Tortilla de Patatas
or small cake in Spanish
A Spanish omelette with hot pimentón, Manchego cheese and rosé wine
Recipe by Josee Brisson
Previously published April 9, 2016
Tortilla de patatas or tortilla española is a quintessential part of Spanish cuisine. They are served in most tapas and pintxo bars throughout Spain, and mothers make them into sandwiches for their children to take to school.
Tortilla means “small cake” in Spanish and it has absolutely nothing to do with the flour or corn tortillas of Latin America.
Tortilla means “small cake” in Spanish
and it has absolutely nothing to do with
the flour or corn tortillas of Latin America.
The origin of this legendary dish is highly contested. Although there have been versions of egg tortilla since the 16th century, both in Europe and in Latin America, it did not become the tortilla de patatas until the Incas introduced the potatoes to the Spaniards.
While some factions support the origin as being the first documented record of the Spanish tortilla in the 1817 Navarrese document, others believe it was Basque general Tomás de Zumalacárregui who first created it to feed his men during the siege of Bilbao in 1836, and others still, attribute it to a poor farmwife visited by Zumalacárregui demanding she feed him.
The traditional tortilla española is made with eggs and potatoes, and, controversially, onions. The tortilla paisana contains chorizo, red pepper and peas. Other ingredients that can find their way into a tortilla include green pepper, eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, chorizo and ham.
My version of the tortilla de patatas is slightly different from the traditional recipe, as I add hot pimentón and top it with finely grated Manchego cheese.
I paired this simple but divine tortilla with Borsao Rosado Seleccion, a Spanish rosé wine produced by Bodegas Borsao SA. This deep pink floral and fruity wine is refreshing, crisp and very satisfying!
Tortilla de Patatas
4 small new potatoes
Half a small white onion, thinly sliced
4 extra-large eggs
1 tbsp. Italian parsley, finely chopped
Pinch of Spanish hot pimentón (to taste)
French grey sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Wash and dry the potatoes. Using a mandolin, slice the unpeeled potatoes very thinly. Place the potatoes in a colander and sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt. Mix with your hands and let sit for 15 minutes or so. Remove the potatoes from the colander and pat dry with a tea towel.
In an 8’’ non-stick skillet, heat a half-inch of olive oil on medium heat. Mix a pinch or two of hot pimentón into the oil and add the onions and potatoes. Mix well to coat and fry until golden.
Remove the potato and onion mixture with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Let cool. Reserve some of the oil from the skillet to cook the tortilla. You can keep the fragrant left over oil for some other use.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs with pepper and parsley in a large mixing bowl. When the potato and onion mixture has cooled, add it to the eggs and mix to coat.
Heat the reserved oil and carefully pour in the mixture so as not to splash the oil. Cook the tortilla on medium-low until the bottom is well browned and the top is still slightly runny. Place a large plate over the skillet and invert the tortilla. Be very careful during this process because you could easily burn yourself. Slide the tortilla (uncooked side down) back into the skillet and cook until the bottom is well browned.
It is important not to cook the tortilla on high heat as the bottom will cook too quickly and the top will be much too runny to invert. You will smell it if the tortilla starts getting too brown, but keep an eye on it to avoid a catastrophe.
Slide the tortilla onto a cake stand or a serving plate and finely grate a generous amount of Manchego cheese. Let the tortilla cool to room temperature.
Serve with a simple green salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar and salt and pepper. You can also serve with slices of bread and chorizo.
Images by Josee Brisson
Josee Brisson is a culinary creator passionate about archaeology, mythology, history, literature, and the arts. She trained as a professional cook at École Hôtelière des Laurentides, in Sainte-Adèle, Québec. Among other food projects, she collaborated on two cookbooks with world-renowned food and wine expert François Chartier, and offered a Chef at Home service. Josee is also a translator, researcher and social media community manager. Her cookbook, L’Apéro: Appetizers & Cocktails, was #1 Best Seller in Appetizer Cooking at Amazon. Here’s the link to Josee’s book.