Other people’s recipes: Christopher’s oven-baked potato and red pepper tortilla from Joanne Chang

Long title, short article. This recipe, from the “breakfast” chapter of Joanne Chang’s Flour, too (p. 93), was developed by Flour’s opening-day savory chef, Chris, and then reworked by Chang’s husband and fellow restaurauteur Christopher Myers. It’s a pretty straightforward Spanish tortilla. (Note for non-North American readers: we almost always call it “Spanish tortilla” because the default meaning of “tortilla” here is the Mesoamerican flatbread used in Mexican and Mexican-American cooking.) A Spanish tortilla is a kind of crustless egg pie, essentially the Spanish version of a quiche, and is a popular menu item at tapas restaurants; in place of the crust, the tortilla has a layer of potatoes on the bottom to provide structure (so I guess it, too, is a New World food).

Mise en place
The principal ingredient in a Spanish tortilla is of course egg, followed by potatoes. There’s also some dairy (here in the form of both milk and cheese), but what differentiates one tortilla recipe from another is what you use to flavor it. This tortilla has scallions, garlic, red bell pepper, smoked paprika, and parsley. The fat for cooking is of course olive oil (how could it be otherwise?), and there’s salt and pepper too. That onion turned out to be rotten; thankfully onions are cheap and I had an alternate onion at the ready.

The recipe, rather unfortunately in my view, calls for the chopped onion, cut red pepper, and minced garlic all to be cooked at the same time, over medium-high heat. As a result, my garlic was overcooked if not entirely burnt before the bell pepper was even softened. If I were writing this recipe, I’d probably say to give the peppers a head start, followed by the scallion, and then the garlic at the very last minute — and I’d probably specify lower heat and a longer cooking time, too. (The recipe is also pretty unclear about cutting the peppers: it says “1-inch pieces”, but it clearly can’t mean one inch squares, and that’s clearly not what’s in the photo. I cut the pepper into quarter-inch strips and then cut the strips so they were about an inch long.)

Minced scallion
Unlike the onion, the minced scallion — along with Parmigiano Reggiano, salt, and pepper — is mixed without cooking into the egg-and-dairy mixture that will form the base of the tortilla.

Cooked potatoes, after peeling and slicing
The potatoes are boiled with skins on, then peeled and sliced into disks. I had trouble figuring out when the potatoes were done, but I think I got it close to right.

Finished tortilla, with one small mistake visible
Now we skip way ahead. The potato disks were fried in a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet — I bet cast-iron would be even better, but I don’t have one that big — and then the other cooked vegetables are spread on top. It was at that point that I should have added the smoked paprika and the remaining salt and pepper, but I forgot — which is why you see those red streaks across the top, as I tried to compensate by mixing the seasonings together and scattering them across the top of the tortilla. After the egg base is poured in, the whole skillet gets transferred into a hot (450°F) oven to finish cooking, and when it comes out, it looks like this. (Well, except for those red streaks, which wouldn’t be visible had I not fumbled the instructions.) The tortilla has to finish cooking out of the oven, and it’s then ready to depan and serve:
Tortilla slice on a plate with some steamed spinach
Even though it’s in the “breakfast” chapter of the cookbook, I had my first serving for dinner, with a side of steamed spinach — and the following two days, when work was closed due to snow, I had another slice for lunch.


The recipe says it serves 6 to 8. As the main protein component in a meal, I think 6 is reasonable; you could easily get 12 or 16 pieces out of it to serve as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Even at the largest serving, it’s still quite low-calorie by my calculations (1/6 pie is about 243 cubic centimeters, for a nutritional density of 1.3 kcal/ml). Here’s what the nutrition calculator has to say:

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/6 recipe
Servings per recipe: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 314 Calories from fat 198
% Daily Value
Total Fat 22g 34%
 Saturated Fat 7g 36%
 Monounsaturated Fat 8g
 Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 201mg 67%
Sodium 259mg 11%
Potassium 484mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
 Dietary fiber 1g 6%
 Sugars 4g
Proteins 15g 30%
Vitamin A 22%
Vitamin C 86%
Calcium 27%
Iron 11%
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