A Very Spanish Omelet
Spanish Omelets – I learned how to cook them in Santander, Spain, when I was attending summer school at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez y Pelayo. No – I didn’t learn at the university. My landlady taught me. She always left me an egg and a potato for supper. The first night she showed me how to cook a tortilla española. She showed me how easy it was – and from then on, she left the ingredients out for me and allowed me to cook the nightly omelet for myself.
Ingredients: splash of olive oil, pinch of salt, 1 potato (peeled, diced, or sliced), 1 egg.
Preparation: heat frying pan, put in the olive oil, let it warm, add the diced potato, add pinch of salt (to taste), fry until golden brown (or to taste) stirring all the while. Beat egg in a bowl. Add beaten egg to fried potatoes to make omelet. Turn omelet over in pan to cook both sides.
Seems simple, eh? But not so fast. Olive oil: I prefer Spanish olive oil, of a good quality. Other national olive oils will serve just as well, but they will change the taste of your omelet. Pinch of salt: now that’s easy. Or is it? I prefer pure sea salt. However, check the chemicals listed on the side of your salt box. Some add iodine, others sugar. No two salts are the same. Your omelet will change taste with the salt you choose. Gets complex, doesn’t it? Nothing complex about a potato, is there? But kind of potato will you use? The Universidad de la Papa in Peru lists approximately 80 different kinds of potato. Each kind will change the taste, and the texture of your omelet. Dicing or slicing? The cut of the potato will also change the taste of the omelet. When we took omelets to the beach in Spain, we always knew who had made the omelet according to the way in which the potato was sliced. Thin slices or squarish chunks? Regular cut or cut in irregular fashion? Sliced then chopped smaller? And as to the potato prior to frying, par-boiled or uncooked? Both ways lend a different texture to your omelet. De gustibus non est disputandum – there is no arguing about taste. There is nothing as simple as an egg – really? White shell or brown? Pale yolk or dark? Free range or battery hen? Fresh or, well, just hw fresh are some fresh eggs – “Eggs from Australia, fresh as the morning” -? Guess what – you omelet will change in taste, texture, and color according to the type of eggs that you use and the chicken that laid them. I wrote Add beaten egg to fried potatoes to make omelet – very true. But the good cooks that I copy actually add the hot fried potatoes (with as little oil on them as possible) to the whipped egg, and allow them to settle and gel together before returning the mixture to the pan. Not so simple then, this omelet cooking. Experiment. Try different methods and different blends of the four basic ingredients. When you find the blend you like best, stick to it.
Cebollista o anti-cebollista – the annual tortilla cooking competition in Galicia permits only four ingredients, as listed above, in their omelet entries. They do not permit the use of onions / cebollas. If you do wish to add an onion to the potato mix as it fries, you may most certainly do so. But the same cautions apply to onions as to potatoes. Be aware of what you are using and how you are using it. And whether you choose to use onions, or not, remember you have chosen a side in an ongoing war – cebollistas contra anti–cebollistas! Most people are one side or the other, rarely both.
Other things often appear in Spanish Omelets, sometimes under one name, sometimes under another. Next time, if any interest is shown in these recipes of mine, I will elaborate more on The Very Spanish Omelet.