Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Spanish Tortilla and Sorolla

If you've never had a Spanish tortilla, then dispel any thoughts of the thin, flat disk that's served with enchiladas and  tacos in Mexico and Central America.
A Spanish tortilla is more closely related to an Italian frittata, but there are differences there too. Whereas a frittata is usually puffy and light from the eggs, a Spanish tortilla is densely filled with potatoes, and the eggs are merely what holds it all together.
A Spanish friend of mine made one for me decades ago, and I never tried to make one myself until a couple of weeks ago, when my book club met over an evening of Spanish tapas and talk. 
We gathered (with husbands this time) to talk about "The Telling Room," a book set in Castile, Spain, about a cheesemaker and a feud over an expensive cheese called Páramo de Guzmán.

Naturally, we had to search for the cheese, and I found it for sale at La Tienda, an online store selling Spanish foods..
It wasn't made in an artisanal way, as originally created by the protagonist in the book, but as with the original cheese, it's made from sheep's milk in the Castile region (Guzmán) of Spain, has a sharp flavor and is preserved in a tin filled with olive oil. 
Aside from the tortilla, other Spanish wines and foods filled out the menu for the evening, including olives, garlic shrimp, chorizo, jamon de Serrano, manchego cheese and quince paste, and homemade olive bread. 

But back to the tortilla. You start by cooking potatoes and onions in olive oil - a lot of olive oil. Use good quality extra virgin olive oil, since it's an integral part of this dish. I used extra virgin olive oil from Casale Sonnino, made by my friends George and Claire Treves. 

At a certain point, you remove most of the oil and cook the eggs and potatoes together. They will look slightly like scrambled eggs. Keep shaking the pan to prevent sticking on the bottom.

The whole thing goes into the broiler to brown the top, and then gets flipped over.

It's great eaten hot, warm, or even at room temperature, which is why it makes the perfect do-ahead food for a night of tapas, or to take on a picnic.

We finished the evening with a Spanish flan for dessert, the subject of my next blog post.
But while we're on the subject of Spain, I must share a few photos with you of the work of a too-little known Spanish artist named Joaquín Sorolla.
His work can be found in Spain, of course, but also at the Hispanic Society of America in New York, a much under appreciated, under visited museum in the northern reaches of Manhattan. The museum was founded in 1904 by the stepson of a railroad magnate, Archer Huntington.
The museum and library contain rare books, letters and documents pertaining to Spanish and Latin American culture, in addition to a stunning collection of decorative arts and paintings.
 I have visited the museum several times in the last forty years since first finding out about it, and even though Velazquez, El Greco and other Spanish masters are represented there, I am always mesmerized by the Sorolla paintings.
The photos below are panels from his mural series depicting the various provinces of Spain, painted expressly for the museum in the early part of the last century.
Sorolla is a master of depicting the light, as you can see below in these glorious examples below.
Enjoy the photos, because it'll be a while before the public can view the real paintings again in person. The museum closed on January 1, 2017 for a two to three year renovation,

A portion of the murals that cover four walls.

Seville: The Dance

Ayamonte - The Tuna Catch

Castile - The Bread Festival

Galicia: The Cattle Fair
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Spanish Tortilla

from Bon Appetit magazine September 2012

printable recipe here


8 servings

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

2 pounds large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, quartered, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 onion, quartered, thinly sliced

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

8 large eggs, beaten to blend


Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion, and salt. Use a heatproof spatula to coat potatoes with oil. When oil begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium low and cook, turning frequently, until potatoes are tender but not browned, 20-25 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes and onion to a large heatproof bowl. Add eggs and stir gently to combine; do not break up potatoes. Strain oil into a glass measuring cup; wipe out skillet.

Heat 3 tablespoons reserved oil from measuring cup in skillet over medium high heat. Add egg-potato mixture and cook, stirring constantly but gently to keep potatoes intact until eggs begin to set (eggs will look scrambled), about 2 minutes. Spread mixture in an even layer; reduce heat to medium low. Preheat broiler to high. Cook tortilla, shaking pan occasionally to prevent it from sticking, until eggs are nearly cooked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and broil until top of tortilla is just cooked, about two minutes.

Remove from oven. Invert a large plate over skillet. Using oven mitts (skillet and potatoes will be very hot; use caution), hold plate firmly over skillet and flip, releasing tortilla onto plate. Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving.

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