Much like there are differences in English from the U.S., Australia, and England, Spanish words can differ from country to country and even between regions in countries. One example is the Mexican tortilla (left) and (an attempt at a) Spanish tortilla (right).
Over my spring break junior year of college, a Spanish family friend taught me how to make tortilla española. The traditional version is a rich omelette filled with potatoes and onions and uses a fair amount of olive oil in the process. The process was easy enough to follow so I made my own version (minus onion, adding spinach or chorizo) several times last year in my apartment. Although it is a time consuming process, there’s something about warm potatoes and eggs that can make the mornings a little bit better. Since the weather here has been gloomy and a little chilly, I decided to try and make a tortilla to warm me up in the mornings. There were a few technical difficulties and the end result looks pretty horrible (I swear… if I just had my cuisinart pans!) but, it still tasted good!
Mistake #1 – I used the wrong kind of potatoes. The ones we used when I was taught were russet potatoes, but I haven’t found those here. Right when I first walked into the frutería I found the red potatoes and for some reason assumed they were the only potatoes there. Sure enough, right around the corner I found the waxy yellow potatoes, which I thought would be better, but already feeling committed to the red potatoes since I had them bagged up in my basket I took both kinds home with me to try out.
Mistake #2 – I didn’t cut the potatoes to be the same size. Since the red potatoes were pretty small I chopped them up into smaller pieces, thinking that the smaller the pieces the faster they would cook. Once I got through the red potatoes, my hand was a little tried and I cut the yellow potatoes into bigger pieces. This was clearly a mistake because different sized things take longer to cook, and sure enough some of the red potatoes burned while the yellow potato pieces were still raw in the middle. I divided the potatoes into two batches to cook them faster and make another tortilla for freezing.
Mistake #3 – I didn’t chop the spinach. This was something I realized would be a problem once I was eating it later. The spinach I got had woody stalks which are a little unpleasant to eat.
Once the egg/potato/spinach mixture is in the pan for a bit, the egg on the sides of the pan will start to cook. Use the spatula to loosen the sides and life the bottom of the tortilla to see if the bottom is cooked and you can lift it out of the pan and put it on a plate.
Here is where having the right sized and shaped pan is critical. You turn the pan over on top of the raw side of the tortilla on the plate. You then lift the plate up and flip it over so that the raw side is now face down in the pan. Return the pan to the heat and finish cooking. In an ideal world, the everything will stay together and the cooked side of the tortilla will be a beautiful golden brown.
This is not an ideal world. However, I let the bottom cook and then flipped it over again to make sure everything was cooked.
That looks a little better, but then when I got it out of the pan it fell apart again. It’s going to take a little more practice to perfect my tortilla recipe here in Guadalajara.