I lived in Spain for a semester of college. My roomie Briana and I lived in a small flat in Sevilla with a host family that spoke little English. We'd originally been excited to escape Maine in January, but when we arrived in Spain, it was blustery with a dampness that chilled you to the bone. Inevitably, that whole month and the one to follow were filled with sickness and shivers, with only small bouts of feeling well in between. Our physical sickness filled us with homesickness. I remember dreaming of being at home in my mother's kitchen, playing with the dog and smelling supper - or better yet, chocolate chip cookies - cooking in the oven. Afterward, I pictured her gently rubbing my feet and giving me cough syrup, my belly full and warm and my sinuses empty.
There is no replacement, I have found, for your mother when you are feeling ill. But I soon discovered that in Spain, if you can't have your mother, a warm slice of tortilla will often do in a pinch. And there were many nights, around 10 PM when we were eating a modest supper with our mamá,, that I found comfort in the traditional meal of tortilla de patatas con corizo.
Late night dinners of tortilla became such a part of my ritual in Spain that when we returned back to the United States five months later, I longed for it constantly. One evening, shortly after Ethan and I got married, I chopped a million potatoes and cracked a thousand eggs in a wild and frenzied craving attack for tortilla. I mixed it all together and threw it in a frying pan. Before long that old, familiar smell of eggs and onions and potatoes sizzling together in oil creeped through the kitchen and into the rest of the apartment. I remember sighing at the nostalgia of it all. Everything was perfect - my craving was about to be satiated. When the moment came to flip the tortilla in the frying pan, though, disaster struck. It didn't move in a solid circle like it was supposed to. Instead, it crumbled into a million pieces. It was beyond repair. I ran into the bathroom and locked the door, sobbing uncontrollably. Ethan was bewildered; I was hysterical. When I came out, he was sitting at the table, eating a big plateful of the mush. "It's actually pretty good," he said to bleary-eyed me. That's when I knew I made the right choice in marrying him.
That was the first - and last - time I made tortilla de patatas. Until this week. I've been rereading through the journal I kept while I was in Spain, and it motivated me to give tortilla another try. So, for supper last night, I pulled out the eggs and potatoes and - quite literally - got crackin'.
I am happy to report that my second attempt at tortilla de patatas was much more successful than that first, fateful time. Here's what I think make the difference: First of all, I took care to dice the potatoes and onions into nice small bits so that they would get cook all the way through. It's a lot of peeling and chopping, but it's much better than eating crunchy potatoes.
Next, I realized that it's super important to use the right pan. The first time I tried tortilla, I used a regular ole' large frying pan. The tortilla lost it's shape (that's a nice way of putting it) when I tried to flip it, so I thought that if I used a pan with more side support, it would help the eggs to mold to that shape and stay together for the grand flip. The picture below shows the pan that I used.
Finally, I made sure that I waited long enough for the egg to cook before flipping the tortilla to cook it on the other side. I fretted the whole time I waited that the eggs would be burning underneath, but when it was time to turn it over onto a plate and slide it back into the pan, it was perfectly golden - not charred, like I feared.
Here is the tortilla post-flip and ready to go back into the pan. A little of the middle got stuck to the pan, but compared to the first time, it was an utter success.
In the final moments when Ethan and I stood in the kitchen together and slid the tortilla from the pan onto a serving platter, we held our breath, wondering if we would have a repeat of the tortilla trauma from our first year. But it slid onto the platter seamlessly, with only one little potato rolling onto the floor. We both cheered and I threw my arms around Ethan's neck.
Two and half years later, I have finally gotten my tortilla fix.
Love well and eat well,
Recipe for Spanish Tortilla de Patatas Adapted from The Food Network Ingredients
- 5 medium potatoes, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 6 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 7 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk
- Mix the potatoes, onion, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
- Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and cook potato and onion mixture over low heat, covered, for 5 minutes to soften. After five minutes, remove cover and turn heat up to medium-high and let cook for another 5 minutes until golden brown. Stir occasionally.
- Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a medium bowl and add milk and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk by hand until frothy. Stir in the potatoes and onions until well combined.
- Clean out the frying pan, and heat up another 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is jumping, pour the egg and potato mixture into the pan. Turn heat down to medium. Using a rubber spatula, gently move around the mixture in the pan until the egg sets. Fry until the edges begin to turn golden and can be separated from the side of the pan, about 5 minutes.
- Then, take a large dinner plate and place it over the top of the frying pan. Flip the tortilla onto the plate. Add another 2 tbsp olive oil to the pan and allow it to heat up again, then slide the tortilla back into the pan to cook the other side. Cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.
- Serve on a platter and cut into pie-shaped slices. Goes well with chorizo and a green salad.