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Caramelized Onion Tortilla Espagnola

June 27, 2007


In keeping with our little household Spanish theme, the other night I decided to make Tortilla. The Spanish version of Tortilla (Tortilla Espagnola) is not in any way the same as the Mexican version of tortillas. In fact, Tortilla Espagnola is pretty much just a frittata with potatoes. But it is delicious. It’s a staple in any tapas spot, served either warm or room temperature, and it is awesome.

As I searched through recipes for Tortilla Espagnola, I realized one thing: They are all boring. The only ingredients listed were potatoes, eggs, and salt. Blech. Dull dull dull. Frittatas, the Italian version of the same thing, are often way more interesting, including all kinds of stuff like peppers and spinach and meat and cheese. I’m sure you can find Tortilla that includes some of this yummy stuff, but none of those recipes were available to me. The major differences I could see between a Frittata and a Tortilla were the cooking method and the fact that Tortilla always includes potatoes. Otherwise, they are pretty much the same dish, so I decided to try my hand at some kind of bastard child of the two. A Tortatta, if you will. Heh. I’m a dork.

The Tortilla is always cooked in a large skillet. Halfway through cooking, you use a handled lid or a plate to flip the tortilla and cook the other side. No easy feat. Frittatas are generally half cooked stovetop and finished up under a broiler. No flipping, but probably a very different consistency and texture. I did something between the two. The Tortilla/Frittata cooked halfway on the stove, then almost all the way under the broiler, then the rest of the way flipped over and back on the stove.

This method wasn’t great, although the issue could well have been my stove. The bottom burned before flipping, and the goat cheese kinda dried out and while it didn’t stick as badly as I was expecting it to, a bit of the top or bottom or whichever it ended up being did get torn off, obviously feeling a strong desire to stay in the pan. Hm. Overall, though, this combination of flavors was totally amazing, and with a little more attention to detail, and maybe the ability to pick one method and stick to it, it could have been perfection.


I found the basis of my recipe at, and pretty much only changed up the cooking method and the type of cheese a bit. And I didn’t pay any attention to the measurements, really. This was all just kind of inspiration.

Potato and Caramelized Onion Tortatta

(Heehee, I totally can’t stop calling it that now!)

  • 2 large red potatoes (I cooked up four and that was wayyyy too many. I had to make potato salad with the rest of them. If your potatoes aren’t monstrously huge, like mine were, four might be just fine.)
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 T. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 or 4 oz. chevre, or another strong goat’s milk cheese

These Spanish really like multi-step cooking processes. The first thing you want to do is caramelize the onions. I’d never heard of adding a splash of balsamic at the end of the caramelization process, but it was a great addition. The balsamic added a richness that countered the sweetness of the onions really well. I did not add sugar, as the original recipe called for, because I just didn’t see any reason to do that.

Caramelizing onions requires some patience, but it’s so worth it. You want to make sure you have enough fat in the pan to nearly cover the sliced onions. Wait for the butter (if you’re using it as your fat, which I highly recommend because it’s the best) to melt completely and stop foaming before you add in the onions, with just a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir it all together so the butter coats the onions well, and then leave them to sit over medium heat. Stir only ever three or four minutes. You want them to get brown and sweet smelling, but not to scorch. It’s ok if they do burn, though, because they’ll still taste good. When all the onions are transclucent and browned, add a bit of balsamic, stir them around for another minute or so, and remove it all from the heat and into a separate bowl.

While you’re caramelizing the onions, you should par-cook the potatoes. Just cook them in boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes. They shouldn’t be cooked through, but they should be tender enough to slice easily. After about 10 minutes (less if they’re small potatoes) drain them and rinse them under cold water. Set them aside until they’re cool enough to touch.

Once they are, slice them and chop them into roughly 1/8 inch slices, about 1 inch wide. This doesn’t really have to be that precise. I kind of just attacked them with a knife and cut them into bite-sized slices.

Heat the olive oil in a medium-large skillet, one that doesn’t have too much of a reputation in your kitchen for making things stick to it. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes and try to spread them out. They shouldn’t make a single layer, because there should be kind of a lot of potatoes. Let them cook, flipping them around every four or five minutes to cook the potatoes on top, until they are starting to brown a bit and are mostly cooked all the way through.

While they are cooking, whisk together the eggs, rosemary, and a bit of salt and pepper.

When the potatoes are ready, add the egg mixture. Lift the potatoes where you have to to let the eggs run under and around the potatoes. Then leave it alone to cook for about six minutes. You can put a lid on for a minute or so to help cook the sides and the top, but don’t keep a lid on the whole time. You should also keep on eye on the heat, and perhaps move the skillet around a bit so it doesn’t burn in one spot, like mine did.

Not ready to flip yet

Before the eggs get too set, and before you do your flipping or broiling, add the goat cheese in little dollops all around the frittata. You might want to try to push it under the egg mixture, to prevent any drying.

When the eggs are set at the sides, and just starting to set at the top, you can either flip them or stick them under the broiler. The broiler is certainly easier, but if you want to go for the flipping, by all means have fun. A flat lid with a handle is the easiest method I can discern. First, slide a spatula carefully under the whole tortilla to make sure it’s not sticking anywhere too tenaciously. Then put the lid on top of the skillet and flip. Carefully pull the skillet away, set it back on the stove top, and slide the tortilla back into the pan. Voila. You can totally do it. Once it’s flipped, just cook for another five minutes or so. You don’t want to overdo it and cook it too completely through, because it should still be nice and moise.

If you decide to go the broiler route instead, keep it about six inches away from the heat, and cook it through until it’s set on top. Then let it cool off for a bit before you use a spatula to carefully pull it out of the skillet and onto a cutting board. Voila. You can totally do that, too.

I would not, however, recommend my combo broiler/flipping method.

Frittata, out of the broiler.

Whatever you choose to call it, this is a great thing to make because it’s so damn versatile. Once it’s cooled off a bit, you can cut it into bite-sized pieces as an appetizer. You can make it for breakfast or for dinner. It is even better at room temperature, so it’s great for parties where it’s going to sit out for a bit. It’s filling and delicious, but cool and light enough for summer. And the caramalized onions, with just a hint of rosemary, they were perfect.

I will certainly be trying this flipping method thing again. Hopefully next time I won’t burn it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mr. X permalink
    June 28, 2007 10:15 am

    It was better then the ones I had in Barcelona!

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