Tortilla Española

Just as good cold as it is hot, Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelet) is pretty much the answer to all mealtime quandaries. Served piping hot from a still-sizzling skillet, it's a perfect weekend breakfast--savory, filling, and just a little bit fancy.  The potatoes are cooked right in so you don't need an additional side (though I make a personal point of never turning down a few strips of crackly, salty bacon).

For lunch the next day, or maybe even later that same afternoon, you can sandwich a cold thick slice of it between two slices of buttered, toasted bread; pure perfection whether you're pulling it out of a brown bag at the office or a picnic basket on the beach.

That same breakfast omelet is an easy dinner alongside a lemony dressed pile of salad greens and a glass of crisp white wine. When company shows up--unexpected or otherwise--slice the round into 1" cubes and poke with toothpicks for an easy and elegant hors d'oeuvre that I guarantee will be one of the first things to disappear. It also makes for a great potluck dish as it can be made in advance, travels well, doesn't need to be heated, and will appeal to meat eaters and vegetarians.

I grew up eating Tortilla Española on a fairly regular basis. My mom would always make one on the weekends, and I was young when she taught me the trick for flipping it onto the platter to cook the other side. I soon took over the weekend breakfast duties and would make the tortilla for the whole family, serving it whole alongside toasted whole wheat bread and fresh orange juice.

At first glance, the idea of making a Tortilla Española can be intimidating (flipping a half-cooked cake-size omelet?!), but I promise you it's really not that terrifying and have offered three options that you can choose from. Something you may not know about me is that I can be a total klutz; in the past month I have broken no less than 2 glasses, 1 vase, 1 ceramic breadbasket (a wedding gift!), 2 mugs, and a plate. All of this in just ONE MONTH. The first few times, Eugene came over to help clean the broken shards, but after the fourth time of hearing the tell-tale crash and my moaning "oh nooooo!" he just turned up his video game and left me to my own devices.

I tell you this to prove that if a klutz like I can flip an eggy omelet with no major disasters, you can do it too.

The "real" way to make a tortilla involves peeling and slicing the potatoes and frying them individually before making the omelet, but over the years I've found that gently boiling the sliced potatoes is a low maintenance way to achieve the same effect. No splatters to clean up and no babysitting the potatoes when you could be working on other things. (By the way, if you have leftover baked, roasted, or even fried potatoes, you can also just slice into small pieces and proceed with the recipe. It won't taste *exactly* the same, but it's a great way to use up leftovers.)

A few basic tips:

1. Use any kind of potatoes you like, but I've found that low-starch potatoes like Yukon golds work best because they don't turn into mashed potatoes during the cooking process. (Not that a mashed potato omelet is a bad thing. It sounds like a very good thing, actually, but it's not what we're going for here.)

2. Don't bother peeling the potatoes. Seriously. I never peel potatoes (or really anything) unless I really have too. The skin is loaded with nutrients, is completely edible, and doesn't affect the taste in any noticeable way. Save yourself the time and hassle and just give them a quick scrub before slicing.

3. Slice the potatoes as uniformly as possible. You want all the slices to be about the same thickness. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the more similar they are, the better. Some people like super thin slices; I usually slice them about 1/2" thick. There is no wrong way--just do what you prefer.

4. Remember that you're not looking to caramelize the onions, just soften them a bit. You want the pure, slightly spicy, flavor of the onion to come through, not the sweetness.

5. Make extra. I always use at least a full dozen eggs and a large skillet when making my tortilla, and recommend you do the same. The leftovers keep for about a week and as I described above, are great hot or cold. Grab a slice for a quick breakfast when running out the door, pack slices for lunch, or serve a piece to your kids when they get home from school. That said, if you only have a few eggs and a potato or two, you can still make a quick small one--it's a great snack or lunch when you're in a pinch.

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Tortilla Española

3 lbs potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, scrubbed and patted dry but not peeled
1 large Spanish onion or 2-3 medium yellow onions
12 large eggs
1 tablespoon smoked spanish paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Kosher salt

Fill a large pot with 3 quarts of cold water and season with kosher or sea salt. Slice each potato into 1/2" thick round slices and drop into pot of cold water. Once all potatoes are sliced and in water, place pot over high heat and bring to a boil until potatoes are fork tender.

While potatoes come to a boil, cut the onions in half and slice into thin half moons. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl with paprika, black pepper, and Kosher salt.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to a 10"-12" nonstick skillet with 2" sides and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute just until translucent. Add the onions into the egg mixture. Drain the potatoes and add to the eggs.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and pour in the egg and potato mixture, distributing it evenly. Cover and let cook over medium heat for about 15 - 20 minutes or until cooked around the edges and set. Run a spatula all around the edges and jiggle the pan to make sure the omelet isn't stuck. You now have three options:

Option #1: Take a large platter and invert it over the pan, covering it completely. Place an oven mit-clad hand over the bottom of the plate and with your other hand firmly on the skillet handle, flip the omelet onto the plate. Then place the skillet back on the stove and slide the omelet back in so that the top side is now on the bottom. (This is the traditional way to do it. There is a small risk of egg and oil spillage, but it's minor and with practice won't be a problem at all.)

Option #2: Place a large platter on the counter and holding the skillet over it tilted at a 45degree angle, use a large spatula to slide the omelet onto the plate leaving the top part on top. Then invert the skillet over the omelet, place your (oven mit-clad) hand on the bottom of the plate, and flip the omelet onto the skillet. (This works best if you have a skillet with sloped sides that allow for easy sliding.)

Option #3: forget the flipping! Just turn on your broiler and slide the skillet with the omelet under the broiler for about 10 minutes to let it finish cooking. (This is both the easiest and least authentic.)

If you chose one of the flipping options, let the omelet continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes or until set. Some people like the inside of the omelet to be a little runny, but I don't so I let it cook until it's well done.

Flip onto a plate and let set for 10 minutes before serving. Can be served hot or cold. You can also adapt this recipe by adding sliced cooked chorizo, manchego cheese, spinach, kale, garlic, pimentos, or any number of additions.

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