I didn’t know that there were any higher small-plate callings than the Floyd Cardoz’s boondhi raita, that is until I tried Alex Raij’s garbanzos fritos, and though it makes me sad to have evolved beyond my Bread Bar obsession, I feel strongly enough about these chickpeas that if you haven’t had them yet, you should close your browser, turn off your computer, get on a plane if you must, wait patiently through the forty minutes it will take just to sit at the bar because these babies will leave your up-to-then favorite bar snack in the dust so quickly, its tasty little head will spin. Be prepared for a fast and fierce addiction.
After I gushed over the spicy patatas bravas and blistered pimientos de padron and good god, the Tia Pol sangria, a friend suggested that I get The New Spanish Table. It only took my husband three or four trips to Barnes and Noble (he’s a book addict, if you must know) to remember to pick it up, which pretty much brings us up to this weekend. And although I am sure I did some other things throughout it–a dinner, a party, a new dress and a movie–all I really remember of it diving headfirst into this cookbook, marveling over how long it took me to realize that there is an entire cuisine in love with many of the foods that I am (eggs, potatoes, chickpeas, smoky paprika and cured pork) and barely coming up for air.
I have never made tortilla patata before only because I have yet to see a recipe with less than one cup of olive oil in it. If you’ve made it to your thirties without unsavory things like cellulite, bless you, but all the rest of us have good reason to be wary of fat by the cup full, even so-called “good” fat. However, my desire to conquer this dish at home got the better of me on Saturday morning (also, Saturday afternoon: uh, this dish takes a long time to make) and so I decided to approach it like a scientist, measuring the oil going in and out. I am so glad I did, because as it turns out this entire dish uses but four tablespoons of oil, and probably even less because there is no way I got all the excess out of our 19-pound Dutch oven. Low-fat? Not really, but not that big of a deal.
I am pleased to say that this tortilla was as good as any I have had in a restaurant, and we ate it warm and cold throughout the weekend with glee. I think there is nothing on earth it doesn’t pair well with, from a small tomato salad to coffee with brunch to white wine with lunch or a lentil salad (coming soon!), nuts, cheese or fruit. Or me, swatting my husband off with a fork because I don’t want to share it and him being all “but I bought the book for you! Please?” and me responding “no” or actually “nmnnmmwnah” because my mouth was full. What? It’s not like I said it makes you a better person. Just a well-fed one.
And also: A sidebar to this recipe in the book discusses Ferran Adrià’s tortilla de patatas, which he claims to make with potato chips. He says the original is way too much work for quick, at-home cooking (and from the length of the recipe below, I’m sure others agree) and good potato chips–fried in olive oil, he insists, which I suppose rules out Pringles, drat–make a tasty fill-in. Ximena at Lobstersquad explains how to use this technique over here, and don’t miss her adorable drawing of the proper way to flip a tortilla.
One year ago: Summer-Squash Soup with Parsley Mint Pistou
Potato Tortilla [Tortilla de Patatas]
Inspired by the version in The New Spanish Table
Updated 8/13/13: This is a recipe that I still make frequently, but my recipe has veered off over the years — it’s gotten simpler. I didn’t want you to be left out (or to use one recipe, the one I keep on my computer, while telling you to use this one) so I’ve decided at last to update it here too. Major changes: I’ve reduced the olive oil from 1 1/4 cup, now cook the potatoes and onions simultaneously with no trouble, omitted the 2 tablespoons chicken broth (not necessary), added an adjustment for smaller eggs, a weight range for potatoes and — most importantly — simplified the directions, which always felt too intimidatingly long for something that deserves to be a weeknight staple.
Favorite uses: Warm, in wedges, with salad (and even jamón serrano) for dinner. Cold, in wedges, with salad for lunch. Cut into cubes and served with toothpicks for parties/cheese courses. As a sandwich filling, on a crusty baguette with aioli. Trust me.
You can add: Truly anything to this — a cup of slivered greens, slices of red pepper, a handful of peas — but I hope you do not. A perfect five-ingredient meal is a rare thing, and shouldn’t be meddled with.
Serves 4 as a generous main, 6 as a small dish, 8 as a side.
Time estimate: 1 to 1 1/4 hours, including peeling/prep
3 to 4 (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds) Yukon Gold potatoes
1 small onion
1 cup olive oil
6 extra-large or 7 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare potatoes and onions: Peel potatoes and onion and slice them very thin with a mandoline, the slicing blade of a food processor, or by hand. If either are on the large side, first cut them in a half lengthwise so the slices will be in half-moons.
Cook potatoes and onions: Heat oil in an 8- to 10-inch skillet, ideally nonstick, over medium-high until very hot, about 3 minutes. Add potatoes and onions in even layers and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 15 minutes, flipping and nudging potatoes around to ensure they cook evenly. Potatoes are done when they are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. They should not get brown or fall apart in flipping (unless you like your tortillas with softer, more broken-up potatoes, as some do).
Drain potatoes and onions: Transfer potatoes and onion to a colander set over a bowl and drain them. Season potatoes and onion with salt and pepper and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. [Go make your salad now! Or start cracking those eggs…]
Make the tortilla batter: In the bottom of a large bowl, lightly beat eggs with a couple good pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in drained potatoes and onions. If you have 10 minutes, definitely let them soak together for that long; it makes a difference in how well the finally tortilla stays together. If you’re in a rush, it’s not going to ruin the dish if you skip it.
Cook the tortilla: Add 2 tablespoons of the drained cooking oil* (back to the skillet over medium-high heat. Pour potato mixture into skillet and flatten the potatoes with a spatula until they’re mostly even. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, moving and shimmying the skillet and nudging the egg around (so it runs underneath) for a minute before letting the tortilla cook undisturbed until the top is wet but not very runny, and it is golden underneath.
Loosen the tortilla with a spatula then slide it onto a large dinner plate. With your hands in potholders, invert the skillet over the plate, take a deep breath, and flip it back into the skillet. You can do it! Shake the skillet to straighten the tortilla and use a spatula to gently tuck the edges back under, if needed.
Return the skillet to the stove and cook tortilla to your desired doneness, another 2 to 3 minutes if you like an ever-so-slightly loose center (try it and see if you can go back), 3 to 4 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry, for full doneness.
Serve: Slice onto a plate and serve in wedges, hot, cold or at room temperature, plain, or with a dusting of smoked paprika and/or squiggle of aioli or mayo.
* Save the rest of the cooking in the fridge for future tortillas, or eggs, or potatoes, or anything you want with a faint onion infusion.