March 20, 2009

Tortilla Two Ways

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you a nostaligia-ridden, unsolicited tutorial on how to make Spanish tortilla.

Extra points if you can make it look like Pac Man. :)

To know Spanish cuisine is to know the ubiquitous tortilla. And to know tortilla is to know that it is not a flour/corn based wrap, as in Mexican food, but rather something closer to a potato omelette.

During my semester in Madrid back in the good ole days of college, I lived with a young couple, and the missus was an outstanding cook, unfortunately for my waistline. I especially loved her tortilla, and there was almost always a bit of it hanging out on the counter, begging me to take a slice.

Whenever I find myself consumed with Spain nostalgia these days, I think of tortilla. And then I think of how I have never in my life been as heavy as I was during that semester of gluttony. This got me thinking: why not try to healthify it a bit? I did a test run of my idea last weekend, and it came out well. I made two tortillas, one with potato and one with eggplant. The eggplant version is certainly not traditional, but I thought it might make a good low-calorie potato substitute, so I tried it just out of curiosity.

Here is my recipe for Tortilla Espanola. If you would like to make it the traditional way without cutting corners on the fat and calories, I have italicized the variations you would need to make in order to do so.


  • 200g potato, or about one large, diced (Traditional: peel first)
  • 1/2 small onion, diced (about 50g at most - I used pre-chopped frozen)
  • 2 eggs
  • salt & pepper


  1. Steam the potatoes and onion until fork tender (Traditional: microwave/fry potato and onion in enough oil to coat ingredients generously)
  2. Spray a small skillet with cooking spray (Traditional: oil liberally) and heat over medium-low
  3. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and add the potatoes, onion and salt & pepper to taste; toss to coat
  4. Pour entire mixture into skillet and allow to cook until mostly set (still a little liquidy on top)
  5. Cover skillet tightly with an upside-down plate (the edges of the plate should stick out beyond the edge of the skillet) and carefully (but quickly!) flip the entire thing so that the tortilla drops flat onto the plate, which is now right-side-up. Tip: you may want to put potholder gloves on both hands and grab the plate and skillet together like you would a sandwich and flip away from you.
  6. Put the skillet back on the heat and slide the tortilla back in, uncooked side down, and allow to cook until done through, only a couple minutes more.
  7. Remove tortilla to a plate and slice into wedges to serve.

To make the eggplant variation, simply substitute the same quantity of eggplant for the potato. As with the potato, I left the peel on because that is where most of the nutrition comes from, but a Spaniard would peel it. Also, eggplant produces more moisture than potatoes when cooked, so if you're not lazy like I am, you might want to press the eggplant first to squeeze out the juices.

I ate half of each tortilla along with my last ounce of manchego cheese (another one of Spain's gifts to the world) and some greens sauteed in olive oil with garlic and golden raisins. My Spanish madre would have added pine nuts to that sautee, but alas, the pine nut cupboard was bare.

All that said, I do highly recommend trying tortilla the way it was originally intended, as this is one of Spain's most basic treats! If you don't want to make it yourself, be sure to look out for it on the menu at your favorite tapas restaurant. For any New Yorkers out there, I am a big fan of La Paella.

Anyway, I think that covers it! I may not be as fluent in Spanish as I was once upon a 2004, but the tortilla remains constant. :)

(Last chance to enter my giveaway for $20 to Mix My Granola! Have you entered? If not, you better hope I sleep in tomorrow!)


Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) said...

OK, your tortillas look amazing - much tastier than my jagged rectangle. :) I'm especially intrigued by the eggplant version - what a great idea, and I bet it would be amazing with sweet potatoes.

I loved Spain. Amazing food and people. So laid back and beautiful. I bet you had a hard time leaving.

Anonymous said...

awesome post. I miss madrid, even though I am not an egg fan, I occasionally ate tortilla to get by as a vegetarian. I never would have thought to sub for potato. good call

Have you been to Socarrat Paella Bar? fabulous!