Tortilla Primavera

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Today I’ve tasked myself with organizing a Fourth of July party–in France. I’m not normally the most patriotic person in the room, but my status as the (presumably) only American for many miles has suddenly given me the irrepressible impetus to represent my country, to explain the holiday to any and all Frenchies who’ve crossed my path over the past several days.

Of course, my interest in the 4th is mostly food-and-pool related (is that bad? ah well), although I’m never one to snub my nose at fireworks, either. (Fortunately, I got to watch a spectacular show on the beach just a few days ago, as Châtelaillon was celebrating the start of summer with some feu d’artifice of their own.)

Anyway, here’s what I’m making:

To drink, Boozy Watermelon Rosemary Lemonade. On the salad end of things: Tomato, Cucumber, and Herb Salad, as well as Fresh Herb Potato Salad (the garden here is basically an herb emporium, so I’m in heaven). To represent hot dogs and hamburgers, we have: butcher pork sausages with caramelized onions and smooth Dijon, served on baguettes (hey, we are in France) and Lamb Burgers (served on grill-toasted brioche buns, because that’s the closest thing I could find to buns of any kind at the bakery.)

I was going to make this Swamp Pie (mixing liquid crème fraîche in with the cream, of course), but there was a potluck birthday party at the house last night, and everyone and their mother brought dessert. As such, we have quite a few French pastries to work through, and my pie would have been redundant. (Although I still plan to try it out, once I get back to the States.) There will, of course, also be beer. (The Frenchman keeps threatening to buy Bud Light, just to annoy me.)

Aside from the small kerfuffle wherein I confused the translation between pounds and kilos, and thus ended up with 4.5 pounds of l’agneau haché at the butcher, instead of the 1 pound I intended on buying, everything is running smoothly. I’m off to pick herbs. I hope, wherever you are, you are having a relaxing, delicious summer day. To the grill!

starting the grill--grape vines and charcoal

A note about credit: I turned to Saveur, as I so often do, for a quick study in the classic version. I took advice about allowing the cooked potatoes to mellow with the eggs from Haidar Karoum’s recipe in Esquire magazine.

A note about leftovers: When I was a college student studying abroad in Madrid, the Señora I lived with packed lunch for me everyday. Without fail, she offered a few tart clementines, and one of two sandwiches: I forget the first (likely a thin slice of jamón), but the second was tortilla. Make a more dynamic version than she did: use any leftovers you might have from this recipe, but add roasted red peppers, packed in good olive oil. If you bring this sandwich along for a picnic, the olive oil and pesto will seep into the crusty baguette, and it will be mighty tasty.

A note about serving: You can eat tortilla pretty much any time of day, and in a variety of ways. Cut into wedges and served alongside a green salad, you have lunch. Or, for a more festive use, cut the tortilla into small squares, attach some toothpicks, and leave them out at a party. It really is a dish best served at room temperature, so it makes a solid do-ahead option.

Tortilla Ingredients: 

  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

Tortilla Procedure: 

1. Halve, and then thinly slice, the onion. Peel the potatoes. Slice them in half, lengthwise, and then cut all four halves crosswise, quite thinly. (You want thick-ish, half moon potato chips.)

2. Pour the olive oil into an 8-inch pan; warm the oil over low heat. Add the onion, and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add the potato, and stir gently to coat with the olive oil. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft but not browned. (Since I cut the potatoes quite thinly, some pieces fell apart as I stirred occasionally; it’s not the end of the world.)

onions and potato in the pan

3. Crack the eggs into a large bowl, and scramble them with a fork or whisk. Add the salt and pepper, along with the cooked potatoes and onion. Tent the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit for a while; the warm potatoes will release starch into the egg mix, everything will marry together, and the resulting omelette texture will be soft and lovely. (I left the bowl on the countertop for 1 hour, but any longer than that, move the bowl to the fridge.)

eggs and potatoes

A note about the pesto: The vegetable quantities do not have to be so precise, and you can use whatever extra herbs you like; go crazy! Feel free to experiment with nuts, too. Personally, I tried pistachos and marcona almonds, but in the end I preferred the classic pine nut option best.

A note on extra pesto: There are a million uses: on pasta with even more vegetables, on sandwiches, as a pizza base, to top a soup. You can also freeze it in a sealed container for some future, chilly day.

A note about the cheese: You can use any hard, salty cheese, like Parmesan or Pecorino.

Makes about 16 ounces (2 cups)

Pesto Ingredients: 

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup finely grated Grana Padano cheese
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • the juice and zest of a small lemon
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Pesto Procedure: 

1. Wash the asparagus, and then peel or cut off the tough bottoms; discard. Blanche the asparagus in simmering water for 2 minutes, just until they turn bright green and become a little tender. Immediately move them to an ice bath, to arrest cooking. Dry the asparagus, chop it up, and move it to the bowl of a food processor. Similarly, wash the spinach, and then blanche that too (you can use the same water). Try to squeeze as much moisture out of the spinach as possible. Move the drained spinach to the food processor, also. Chop the chives, and add them to the food processor as well.

asparagus spinach

2. Add the pine nuts, the cheese, the black pepper, the salt, and the lemon juice and zest to the food processor. Turn on the machine, and pour in the olive oil in one steady stream. When the pesto is blended to a fairly smooth consistency, give it a taste; adjust the seasoning as necessary.

asparagus-spinach pesto

Tortilla Primavera: 

In the same pan you used to cook the potatoes, heat 1 more tablespoon of olive oil over low heat. Stir another 1/4 cup of minced chives into the reserved egg mixture, and then pour that into the pan. Use a spatula to swirl in 1/4-1/2 cup of the pesto. Cook the omelette on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the oil is bubbling gently around the edges of the pan, and the egg looks almost set.

Now comes the tricky part: you need to flip the tortilla. Turn off the range, and put on some oven mitts. Lay a large plate (it has to be larger than the pan) face down across the pan. Carefully, flip the pan upside down, so that the omelette falls onto the plate. Place the pan back onto the range, and turn the heat back on. Using a spatula to aid you, slide the omelette back into the pan. Cook the tortilla for another 5-7 minutes. Finish with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt.

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One comment

  1. Bowen

    Whoa, I’ve never thought about letting the potatoes sit in the egg mix to release starches. Definitely have to try that next time; thank you!

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