I’ve been lucky enough to spend time in Madrid. As is the custom there, I didn’t go out for formal dinners, but went to bars and made a meal of tapas, the great bar snacks that are a tradition in Spain. I don’t eat meat, and the rumor was that you could get sick from the seafood tapas, as the food often sat out all day. That left me with 1 main choice; Tortilla Española. The tortilla is simply eggs baked in a pan with onions and potatoes. It is served with bread, fresh or stale, depending on the bar. And it goes well with a glass of red wine.
I got to be very good friends with Tortilla Española – we shared overnight train rides, day trips, and many a late night out on the town. When I got back to the US, it became part of my cooking repertoire, and I discovered it’s a dish that lends itself to interpretation. You can bake just about anything in with the eggs and it will taste good. Some of my favorite choices include mild cheese, sautéed broccoli or greens like chard or kale, and roasted tomatoes.
Tortilla Española is one of the most versatile dishes I know. It makes a great breakfast, goes well in a sandwich, and cut into bite-sized pieces and topped with smokey tomato sauce it makes a wonderful hors d’oeuvre. It’s easy and delicious, and it’s a great dish to impress guests, as the full tortilla uncut is a golden disk brimming with delectable caramelized vegetables. The only challenge in the recipe is removing it from the pan intact, and you can cheat by waiting until it’s cold. To dress up the tortilla, pair it with a sauce like smokey tomato (mentioned above), pesto, or habanero salsa. The most reliable is plain old ketchup. Best of all, you can find all of the main ingredients for this dish at the farmer’s market.
Time: 40 minutes
4 red (or green) scallions
1 large potato (should weigh about ½ lb)
5 tablespoons olive oil
¼ lb havarti cheese
Preheat oven to 400.
Crack 6 eggs into a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Rinse the scallions, and slice off the top third. Diagonally slice the green tops and set them aside. Rinse and diagonally slice the lower 2/3rds of the scallions. Set aside. Then do the same with the bottom two thirds and put them aside in another bowl.
Peel the potato and cut into eighths. Slice the potatoes into slice ¼ inch thick. Heat a large, ovenproof sautée pan on high heat, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and add in the potato slices. Allow the slices to brown slightly, then reduce heat to medium and stir often. When a fork sinks easily into the potatoes, remove them from the pan and set aside.
Now put the pan on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sautée the scallions on medium heat. Stir often and cook until tender and beginning to brown. Reduce heat to low and add the cooked potatoes and sliced scallion tops. Sprinkle with salt, and stir.
Spread the scallions and potatoes evenly over the surface of the pan, and then pour the eggs over the scallions and potatoes. Use a spatula to move any pieces of scallion or potato that are sticking up, so they are covered by the eggs. Let the mixture cook gently on the stove for a few minutes.
Cut the cheese into small cubes and distribute evenly over the surface of the eggs. Transfer the pan into the hot oven, placing it in the center of the rack, and cook for 15 minutes. At the end of 15 minutes, pull the pan remove the pan from the oven. The surface should be firm and springy.
The torta may be served hot or at room temperature. To serve, slice the torta evenly into 8 pieces. Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper and serve with fresh bread, and/or the Puntarelle salad from recipe #6. You may thinly slice the green tops of the scallions and use as a garnish.
Yield: 10 servings