You say party, I say tortilla. I have loved Spanish tortillas since I tried them on my first trip to Spain a million years ago and have been making them just about as long.
Let us be clear. I am not talking about the bread-like Mexican tortillas that are used for wrapping burritos and quesadillas. I am now talking about Spain, where tortilla means a stove top egg cake, a thick omelette, a frittata. Many are vegetarian (and many are not). All of them allow you to play with ingredients!
The classic tortilla, served in thick wedges at tapas bars the country over, is called tortilla española or tortilla de patatas and is a basic yet magical combination of onions, potatoes, and eggs that manages to be good warm or cold; to be filling, yet light; to be simple, yet satisfying for both palate and belly.
There are also endless regional variations, such as tortilla torcal – a hearty slab of egginess studded with spicy chorizo sausage, ham, peas, and (if you must) Lima beans (I mustn’t).
For our recent evening with the Goralskis, my mom hit upon the idea of composing individual plates of appetizers for each guest, laid out before they arrived, in order to give my dad (and me, I guess) a chance to sit and chat during appetizers, instead of being up and down at the grill. We laid out manchego cheese with fig paste, empanadas from a local bakery, slices of spicy chorizo, and hefty chunks of this Leek and Potato Tortilla, invented for the occasion, inspired by all the beautiful leeks we picked up this week at Restoration Farm
and by a desire to do something different from all the British/Irish Leek and Potato Soup-type things you see around.
non-stick pan and lid (the pan should be at 9-10 inches across; the cover doesn’t have to be the exact fit. I like an oversized lid myself)
large mixing bowl
bowl to catch drained oil
large flat plate for filling
1 Cup olive oil (or half olive oil, half neutral vegetable oil)
4 leeks, white part only, sliced into 1/8 inch rings
4 medium potatoes, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into relatively uniform 1/2 inch slices (Russett or Yukon Gold preferred. New potatoes should not be used)
8-10 fresh eggs (a bigger pan requires 10)
½ Cup frozen or fresh peas, lightly cooked
¼-1/2 tsp salt
Heat oil until liquid and fragrant and layer leeks and onions in the oil. Lower heat to medium and cook vegetables until tender (if they start to brown, lower the heat more), turn occasionally.
In a large bowl, gently beat eggs. Stir in salt. When vegetables are tender, drain into colander, reserving oil. Put drained vegetables in egg mixture, add peas, and stir to cover, adding 1/4-1/2 tsp salt. Allow to rest for five to ten minutes.
Clean pan and heat a small amount of the reserved oil into pan (non-stick pans should require little more than a rub of oil) at medium-high. Save reserved oil for another dish.
Pour egg mixture into pan and allow to cook at medium high until a crust forms on the part of mixture that is in direct contact with the pan. Cover and lower heat to medium low, shaking occasionally. When mixture is relatively firm CAREFULLY lay plate face down on pan and turn tortilla onto pan (this is where liquid can come out; I do it over the sink). Slide tortilla back into pan, uncooked side down. Continue cooking until it slides easily in pan.
You may flip a few more times to improve shape, then flip onto plate, allow to cool for at least ten minutes, slice pie-style and serve with salad or cut into squares for a buffet, party snacks or appetizers (stick with toothpicks for hors d’oeuvres).
You may also like:
Speedy Tortilla for Camping: zucchini, no potatoes
Classic Tortilla Española: egg, onion, potato
Tortilla Torcal: chorizo, ham, and peas
And the inspiration and source for many of my Spanish dishes: Penelope Casas
For more about the foods and wines of Spain, visit the Spanish Wine and Food Association