Dish of the Week: Tortilla Española

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re sharing an easy recipe that can be served as a tapa or as an entire meal: Tortilla española.

Tortilla española — otherwise known as Spanish omelette or tortilla de patatas — is a popular Spanish and South American dish. Here, tortilla refers to a small torte or cake. In its most traditional form, the dish is made with eggs, potatoes and sometimes garlic and onions, which get baked or fried in oil; less traditional variations add ingredients such as jamón, chorizo, green peppers,  mushrooms, chives, pimientos, herbs and capers.

The exact origin of the tortilla española is unclear, though the dish is believed to have spread in popularity during the Carlist Wars of the 19th century. According to folklore, a general created the dish as an easy, fast and filling way to feed his struggling army. Another version of the legend says the general enjoyed the dish at the house of a woman named Navarra, and liked it so much that he spread it among his peers. Others say the dish dates back to a similar Aztec dish of the 16th century.

Wherever it came from, the tortilla española has made its mark on today’s culinary world. Slice it and serve it warm or cold as part of a lineup of tapas, stuff it into bread to make a tasty bocadillo (sandwich), or serve it warm with a simple side salad.

This recipe, from Mario Batali, is tortilla española in its simplest form, with a high ratio of potatoes to eggs. Feel free to add in seasonal flavors and chorizo or jamón, because meat.

Tortilla Española

Ingredients serves 6
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pounds red bliss potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 large eggs

Preheat the broiler. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet. Add the potato and onion slices, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the potatoes and onion are tender but not browned, about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Scrape the potato mixture into the bowl, being sure not to leave any in the skillet.

Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the egg mixture, spreading it out in an even layer. Cover and cook over low heat until the tortilla is set on the bottom and the edges, about 10 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil 8 inches from the heat just until the top is set, about 1 minute longer. Set a large plate over the skillet and carefully invert the tortilla onto the plate.

Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature (the tortilla can stand at room temperature for up to 3 hours before serving).
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano