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A Spanish omelette is a traditional egg dish made with potatoes and olive oil. This type of omelette is native to Spain and a popular dish in Spanish restaurants, often found on tapas menus and usually served in the evening rather than as a breakfast dish. Also called tortilla de patatas, the omelette possesses some characteristics of similar dishes, such as the classic French omelette and the Italian frittata, but the combination of cooking method and potatoes makes it a unique regional dish.
In its arguably most authentic form, the Spanish omelette is made solely with eggs, potatoes, and olive oil, although cooks from different regions often adapt the recipe by adding other ingredients such as herbs, onions, or other vegetables. Regardless of the extra components added, the base of the tortilla is always eggs and potatoes. The result is a thick and hearty dish that can be served in slices fresh from the skillet, at room temperature, or as cold leftovers.
To make a Spanish omelette, white starchy potatoes are peeled, thinly sliced, and seasoned. The potato slices are then lightly fried in olive oil in a large, fairly deep frying pan until they are partially cooked and soft, not browned or caramelized. If onions or peppers are being included in the tortialla de patatas, they are cooked along with the potatoes. The vegetables are then removed from the frying pan and set aside to drain, and a small amount of olive oil is reserved in the pan for the next step in the cooking process.
Eggs are whisked to combine the whites and yolks, and then the potatoes are added. The oil in the frying pan must be very hot when the egg and potato mixture is poured in, and then the heat is reduced to allow the eggs to begin cooking through. Once the bottom half of the eggs are cooked, the omelette is flipped over to finished cooking the other side. Flipping is accomplished either by tossing the omelette over in the pan or by sliding it out onto a plate and then tipping it back into the pan runny side down. After a few more minutes of cooking, the Spanish omelette is fully set and ready to be sliced and served.
A Spanish omelette is more closely related to an Italian frittata than a French omelette because of similar cooking methods. Both dishes are quite thick and hearty, and are meant to serve several people instead of the individual serving of a classic French omelette. Even though they are both egg dishes, the thick, hearty tortilla de patatas is quite a departure from a thin, delicate, made-to-order omelette.