Spaniard, I estimate that I’ve eaten approximately 500 tortillas Españolas in my lifetime, and I assure you that it is neither a frittata nor an omelet. If you call a tortilla Española a frittata to a Spaniard’s face, you may very well get a long-winded and surprisingly loud lecture. In Spain, food is a great source of pride, and describing the tortilla Española in terms of French or Italian cuisine is an insult.
Saying that a tortilla Española is a frittata is like saying that cupcakes and muffins are the same. They are similar, and are made with similar ingredients, but the taste and experience are completely different.
The tortilla Española is arguably the most quintessentially Spanish dish. It makes a fabulous breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack or sandwich. You can eat it cold or hot, though I recommend hot. A tortilla Española is always round, but you can cut it into cubes, slices or strips, although it is traditionally cut into four or eight slices. Some tortillas Españolas contain onions in addition to the potatoes, eggs, oil and salt, but any other vegetable lands you in frittata territory.
So, without further ado, my mother’s wonderful recipe for tortilla Española.
1 1/2 cups of olive oil
1 tablespoon of salt
4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into very, very fine slices
5 large eggs, beaten.
Heat the oil in an 8-inch nonstick skillet. Add the potatoes and the salt and cook over medium heat, tossing occasionally until they are crunchy, about 15 minutes.
While the potatoes are frying, beat the eggs in a big bowl. Using a spatula, put the fried potatoes in the bowl of beaten eggs and mix well.
Pour out the olive oil and add the potato-egg mixture to the skillet. Cook for about four minutes. Cover the skillet with a lid or a flat plate, quickly invert the tortilla, and just as quickly slide it back into the skillet. Cook for four minutes and slide it in a platter to serve.
¡Qué aproveche! (Enjoy!)