Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Two-potato tortilla with kale and smoked paprika

The Spanish language has a peculiar history. The post-Columbian development of Latin culture in Central America gave us two widly divergent and culturally rich enclaves of a single language, developing in parallel for the last five hundred years. It's small wonder, then, that sometimes the vocabulary gets confused. In Latin cultures, 'tortilla' is the familiar corn— or wheat-flour-based griddle flatbread. In continental Spain, however, 'tortilla' is more likely to denote a sort of omelette, made from potatoes and vegetables, bound with eggs, and cooked on both sides in a large, flat pan. It looks like this:

and it's awesome. The potatoes layer nicely and the seasoned egg mixture binds it all up into something almost like a dense, hearty quiche:

Let's make one!

Two-potato tortilla with kale and smoked paprika

  • 1/4 c. high-temperature-safe cooking oil (peanut, non-virgin olive, and corn oil are good)
  • 2 lbs. mixed white and sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced thin
  • 2 white or yellow onions, peeled, sliced into crescents
  • 1 bunch green kale, washed, stem tips removed, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Kosher or sea salt and coarse-cracked black pepper
  • Maple syrup to dress

The key to making a good tortilla is the potatoes. I like to mix white and sweet potatoes together for the richness of flavor that the sweet potatoes add; I don't, however, recommend using sweet potatoes exclusively, as they will tend to fall apart and you want some starch to hold things together. Your white potatoes should be starchy varietals like you'd use in a gratin.


Consistent slice thickness is of paramount importance here, as you want all your potato pieces to be equally cooked. To get this effect, it's best to use a mandoline, a fancy kitchen gadget for making nice, even slices of things.

If you have one, set it to something around 1/8". The exact setting isn't as important as the consistency of the slicing. Cut all your potatoes into rounds, taking care not to cut off any parts of your body.


You should also slice up your onions into crescents in the usual way.

You should also cut up your kale before you start cooking. Remove and discard at least the dry, tough bits at the end of the stems; I recommend going ahead and cutting the stems off up to the base of the leaf. You do want some stem in the mix here, but not too much. Once the stems are gone, hold the whole bunch tightly together, then slice off thin ribbons, starting at the stem end. If your kale leaves are very wide, you may elect to cut the whole pile in half at the end to keep your ribbons from being too large to manage.

Now that all your vegetables are cut, it's time to cook! Put the oil in a large, flat-bottomed, heavy pan (cast iron is great)—use enough oil to put a layer over the whole bottom surface of the pan—and heat it until the oil starts to shimmer. Add the potato slices, taking care not to splash the oil, since it's hot enough to cook you just as effectively as the potatoes.

Let the potatoes cook for ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally so all the potatoes are exposed to the hot oil. When the white potatoes are just starting to show some gold, add the onions as well, then continue to cook. When the potatoes and onions are done, the white potatoes will be golden with little flecks of brown, and the onions will be transluscent.

Add the kale to the pan at this point. If you're like me, you now realize that what you thought was a sufficiently large pan is in fact nowhere near sufficient:

Get a bigger one. Dump everything into that.

Much better. Stir the kale in and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is supple and wet-looking.

While the kale is cooking, crack the eggs into a bowl large enough to hold all your vegetables comfortably. Add the smoked paprika and a teaspoon or so each of kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Gently whisk it all together until the eggs are combined and the largest clumps of paprika break up. Unlike many egg dishes, this one does not benefit from the incorporation of air; you want the eggs to be dense, not fluffy, so don't whisk it too vigorously. If any large clumps of paprika survive, break them up with your fingers.

Once the kale is cooked, remove the pan from heat, then pour the pan's contents into the egg mixture. Stir the eggs and vegetables together until the vegetables are all coated. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the potatoes soak up a bit of egg.

Put the pan back over medium-high heat. When it's nice and hot, add another 2 tbsp. of your oil, let that heat, and then add the egg mixture quickly. (It's very important that the egg mixture hit a hot, well-oiled surface to prevent sticking.) Once the bottom surface of the egg mixture cooks, turn the heat down to medium or a little lower so the tortilla can cook through.

Keep a close eye on the visible surface of your tortilla. It's ready to flip when you begin to see cooked-ness spreading out slightly from the places where bubbles come through the vegetable mixture. Once this happens, flip the tortilla over! How you do this will depend on your bravery and available equipment. If you have a plate or cutting board large enough, you can flip the pan over onto that, then slide the whole tortilla back into the pan on its raw side. Otherwise, well, good luck to you!

Once you've flipped your tortilla over, bring the heat back up to medium-high and cook for a few minutes to cook the rest of the way through. Slide or flip the tortilla onto a cutting board or platter and slice it up into wedges. Plate each wedge with a bit of (real!) maple syrup and enjoy!

1 comment:

Mad Joy said...

This one looks especially amazing! I'm also impressed that you have a mandoline.