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I'm happiest when the food I make becomes a backdrop to a lively conversation. When I'm not cooking, I'm traveling or dreaming about travel. Come sit with me, and enjoy! Read more here.

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« beef bourguignon: a nod to france's beloved 'boeuf' | Main | crostata di fichi: look out ladies, here comes the tart of the party »

chorizo tortilla with fino sherry: revealing the flavors of Spain

I slipped on my sandals, grabbed Paul’s hand, and walked with our dear friends, Mike and Cyana, a mile from our rented apartment to Barcelona's epicenter of fresh fishes and meats, fruits and vegetables, and artisan meats and cheeses: Boqueria market.

I was on a mission to better understand Spanish cuisine. For months I’d been trying to parcel out the culinary identity of Spain but had a difficult time, noting so many elements and styles. Aside from broad generalizations (like they eat bread and potatoes instead of pasta), I wondered what were the defining elements. I figured the Boqueria market would help solve the mystery, or at least serve as a starting place.

When I entered, I felt a wetness in the air from the fresh vegetables and cool meat stands. The bright pinks and oranges of the freshly squeezed fruit juices sold in plastic cups stood out next to the dense stand of hanging cured meats.

I pulled my camera out, poised to capture the kaleidoscope of eye-catching foods – fish with bulging, glassy eyes, exotic fruits, and what I thought would be a clan of happy workers, all thrilled to be selling Barcelona’s freshest. But as I focused on the scrubby, apron-clad vendors, I noticed some sporting grimaces.
“Que quiera??” a large, middle-aged fishmonger asked me sternly when I paused at her stall with my camera in hand. I was just looking, I said. She drew her arms to her hips, rolled her eyes, and walked away. As I meandered around, I noticed it wasn’t just her. Many of the sellers snubbed the camera-slinging tourists, all pausing to take photos but not buying.

No matter. I was on the hunt for good Spanish food. I didn’t need my camera. I just needed my eyes, my nose, and my tongue.

The four of us selected sandwiches, cheeses, fruits, a bottle off cava, and dessert and hailed a cab to the Park Guell, Gaudi’s miniature garden city, for an afternoon picnic.

We found a shaded picnic table and Mike and Cyana unpacked their plastic bags revealing raspberries, fresh figs, the sweetest dried dates I’d ever tasted, and juicy grapes. Paul and I pulled out two kinds of goat cheeses, four sandwiches, and an assortment of olives. Mike popped open the cava (literally, the cork exploded and a good cup of the liquid shot across the picnic table), and filled our glasses. We munched on our snacks and relaxed, peering out over the large plaza where a sword-slinging belly dancer periodically made her moves a small crowd of tourists.

The food tasted delicious and fresh but revealed no secrets. It did, however, make us drowsy, and, like the poppy-sniffing clan from the Wizard of Oz, we fell asleep on park benches.

As I drifted off, I thought about the question of Spanish food again. My copy of Lonely Planet’s World Food Spain, had helped me understand what Spanish cuisine was not: molded, mashed, or pureed beyond recognition.

“Your food will not be tarted up and made to look cute, or grand, or rare and costly. There is no over-reliance on sauces... no confusion of tastes.”

The book was published nearly ten years ago and despite the emergence of innovative, molecular Spanish chefs such as Ferran Adria, who sparked the culinary foam craze, I wondered if Spanish food was just a collection of local ingredients and styles prepared well, like the foods we enjoyed at our picnic.

We ate a wide range of delicious dishes that week that were labeled Spanish or Catalan (which is more Mediterranean-focused), including a tasty dessert soup of ‘Maria Luisa' with lemon ice cream, mint-and-ginger plum cake, melon, and lychee at Jordi Villa’s chef-owned Alkimia as well as a more down-to-earth meal of lamb, bacalau (salt cod), and pepper tapas at our favorite slow-food certified Mam i Teca. The tiny, five- maybe six-table wine bar and tapas restaurant by far brought me the closest to understanding Spanish cuisine, and the jovial owner-chef, Alfons Bach, was so spirited that he did a little dance, showing us some leg, as he closed the blinds, marking the end of the evening at around 1 a.m.

Still, it wasn’t until I returned home that I finally figured out Spanish cuisine. And it happened from what I deem an unlikely source: Martha Stewart.

I know, I know. It’s ridiculous. I travel all the way to Spain only to come home and discover the “real” Spanish cuisine from Martha Stewart. I’m embarrassed.

I made her chorizo tortilla and piquillo peppers stuffed with shrimp salad, starting with a Serrano ham and olive appetizer, which I downed with a sherry fino cocktail. What I finally understood after assembling all those Spanish ingredients at the same time was that the culinary identity of Spain was in fact, not a single identity, but a delicate ecosystem of fat and acid from locally made ingredients.

When I chewed on the smoky Serrano ham and followed it with a sip of super dry sherry fino, two ingredients I failed to try on my trip, I tasted Spain for the first time.

Tortilla Espanola con Chorizo

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Living. (Note on adaptation: Martha included six ounces of chorizo, which slightly overpowered the potato and egg flavor. I cut it back the chorizo amount by one ounce to bring out the sweetness of the potatoes).

Serve the tortilla espanola with Martha's Stewart's "Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp Salad" and enjoy with a glass of sherry fino.

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 large), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 small onion, diced
5 ounces dried chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 large eggs, beaten

Heat the oil in a heavy, 8-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Add the potatoes and onion, and season with salt. Cover and cook the potatoes until they are tender, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes and onion to a bowl. Add the chorizo to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Transfer the chorizo and pan drippings to potato-onion mixture. Reserve skillet.

Add the eggs to the potato-onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Lightly coat the skillet with more oil if needed and heat over a medium flame. Pour in the egg mixture and stir to combine and press to flatten. Cook, running a flexible spatula around the edges occasionally until the edges set and the center is slightly running, about 6 minutes. Place a plate, upside down, over the skillet, and invert the tortilla onto the plate (be careful about the hot oil that will drip out of the pan). Slide the tortilla back into the skillet and cook over low heat until it's completely set in the center, a few minutes longer. Slice and serve.

Interested in Barcelona? Check out more photos here.

Note on ingredients: It's difficult to find piquiilo peppers at most local markets in my area so I purchased them, along with a couple of packs of Serrano ham, online from La Tienda.

Reader Comments (27)

I love torta Espana, but never had it with chorizo.
I will bookmark this for tapas night!

September 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Snacks

This looks so delicious and I am longing to go to Spain...RIGHT NOW! This post gave me the travel bug :). Also, beautiful pictures and writing.

September 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEralda

I love those photos! I've never been to Barcelona but we spent our honeymoon in Andalusia. I loved Spain and ate very well there which might seem surprising for a vegetarian. My favorite lunch was a bowl of gazpacho and a tortilla (minus the chorizo). I ate it everyday and never got tired of it. I realize it's time for me to make a tortilla very soon!

September 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDana

Stacey: Chorizo takes the classic tortilla up a few notches. The smoky spice paired with egg and potato is lip-smacking good.

Thanks, Eralda! I'm glad you liked the photos. Barcelona is such a beautiful place!

Dana: Gazpacho and tortilla sound delicious! I might have to try that. Yum.

September 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

I've chorizo in the fridge, and I've never made tortilla b4! Gonna make it this eve :)

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOmni

Made the Tortilla. It rocked! Served it with a rocket, caper and red onion salad with olive oil and lemon. Cut through the starch nicely.

Love your blog. Paying close attention : )

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOmni

Thanks, Rod! I'm thrilled that you liked the dish. I could eat this every night. Your pairing with the rocket, caper, and red onion salad sounds terrific. Great idea. Thanks for the compliment on my blog!

September 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Your wonderful post reminds me on my honeymoon - we were in Barcelona, such great memories! The tortilla with chorizo sounds fantastic and I just love the vibrant color of the piquillo peppers!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNatasha - 5 Star Foodie

The chorizo from La Tienda is really good. Just yesterday, my husband and I we talking about their products and that they will be a good Christmas present for some of our foodies friends.

Love the picture!

September 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMely

Thanks, Natasha! Ooh, Barcelona would be a perfect place to honeymoon! Lucky you. I totally agree about the peppers -- they provide a terrific balance of flavor and color to the tortilla.

Mely -- Isn't La Tienda great? I like how they pack things too. Our ham came packed in cold ice packs and everything was carefully wrapped. Specialty items from there would definitely make nice Christmas gifts.

September 12, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

Another delicious recipe. Gracias!

September 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelra

Hi Angela,

I loved this post on several levels. My wife and I were married in the Parc Guell (long story) so your post brought me back. That said, the story and food you relayed here are wonderful. I also have a penchant for having sparking wines explode in dramatic ways in public parks in Europe (another long story)...Thanks, I really enjoyed this.


September 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterchefectomy

Hey Marc -- Thanks for the nice comment. That's amazing that you were married at the Park Guell. What memories you must have. I'd love to hear your stories of exploding sparkling wine in European parks! :) Glad you enjoyed the post. Cheers, Angela

September 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Angela, this post is absolutely great. Your food looks delicious as always. I am going to be away for a while but will definitely cook this yummy tortilla once I'm back. Btw, I adore your photography work. Thanks!

September 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJo

I have to say... your blog is completely edible. I love the creativity and the longing for great food. Keep up the good work (tonight for us was pepperadelle pasta with garden fresh squash, Italian sausage with a light balsamic sauce).

September 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMODman

Jo: Thanks for the compliment on my photog work. That's a huge compliment coming from you! I look forward to visiting again when you get back.

MODman -- Thank you so much! Your pasta dish sounds superb. Let me know if you have a blog. I'd love to check it out.

September 18, 2009 | Registered CommenterAngela

I love chorizo. It's my guilty pleasure. Since my hubby is a vegegtarian, I've started making my own soy chorizo. I'm going to make this recipe using veggie chorizo. It looks out of this world!


September 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjackie at PhamFatale.com

What a great post!You inspire me to eat and travel!Figtreeapps

September 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFigtreeapps

Thanks, Jackie! If soy chorizo is milder, you may want to increase the amount by an ounce or two to give it the same kick. Let me know if you post something. I'd love to see how it turns out!

Thanks, Figtree apps! Eating and traveling is my favorite thing in the world. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

September 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

I made your torta di mele this weekend and posted it on my blog yesterday.
It was beautiful! thank you!

October 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Snacks

Your post took me right back to the time I spent in Spain. I would wake up, head for the coffee shop, and eat tortilla or huevos mixto every morning for breakfast. As an American, I found it difficult to get used to eating breakfast standing up, but I'm sure all the locals were wondering why I was eating so much for breakfast as they nibbled on bread, drank coffee and chain smoked cigerettes.

This tortilla looks amazing.

October 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermary


We bumped into your blog and we really liked it - great recipes YUM YUM.
We would like to add it to the Petitchef.com.

We would be delighted if you could add your blog to Petitchef so that our users can, as us,
enjoy your recipes.

Petitchef is a french based Cooking recipes Portal. Several hundred Blogs are already members
and benefit from their exposure on Petitchef.com.

To add your site to the Petitchef family you can use http://en.petitchef.com/?obj=front&action=site_ajout_form or just go to Petitchef.com and click on "Add your site"

Best regards,


November 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervincent

Mary -- What an amazing experience that must have been! Just thinking about huevos mixto and tortillas makes my mouth water. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for visiting!

Vincent -- Thanks for letting me know about petitchef.com. I'll check it out!

November 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

I love tortilla!!! I like the chorizo addition in yours.

November 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErica

Wow! This looks fantastic. In my opinion you can not go wrong when a recipes has chorizo. I can't wait to try it next week when we have friends over.

Have chili your way, every way

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

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