Last night's supper was at church (eating together is part of the theology of Table of Grace, and one of the things I love about it). The theme was "breakfast for dinner." There were lots of yummy things, and I ate too much, as usual. Once the theme was announced, I knew immediately what I would be bringing - tortillas española - Spanish-styled omelets. The beautiful things about them is they can be served hot or cold, which meant I could make them in advance and chill them, and they are easy to make.
I first learned how to make them from Anna Thomas's The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two. I now see that book and the original The Vegetarian Epicure are out of print and commanding fairly high prices as used books, but I would never give my copies up. There is now a The New Vegetarian Epicure out, which I am going to have to get. The former two books are quite simply two of my favorite cookbooks in my whole collection. I bought them when I was going through my first vegetarian phase in the late 1980s, but return to them again and again even as an omnivore, because the recipes are hearty, delicious and so easy to make.
Over the years I've adapted her original recipe and made it my own. The basic tortilla española recipe has a whopping six ingredients in it, and that's counting salt and pepper! But you can adapt the fillings with what you have on hand, and that makes for an infinite number of variations. Try it out for breakfast, dinner, appetizers - it fits all those roles. In fact, one of the most common ways to eat them is as tapas (mmm, tapas).
Ingredients (basic recipe)
- 1 large russet potato, diced into ¼" to ½" cubes
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2½ Tbs olive oil
- eggs, beaten (see note)
Note: the original Vegetarian Epicure recipe called for five eggs. And that's a fine amount. But you can certainly up that number, and I recommend it if you are going to feed more people. Last night's tortillas used nine eggs each. But given I then sliced them into 8-10 wedges, the egg-per-serving ratio was low, if you're worried about your health. On the other hand, when eating these as a main dish at home, Morgann, Les and I will easily divide a nine-egg tortilla between us.
You may add any of the following, alone or in combinations, based on what sounds good and what you have on hand. At that point we are probably no longer technically making a tortilla española, but I dislike getting pedantic over food. :) You don't want to overwhelm the tortilla, so just a bit (a teaspoon to a quarter cup, depending) of each is enough to add flavor and color. Use your judgment, experiment, and remember what you like for next time sums up my philosophy about cooking.
- Oregano (I add a teaspoon of this every time)
- Calamata or other black olives, diced
- Fresh garlic, chopped
- Sweet red peppers (fresh or as pickled pimentos), diced
- Fresh mushrooms, diced
- Ham, diced
- Hard grated cheese
- Whatever else sounds good, diced - I've seen eggplant, peas, asparagus, etc.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the potatoes and onion until just tender. If any other ingredients are "hard vegetables," you can sauté them at this time, too. I usually have everything else all mixed together with the eggs to make it easy. Pour the eggs, et al., into the pan over the potatoes and onions. Cover and cook on low heat ("2" to "3" on my electric range, depending on how browned I want the resulting omelet to be - a "2" is a good starting point) for 15 to 20 minutes. If you used five eggs, then 15 minutes, if nine or ten then more like 20. A glass lid for the skillet is handy but not necessary to see the tortilla's progress. But basically there is no need to "tend" the skillet during this time, which makes it an excellent recipe for allowing the cook to do other things during the interim.
When the top of the tortilla is just firm, uncover, place a plate upside down on top of it, and then carefully turn the pan over while holding the plate in place until the tortilla drops out of the pan and onto the plate. Put the skillet back on the burner and then slide the tortilla back into the skillet, cover and brown the other side for two to five minutes, again based on the number of eggs and how brown you like your omelets. Slide the tortilla back onto the plate. If you are eating it hot then you're ready to go. Otherwise it can be cooled and served at room temperature or cold. Cut into wedges. Serves 3-4 as a main course accompanied by a good hearty bread for a light breakfast or dinner. Serves eight or more as an appetizer, especially part of a tapas-styled dinner. Also excellent served with salsa.