There are very few recipes in life that I would consider to be “gourmet” with only 4 (main) ingredients. Spaghetti carbonara is up there (eggs, pasta, pancetta, pecorino romano – just like Chef Marc Murphy makes), and so is tortilla española. If you’ve never had tortilla española, you might be imagining a Mexican tortilla painted red and yellow as the Spanish flag. I hate to tell you, that is indeed not what tortilla española is.
My older sister studied abroad in Spain before I ever made my way there. She learned what Spanish tortilla was long before I did. Every Sunday, she would use her international calling card (! can you imagine?!?!) and call my family to update us on her Spanish adventures. One day, she told us how her Spanish madre had made her a tortilla sandwich (bocadillo de tortilla for those of you in the know). We hung up that day so worried about her malnutrition because we also had pictured a Chipotle-style tortilla placed between two pieces of white bread. It wasn’t until later that we learned not to be concerned about my sister’s new Spanish carbo-loading life.
Let’s get to it. Spanish tortilla is an omelet made with potatoes. That’s it? You may ask. Oh, it’s so much more than that. Ask any Spaniard about the best tortilla española they have ever eaten and they will say the one that their mother makes. Every madre makes their tortilla differently. You can go with the classic eggs + potatoes + olive oil + salt/pepper, or you can get fancy and start adding more ingredients. Personally, I like mine with a bit of caramelized onions and my favorite tortilla in the world comes from a restaurant in Madrid. If you’re ever in Madrid, check out Juana la Loca for the best tortilla española you will ever eat (unless you are Spanish, then go visit your mom).
For years, I’ve been trying to recreate the tortilla at Juana la Loca. After peeling many, many potatoes and burning my hands many, many times trying to flip the tortilla, I finally have a recipe that I can call my own. One day my baby boy will hopefully be able to call my tortilla española his favorite too!
The process for tortilla española is actually pretty simple, so here are some pictures of each step, then the full recipe is below!
First, gather your ingredients. A few of mine aren’t shown here (sugar, sea salt…), so use your imagination.
Slice the onions and potatoes thinly. For the potatoes, you really want to make sure your knife cuts are consistent, or the slices won’t cook in the same way.
Caramelize the onions in a medium sauté pan. Adding sugar is completely optional, but I really love the sweet/salty thing that happens to the tortilla when you do this. The sugar is what gets the tortilla as close to the one at Juana la Loca as possible. Also, be careful when frying the potatoes not to burn them.
Yuuuummm. I could just eat this mixture alone all day long. Although it’s even better in tortilla form.
Flipping the tortilla is definitely something that takes time to master. I use a cutting board and bring the tortilla pan over to the sink. I flip the tortilla (be careful because hot liquid will spill over). Then, slide it back into the pan. You can definitely search for how to do this on YouTube if you aren’t very confident.