I made a tortilla

Faced with vegetables that weren’t getting any younger, and feeling hungry and wanting to avoid reading for my Evidence class, I hit upon the idea of making a tortilla, the Spanish kind. I was friends with a bunch of Spaniards in grad school, and they once tried making a tortilla and failed miserably. So I thought tortillas were things that only real cooks could make. But not so! Thanks to some instructions from the internet, mine turned out very well. Here’s how I did it:

First, I sliced about five small-to-medium potatoes into thin, round slices. I then heated a bunch of olive oil (the cheap kind) in a large skillet, medium-hot flame. You need a fair amount of olive oil — I think the recipe called for a cup and a quarter, and although I didn’t used that much I used a lot. I fried the potatoes until they were soft but not browning, then removed them to a plate lined with paper towels.

In the meantime, I’d cut up a very large onion and six cloves of garlic. Also, because I had a bunch of kale, I cut that up, too. I then sauteed the onions and garlic for a few minutes and added the kale, cooking the whole thing until the onions were pretty translucent and removing them onto paper towels.

I’d been doing this in a a stainless-steel skillet, which was kind of a mistake. If you have a non-stick one, use that. I realized the tortilla would stick to much to the stainless steel, so I switched to a big cast-iron skillet. This turned out to be a good idea. I mixed seven eggs with some salt and pepper in a large bowl, then gently stirred in the potatoes and other veggies. (You don’t want the nice potato disks to break any more than they have to.) I heated about a tablespoon of oil in the cast-iron skillet to just shy of smoking temperature and then poured the eggy mixture into the pan. The idea is to let it cook for a minute on high heat so it won’t stick to the pan, then reduce heat to medium-low for maybe ten more minutes or until the egg is fully set at the edges and starting to set in the middle.

Then you do the thing I was sure wouldn’t work. You hold a large plate on top of the skillet with one hand and invert the pan onto it. (I tried to separate the edges of the tortilla from the sides of the pan with a knife, which I recommend as a prudent procedure.) And verily, the tortilla actually fell cleanly from the pan onto the plate. I then put the pan back on the stove and slid the tortilla into it so the other side could cook, for about five minutes or so, I think. Then the plate trick once again to get the whole thing out of the pan.

I let it cool for ten minutes or so before I ate some. Reader, it was delicious. The kale is perhaps not terribly authentic, but it added a nice bitterness. And the simplicity of the eggs, potatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper was really apparent. Also, the whole process took maybe an hour, and it made enough for me and my roommate and lots of leftovers. So, the Spanish tortilla: not difficult to make, and very tasty.

9 responses to “I made a tortilla”

  1. KS says:

    Oh wow, and I was just wondering what I could make for dinner w/o defrosting some sort of crap from the deep freeze or going to the store. I have eggs and potatoes! And a well-seasoned cast iron skillet! And some leftover romesco sauce from last weekend. And while I think the addition of kale sounds positively inspired, the husband won’t eat it, sadly.

    Did your recipe call for the addition of garlic with the onions and potatoes? Most recipes I’ve seen have, I think, only added garlic in the form of an aioli at the end. And did you cover your pan with a lid at any point in the process?

  2. Dave says:

    The recipe called for garlic, but garlic aioli sounds like a great idea. I did not put a lid on the pan at any point; the cooking of the top of the tortilla was accomplished by the flipping. There was not much heat at all rising all the way through the tortilla during most of the cooking process, so I’m not sure a lid on top (to reflect heat back down into the pan) would have accomplished much.

  3. KS says:

    Thanks for this, and especially for making me feel like I’m not the only one who turns to the kitchen to avoid class prep! I cannot wait to make this later today.

  4. F. P. Smearcase says:

    Ok I want to see this done sometime because I tried to make tortilla once and it was not a success. Perhaps as the saying goes in Russian so goes my cooking: the first tortilla is a flop. Anyway now I really want tortilla.

    Fun kale fact based on visit to Italian restaurant near me: you can make a nice caesar salad with it. And why would you not, with kale being I think far better for you than mostly-made-of-water lettuce.

  5. Rachel says:


  6. Tim says:

    Rachel, I, too, know this dish as a frittata. I usually put it under the broiler (in the cast-iron skillet) to finish off the top and get a nice crispy texture, then flip it twice, once to a plate, then to another plate for serving. It benefits from about 10 or 15 minutes of rest on the plate to set before cutting.The flippy action is magic when it works, but tragic when it doesn’t.

  7. J-Man says:

    Deelish! I think you could throw pretty much any vegetable in a tortilla/frittata and it will be good. Sweet red peppers are especially nice. It’s funny – I think most of the contributors to TGW are foodies, but we rarely write about food. I’m glad you deigned to take a detour, Dave.

  8. swells says:

    I remember when the posts were often “what I made for dinner”-ish. I am totally for this return to another subset of Stuff We Like.

  9. LP says:

    This is pretty much the only dish I know how to make without a recipe; it is especially excellent for when you have run out of fresh things to cook, as most of us have eggs, potato and onion in the house all the time. I usually crisp the potatoes a little bit (cook ’em long and then turn up heat at the end), and I pour the beaten eggs right into the pan with the veggies rather than mixing everything together in a bowl first. Same diff, though, really.

    Also: If you’re making a smaller tortilla (for one or two people), you can flip it rather than doing the plate thing, as long as you’re using a nonstick pan. Just angle the pan downward, away from the handle, to slide the half-cooked tortilla right down to the edge. Then snap your the pan upward quickly to flip it. I usually do this over the sink, just in case, but it’s easier than you’d think.