Tortilla de patatas is the best thing on earth to eat. The best.
I fell-quickly, dramatically, hopelessly-in love the first time I tasted it. It’s everything you could ever want in a neat little package: it’s eggy, it’s potato-y, it’s salty, olive oily, hot or not, crispy on the outside or soft, runny on the inside or spongy. It’s everything good and comforting and nurturing.
A fine tortilla is nothing short of divine and is the mark of a good bar or restaurant, and a bad one is nothing short of horrific, a sign that one should never return to an establishment that should be ashamed of itself. There are a hundred ways to make one, and every person asked will give a different opinion. Slice the potatoes! No, dice the potatoes! Use peppers! Use onions! More potatoes! Less potatoes! It should be firmer, no, runnier! Ahh!
Until recently I’d never quite learned the art of it, something that everyone’s grandmother here can make perfectly. I used too much oil, the pan wasn’t hot enough, I hesitated on the all-important flip…I just couldn’t get it until I suddenly found myself making several of them every day at the restaurant.
Now, I’m not a master at this yet. While I’ve probably made about 70 of them in the last month, there are still mistakes, there are flames that are a bit too high, there are tortillas that inexplicably collapse in places after being flipped, there are edges that aren’t perfect. I’m getting there, though, I’m getting there. Every once in a while there will be a “felicidades al chef” (compliments to the chef) for the tortilla, which makes my day like nothing else.
Here’s a way to make one, although everyone will tell you something different:
Ingredients: Eggs, potatoes, onions, green peppers, olive oil, salt.
1. Peel and thinly slice four or five potatoes. Add them to a sauté pan and cover with olive oil. Simmer over low heat (and keep ‘em moving, nobody wants potatoes that stick) until they’re totally saturated with oil and falling apart. Carefully drain and set aside.
2. Small-dice the peppers and onions and sauté them in olive oil over low heat until they’re limp as can be. Drain these as well.
3. Put potatoes (700-900 grams, depending), peppers and onions (200-300 grams total), and eggs (about 850 grams) in a large bowl and mush all together. Add salt. Now add more salt. Taste the mixture and then you’ll probably need to add just a little more salt.
4. Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron pan until it’s smoking. Like, really smoking. Add a couple of spoonfuls of olive oil to the pan and let it swish around, then pour in the egg mixture.
5. It will sizzle and start to set quickly, so keep it moving around. Give the pan a good shake every now and then, run a rubber spatula around the edges of the pan to keep it from sticking, and after the middle gets a little less-liquidy, you’re going to go in for the kill: the flip.
6. Squirt a bit of olive oil on a plate, put the plate face-down over the pan, hold it there with the palm of your hand, and fearlessly flip the pan and plate upside down, turning the tortilla over onto the plate.
7. Turn your burner down, put a little more oil in the pan, and carefully-with the help of a spatula-slide the tortilla back into the pan, runny side down.
8. Let it sit there for a little while, using the spatula around the edges to keep the sides nice and neat.
9. Using the palm of your hand, test the firmness every minute or so, moving it a little to see how solid the center it. When it wiggles just a little and doesn’t feel totally cooked, it’s done. The center will remain soft and a little undercooked, and the outside will have a perfectly golden hue.
10. Cut a slice and enjoy the most wonderful, yet simple, food on earth.