The Spanish Tortilla
My first memory of a Spanish tortilla was one of confusion and distaste. I was perhaps 10 and in the land of Spain for a family trip to visit my Dad's childhood friend. We were taken out to experience the taste of real Spanish food among which included the tortilla. This tortilla did not equal the tortilla that I knew so well from tacos and as a young kid it is hard to discern that these are two completely different things. And so, my appreciation for this yummy, lovely dish was not what it should have been.
For some reason this memory popped into my head the other day and I had to try my hand at making one of my own. While I was not able to compare it to that tortilla I had back in my childhood, this was was pretty good. And someday, I will be able to once again taste the 'real thing' and have real appreciation for it.
Key differences? Traditional Mexican tortillas are made of masa harina and water. Spanish tortillas are made with waxy potatoes, eggs, and sometimes onions. I like to add other ingredients as well. Here's how mine went:
Pork Knuckle (if you are using):
You need to get the meat as close to the point of falling off the bone as possible. This will take time, so perhaps it is best done ahead of time. Once the pork is done cooking you will want to take if off the bone and shred/cut it up. Here are three possible options to do this:
1. Pressure cooker: Put pork in with about 1/4 cup of broth or water. On the manual setting put it on high for 45 minutes. Let it slow release to extend the cooking process. (This is the process I used and it surprised me for how long it took for the meat to soften).
2. Slow Cooker: Put the pork in with 1 cup of broth or water. Put the setting on high and let it cook for about 10-12 hours.
3. On the stove top you'll use the braising method. Put the pan on high heat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Brown each side, as best you can, then add 1 cup of broth or water, turn down heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. You'll need to check on the liquid level and add more if the pan dries out.
The Potatoes & Onions & Pork:
slice the potatoes in half and then in thin 1/8" - 1/4" slices
slice the onion in half and then into very thin slices
place oil in a pan (non stick works best) on medium heat. When the pan feels warm when you put your hand over it add the onions and then potatoes
stir/flip every few minutes. Be careful to not break up the potatoes
cook until the potatoes are soft
once the potatoes are soft add the pork knuckle meat or ham
pull off heat and prepare to add the contents of the pan to the egg mixture immediately.
The Egg Mixture:
while the potatoes are cooking
crack the eggs into a large bowl and add a little salt and pepper (Be careful with the salt if you are using a smoked pork knuckle. There is a lot of salt in pork knuckle already)
beat the eggs until they are completely mixed together. Set aside and finish up the potato onion mixture.
Cooking the Tortilla:
once the potato & onion mixture is cooked add this to the large mixing bowl with the beaten eggs
carefully stir the eggs, onions, and potatoes together without breaking up the potatoes.
in the same pan add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. Put the pan on high heat
add the egg, potato, onion mixture to the pan. Immediately turn the pan to low heat
let the egg mixture cook for about 20 minutes (time will vary so keep an eye on this). The tortilla is ready to flip when the egg on the top is no longer runny. The sides will have cooked up and pulled away from the sides of the pan
To Flip: This is the hardest part. Take a plate or cutting board, which ever fits over the entire top
of the pan and place on top of the pan. Holding the pan handle with one hand place your other hand on top of the plate or cutting board. Carefully flip the pan over so that the tortilla is now sitting on the plate or cutting board. Place the pan back on the burner and slide the tortilla off of the plate or cutting board back into the pan to cook the other side
cook for 5 minutes. You are done with the cooking process.
repeat the flip process to remove the tortilla successfully from the pan onto a plate or cutting board.
** So, potatoes are not from Spain. They were brought to Spain from Peru via conquistadors back in the 16th century. As to the origin of this potato/egg mixture, that is relatively unknown. There are a few stories circulating but most of them seem to indicate that this dish started around early in the 1800s.