When my husband and I need a fast meal, and there’s not much food in the fridge, we often make a Spanish potato omelet, or tortilla Espanola. It’s totally different from a French omelet or from Mexican tortillas, and you can serve it either hot or cold.
One legend says the Spanish omelet was invented by a peasant for a hungry king, and it has been around for more than 400 years; another says a general during the Carlist Wars in the 19th century dropped into a peasant’s home and demanded a meal. The poor farmwife only had potatoes, onions and eggs, so she invented tortilla de patatas on the spot and, happily, the general was pleased.
If you go to Spain, you’ll find tortilla Espanola served as tapas. The tortilla is a dense, moist cake of egg and though it contains potatoes, you can throw in onions and bacon if you wish. There are only two rules, according to Pepita Aris in “Recipes from a Spanish Village”: The contents must not greatly exceed the volume of eggs and the additions must not drip, either with sauce or oil. I suspect our version has broken the first rule from time to time.
We tend to make it up as we go along. Who could resist throwing in some bacon? We’ve added green pepper and topped it with tomatoes and cheese after baking. You can serve it with either white or red wine, but avoid sweet wines. And we’ve had our best successes using a cast iron pan that’s about 9 inches in diameter.
Here’s the basic plan.
Tortilla de Patatas (serves 4)
- 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 6 eggs
- Sea salt
Peel and wash the potatoes. Heat the olive oil, then add the potatoes and sir them so they are coated with oil. You can add onions, too. If you are using bacon, put it in the microwave and cook until its about half done, according to your tastes.
Reduce the heat; let the potatoes cook through until they are soft; using a slotted spoon, remove them to a bowl.
Beat the eggs and season them with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes, onions, green pepper or whatever to the mixture. Some people cook it on one side, then flip the omelet over. We haven’t been able to do that very well, so we usually stick the pan in the oven and let it finish by baking it at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.
We monitor it closely so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
Sometimes we sprinkle cheese on top or add fresh tomatoes as a garnish. Pour some wine and relish the ease with which you put dinner on the table.
Northwest Catholic - June 2015
Janet Cleaveland is a member of the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater in Vancouver.