Tortilla Española with a Twist
I am crazy for Spanish Tortilla. Really, it is one of the most satisfying dishes I can think of, and what’s more, it’s appropriate for any time of the day or season of the year. Now, in Spring or Summer I would never even think about varying the traditional potato, onion and egg mixture, but when Fall rolls around, and those fresh root vegetables are ubiquitous, I inevitably substitute sweet potatoes in nearly every recipe that would normally call for regular potatoes. I’ve been doing it with tortilla española for years, and folks, if I can brag, I honestly feel that I have struck gold with this one. The sweetness of the potatoes beautifully counteracts the intense savor and salt of the olive oil-drenched onions and eggs.
Last week, I cooked up a big meal with friends in order to test some recipes for an aperitivo night we will host later this month. There were five of us, three Germans, one Italian and me as the American contingent, each with different recipes and ideas, but all with big appetites and curiosity for what the others had in mind. We chopped, we bickered, we searched for lemons, we bickered some more. But at the end of a frantic hour and a half, we were left with an incongruous, though lovely mélange of dishes, including a roasted beet salad, meatballs with caper sauce, zucchini torta salata, a pumpkin “bomb” fondue, and sweet potato tortilla española. I’m not sure if we succeeded 100% with our recipe “tests” but as five cooks in the kitchen, we proved that old proverb wrong; we definitely did not spoil the broth.
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 medium or 2 very large sweet potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch pieces
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon coarse salt
salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a 10-inch (or thereabouts) nonstick skillet with straight sides over medium low heat and add onions. Cook onions until partially softened, about 4 minutes, then add sweet potatoes and half of the salt. (Here, if you see that the potatoes need more oil, go ahead and add it- this is no time to be stingy…) Cover and cook vegetables on medium to medium-low heat until tender, up to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat 8 eggs in a large bowl and add the rest of the salt, plus black pepper to taste. Remove vegetables from skillet and allow to sit in a bowl or plate for a couple of minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into the now empty skillet, coating the bottom. Carefully add the vegetables in to the beaten eggs and stir gently. Pour mixture back into the skillet and press potatoes down slightly so that they are flush with the liquid. Cover and cook over low heat for 12-15 minutes. When it appears that the mixture has set, run a spatula along the edges of the skillet to loosen the tortilla. You can also try to shake the skillet a bit. The key is just to make sure the tortilla is not sticking to the bottom or sides of the skillet.
Now for the fun part. Place a large flat plate or platter over the top of the skillet and invert, flipping the tortilla over and out of the skillet. Now slide the inverted tortilla back into the skillet and continue to cook over low heat, uncovered for another 8-10 minutes. When finished and set, slide the tortilla onto a flat serving plate. Serve immediately hot or at room temperature.
*Note: Tortilla española is also wonderful the next day, cold or re-heated. Often in Spain it is even eaten as leftovers in a sandwich. Just slice a fresh, crispy baguette lengthwise and place slices of tortilla inside. Wow, it really doesn’t get much better than that.