The potato and onion omelet

The potato-onion omelet is my secret weapon. Sort of.

I pulled one together for an impromptu meal a couple of years ago when my friend Beth was visiting. There wasn't a lot of food in the house, but a quick review of the fridge and pantry revealed potatoes, onion, eggs — just what I needed for a simple omelet. I sliced, sauteed and whisked while she entertained me with stories, and not long after we were enjoying a tasty lunch. Beth still praises that meal, and I rely on this dish several times a year for a fool-proof, comforting supper.

The potato-onion omelet is not a huge secret, of course; this classic Spanish tapa has been enjoyed for eons. But it is one of those easy-to-make, you-likely-have-all-the-ingredients-on-hand, scrumptious dishes that makes you look brilliant. Traditionally cut into small pieces served with other appetizers, this is terrific finger food for a cocktail party, though I'm more likely to eat a slice accompanied by a green salad for dinner.

This dish transforms humble ingredients into something unexpected. Thinly sliced disks of potato are browned in olive oil and combined with slivers caramelized onion, the components layered and suspended in egg. It requires a little more preparation time than my average weeknight meal, but the results are worth it.

If you don't own a cast iron skillet, this is your excuse to purchase one — I wouldn't dream of cooking this omelet in anything else. Skip the overpriced culinary supply stores and look for cast iron at your local hardware store.

The omelet is lovely straight out of the oven, but it's equally enjoyable at room temperature. Leftovers keep up to 4 days, covered, in the refrigerator.

Potato-Onion Omelet
Serves about 8

1/2 - 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced on a mandoline (about 5 cups)
1 extra large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
6-8 fresh thyme sprigs
9 large eggs

Heat a seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium flame with about 1/4 cup of olive oil. When it's hot but not smoking, add the potato slices (you will hear a sizzle if the oil is hot enough). Work in batches, putting only one layer of potato into the skillet at a time, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Fry on both sides until lightly brown, then place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with salt.

When all of the potatoes are cooked, lower the heat and add a little more oil to the pan. Cook the onion slices over medium-low heat until golden brown — this will take 10-15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves stripped from their stems. Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk. Add the potatoes and onions, another pinch of salt, and stir to combine. Over medium flame, pour this mixture into the skillet. Give the omelet a few shakes and press it gently with a spatula to even out the potatoes and onions. Reduce the flame and cook for a few minutes. When the edges are brown, flip the omelet onto a large plate, raw side up, then slide it back into the pan to cook the other side. Cook for a couple more minutes, then turn it onto a serving plate.

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