The biggest culinary debate in Spain
Are you a concebollista or a sincebollista?
I feel like I have been cooking (and eating) tortilla, the humble Spanish “omelet” of potato, egg, onion, and olive oil, for all of my life.
When I was a boy, my mom would make tortilla all the time, slicing the potatoes thin, cooking them in olive oil until they got soft in the center and crispy golden brown around the edges, combining them with warm eggs in the pan…so good and comforting.
I remember early in my cooking career, making tortilla at Universo in Barcelona from fifty eggs! The dish was almost the size of a car tire, and when I would flip it in the air I would hold my breath…if I messed up and dropped it I lost hours having to redo it.
As I traveled around Spain, I saw so many different versions of tortilla. At El Manjar, a legendary restaurant in Galicia that is well known for its tortilla, my friend José Manuel Crespo made one of the best ones I have ever tasted. He did it by frying the potatoes in thin slices until they were like chips, before adding them to the eggs. It was amazing and it turned my world upside down!
When it comes to tortilla, everyone in Spain seems to have their own way. One of the biggest debates in Spain is whether or not they should have onions in them…we’ve even divided ourselves into two camps, the people cook it with onions (concebollista, from the Spanish “cebolla” for onion), others without (sincebollistas). Today I am a concebollista (as I showed my friend Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show)…tomorrow, who knows??
There are other debates too…some cooks like the potatoes sliced, some prefer them fried in chunks. Many people fry the potatoes until brown, while others gently poach them in olive oil. And is there garlic (what, who are you people?). And some people, like my friend Ferran Adrià, would just use potato chips instead of fried potatoes! Wow, so many different opinions about a dish with so few ingredients!
This recipe which I made with chef Nicolás López, our culinary director at Mercado Little Spain, was inspired by the one we love from the super famous Casa Dani at Mercado de la Paz, in Madrid. I think it is a perfect tortilla…one that feeds your body and your soul.
Have a look at this video of Nico making it and you’ll get all of the insider tips…like using Yukon Gold potatoes, putting in the potatoes and onions together, and confiting everything in extra-virgin olive oil from Spain so they are very soft and creamy, taking in all the flavors of the olive oil. The tortilla flipping can be intimidating, but you’ve just got to believe in yourself. Here’s one of the secrets…make sure to get your plate wet first so it slides well back into the pan.