I can only imagine the look of incredulity that spread over my face when I was served my first Spanish tortilla. I remember thinking to myself "A potato omelette? Really?" My hopes lifted every so slightly when a jar of chunky red salsa was passed around, and I patiently waited for a plate of masa flatbreads. None came. So, I followed everyone else at the table and skeptically tucked into the cold eggs with a dollop of the bright red sauce on top. Once the delicate potatoes hit my taste buds and the smoky sauce punched my palate, I no longer cared that the Spanish culturally appropriated and screwed up Mexican food (um, they hadn't.) I practically licked the plate clean, alternately bites with swigs of the world's crispest Rose wine, taking in breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. Sigh.
Thus, my first meal in Spain was one of my most memorable of all time. I made sure to learn how to execute this perfectly simple but delicious dish before leaving and have made it many times since then. I especially love to make tortilla with rich sweet potatoes, which lend a richer flavor than white potatoes, and my smoky romesco sauce made with roasted pecans and cider vinegar. This is great as a vegetarian lunch or dinner - all you need is a green salad - and is delicious piping hot, warm, or even at room temperature. This will feed 6 skeptical Americans.
For the Tortilla:
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4" rounds
2 tsp. fine kosher salt
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 small sweet onion, like Vidalia, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. paprika
8 large eggs, well beaten
1. Put all of the sliced sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and toss gently with your hands. Make a long enough bed of paper towels on your counter and spread the potatoes out in a single layer. Let the sweet potatoes sit for 20 minutes until they 'sweating', then pat dry with more paper towels.
2. Heat the oil in a 10" cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes to the skillet in a single layer and press down gently with the back of a spatula. Cook for about 5 minutes until the potatoes soften and start to brown a bit, then carefully flip over and cook for another 4 minutes. Sprinkle the onions all over the sweet potatoes, toss gently, and cook for another 6-7 minutes, being carefully not to let the potatoes burn.
3. Turn off the burner, then remove the sweet potatoes and onions from the skillet with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl (It is ok if there is still oil on them). Season with the paprika and nutmeg (do not toss or mix!) and set aside. Pour the oil into a heat safe bowl or can, then wipe the skillet to remove any stuck on bits. Place the skillet back on the burner over medium-high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the reserved oil, enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.
4. Pour the eggs over the sweet potatoes in the bowl. Shake the bowl so that all of the sweet potatoes are covered. Using a large spoon, spoon all of the potatoes, onions, and egg into the skillet. Lower the heat to medium and cook without touching for 20 -25 minutes until the eggs are set but still shiny and wet on top. Place a plate or platter over the skillet - and with one one hand on the plate and the other on the handle of the skillet and flip the tortilla over and onto the plate. (You can do it!) Then slide the tortilla , wet side down, back into the skillet and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
5. Cut into wedges and serve right out of the skillet, or slide on to a platter. Serve hot or at room temperature with the Romesco sauce.
For the Romesco:
1/3 cup pecans
7 ozs. roasted red peppers (about 1 large pepper)
1/4 cup tomato puree
2 tbsp. unfiltered cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon Tabasco or Louisiana Crystal
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1/2 cup olive oil
Fine kosher salt and black pepper
1. Heat the oven to 350F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment and spread out the pecans. Roast for 6-7 minutes until fragrant and slightly toasted. Remove from the oven.
2. In the bowl of a food processor pulse the pecans until they are finely chopped. Add the peppers, tomato puree, vinegar, hot sauce, and smoked paprika. Pulse until smooth. Then drizzle in the olive oil while you continue to pulse until you have a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or store for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.