A FEW GOOD EGGS
AND A RUSTIC TORTILLA
On Wednesday it finally stopped raining. The sun began its slow sneak out from behind the clouds and here and there a bit of blueness streaked the sky. The trees along the sidewalks tussled in the wind, with branches like sharp black whips. The world was not yet bright, but spring was clearly winning.
I decided to mark the end of my wet-weather confinement with a lunch date with an old friend at the Breslin, which turns out to be every bit as cool and charming as the hype. We caught up over bitter beers and tongue sandwiches and peanuts boiled in pork fat. And on my way home, belly full and sun shining down on Union Square, I detoured for a pokey stroll around the Greenmarket, eyeing knobs of garlic, pots of herbs, and the first ruby stalks of rhubarb. Then I saw them: a basket of new potatoes, as petite as a pinky finger, in shades of blush and eggplant and stone. And a carton of fresh-laid Araucana eggs, their shells smooth and palest green. Together they made such a perfect early spring still life, it made my heart skip a beat. Of course, I took them home.
They were so beautiful, I could hardly bear to cook them. But, I’d had tortilla espanola on the brain for a few days — and suddenly, with a half dozen eggs straight from the hen, it seemed like recipe kismet. So, yesterday we sat down for a midday meal that would have pleased any Madrilena. The results were most definitely “rustic”: I didn’t bother peeling the potatoes, my pan was a bit too wide and my spatula-work clumsy (I’m an all-around novice tortilla-maker). But it didn’t matter. I sliced the potatoes into discs as slender as dimes and let them swim and crisp in a bath of grassy olive oil and then I gently whisked the yolks, which were as fat and round as orange as tangerines. We ate thick wedges with our fingers and gulped a carafe of rough red wine from juice glasses. And the rain felt very far away.
3/4 lb – 1 lb new potatoes (or yukon golds), scrubbed and sliced into 1/8 rounds
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 1/4 cups olive oil
2 small onions, sliced thinly
6 large eggs, as fresh as you can get them
1. Heat oil in a medium-large skillet over high heat. (The most traditional size seems to be an 8″ skillet, but I used a low Le Creuset braiser that is closer to 11″ and it worked out. The resulting tortilla will just cook faster and be a little thinner.) Lower flame to medium and add potatoes in stages, a third at a time. Cook potatoes, stirring now and then, until they begin to soften and brown a bit — about 5-6 minutes. Add onions, stir again, and add a bit more olive oil if it looks like it’s getting crowded, and continue cooking until everything is soften — approximately another 12-15 minutes. Turn down the heat and pour the potatoes and onions into a colander set over a bowl. The bowl with collect the excess oil — keep this reserved.
2. Crack eggs into a large bowl, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and whisk until just scrambled. (Really: no need to go overboard here — you want to keep them fluffy.) Stir the potato and onion mixture into the eggs and season a bit more. Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.
3. In the same skillet you used to fry your potatoes, heat 5 tablespoons of the reserved olive oil over high heat to just below the smoking point. Then pour in the egg mixture and give the pan a little shake to even out the surface. Lower the heat to medium and cook slowly, periodically running a spatula around the edges of the tortilla and underneath it, to make sure it is not sticking or scorching. After about 6 minutes, or when the surface of the tortilla is moist but not liquid, position a large rimless plate (important: it has to be bigger than the pan!) over the skillet, and moving quickly and carefully, flip the skillet over to turn the tortilla out onto the plate. (This is hard and I certainly did not do it very gracefully. The only advice I can give is: practice, practice, practice.) Then slide the tortilla back into the skillet, moist side down, and cook for another 2 or three minutes, or until the eggs are fully set — shaking now and then and still using the spatula to prevent sticking. Turn off the heat.
4. Flip the tortilla out onto a platter or large plate. If there is a lot of excess olive oil, you may want to blot it a bit with a paper towel. Let cool for 15 minutes and serve just above room temperature, with a green salad, a tumbler of wine, and some harissa for a spicy kick (if you’re so inclined).