Tortilla de Cebolla

Tortilla de Cebolla Originally uploaded by willsong.

Also known as: Spanish Tortilla (Onion), Spanish Omelette, Tortilla Español.

The wine: a simple El Coto crianza, 2002.

The recipe: (serves 3 or 4)

  • 4 onions
  • 6 eggs (or I could have done 8 eggs)
  • olive oil (no substitutes; and use the good stuff - not super processed cheapo olive oil) This is a dish where the oil is an actual foodstuff in the recipe, not just a cooking aid.
  • salt & pepper
  • frying pan (25cm? 10" or so); non-stick or good old cast iron (it's got to be a not sticky pan)
  • flat plate the same size or larger than the above mentioned pan
  • colander (sieve, chinois)
  • bowl
  • wooden spatula (okay, plastic if you must)

How to:

  • peel onions; 1/2 them from top to bottom (through the root, not around the equator); slice very thinly (think... potato chips); (optional: put the onions in the bowl)
  • Pour lots of olive oil into the pan; about 1+cm (1/2") deep; lots of oil (you'll pour much of it off later); heat the oil to medium hot (lower than a frying temperature [was - tempurature])
  • Dump onions into oil; turn the heat up ('cause putting in the onions cooled the oil); bring back to medium temp.
  • Cook onions slowly, without frying & crackling noises. Basically you're "poaching" the onions in oil.
  • Cook slowly until soft and limp - 20 minutes might be good. They will not get colored at all - they remain white.
  • When onions are "done", drain the oil (put the colander in the bowl and dump the onions in the colander). Let this sit and cool a little (5 minutes; crack open a beer); don't bother wiping the pan clean
  • Put the drained oil into a (metal? glass) container for reuse (yes, we reuse oil); wipe out the bowl
    e.g. use the oil to make another tortilla next weekend
  • Dump onions from the colander into the bowl
  • Add salt & pepper (be generous)
  • Crack the 6 or 8 eggs into the bowl; mix with the onions
Okay, now, making the tortilla:
  • The pan will be oiled but not oily (if there's a visible pool or oil pur it off)
  • Heat the pan until the oil starts to smoke (it's olive oil so it will be hot but not all that hot; don't use any other type of oil - it won't work)
  • Dump the onion/egg mix into the hot pan

    In the first 30 seconds of cooking...
  • Toss the mix a little (once or twice), quickly, like sautéing veggies (sort of coats the edges of the pan with egg mix)
  • Use the spatula to stir the mixture twice (only twice; only two circuits of the pan)
  • Spatula the cooked mix off the edges of the pan; basically you're cleaning the edges of the egg mess and making it look tidy

  • Lower the heat; by now it's starting to coagulate (firm up); take it completely off the heat if you feel like it might be overbrowning the underside.
    If you're good at this you can just hold it 1cm above the heat instead of turning the heat down - I'm not that good.
  • Keep cooking until the top of mixture shows some signs of being "set". You're going to flip this tortilla over so it must not be too mushy

  • Take away from the heat
  • Place plate, upsidedown, over the pan; hold loosely but firmly (not too tight; if you panic everything will slip all over the place).
  • Invert, flip, the plate/pan combination.
  • The 1/2 cooked tortilla is now on the plate; remove the pan (ta-da!)
  • Slide the tortilla back into the pan; to cook side 2 (yes, this can be a little messy)

  • Turn the heat back up to finish setting the mixture and browning the sucker
  • Tidy up the edges while it cooks; to give a nice round shape
  • Meanwhile, clean the plate
  • When done... flip the beautiful tortilla back onto the plate. Yes, flip it again, don't slide it off; 'cause the second side is usually prettier.

By the way, the picture above is my first really successful tortilla. It took me more than a couple of tries to finally get this thing right. Good luck.

edited 29-10 to add salt & pepper


Anonymous said...

A question for you ... we are on the same list for the 1000 recipes project and I am wondering if the book has already left your hands? Any news on its whereabouts?

Email me at

Great site, btw!

Shalee said...

I'm thinking this is a good Sat morning recipe. Lots of coffee and a plate of sausages or ham steak on the side, you think? Thanks for the suggestion!