Spanish Omelet from my Spanish Grandpa

One of the reasons we visited Florida this month was to visit my paternal grandparents. I always love visiting Grandpa, and not only because it’s such an odd sensation to see someone who’s almost 86 years old with the same mannerisms and patterns of speech as my 60-year-old dad. Grandpa is from Spain, but he was born in Indiana. As I understand it, things were heating up Spanish Civil War-wise, so his parents made it a point to give birth to US citizens. This proved to be a great benefit when Grandpa was thirteen and staying in Spain became unwise and US citizens were evacuated. (According to Grandpa, when they were waiting for the boat, he met a fellow who said his name was “Ernesto” and that he was from Oak Park, Illinois. Grandpa’s pretty sure “Ernesto” was Ernest Hemingway.)

For decades, Grandpa refused to talk about Spain or even to speak Spanish. Then into his 70’s, this started to change. He started telling about his family and about his time in Spain, during which one side of his family turned against the other. (This was in response to my husband’s question about why Grandpa’s never returned to Spain.)

While my dad was growing up, Grandma and Grandpa had a restaurant across from Timken Rollerbearing in Canton, Ohio. They benefitted from the lunch crowds that came in during each shift at the factory.

Grandpa still works seven days a week at a club in Sarasota, walking the grounds from 7 to midnight every night, a total of about 5 miles each evening. It’s universally accepted among those who know him that this is what keeps him so sprightly. Grandpa does not look nearly 86 years old.

Grandpa’s something of a low talker. Grandma says, “For someone who can’t hear, that man talks quieter than anyone I know.” Between that, his accent, and his circuitous storytelling style, it isn’t always easy to follow all of the details of what Grandpa’s saying. But I’ve pieced together a family history for him that I like and that makes sense to me, so until I find out something to change that (like when my Grandma said Grandpa was a twin, and then Grandpa said, “Oh, that. My brother was born seventeen months after me and we looked alike, so everyone thought we were twins.”), I’m sticking with the version I have. Family histories are remarkably difficult to assemble.

Luckily, I was there when he made the Spanish Omelet, so I was able to observe him in action rather than just listen to the story and hope I understood him right.

Spanish Omelet is very easy. It’s very much a wing-it type of recipe. I’ll see if I can talk you through it.

Ingredients:

potatoes (I used 5-6 small russets. That was too much. Maybe 2-4 would be more reasonable, depending on how big an omelet you want)

onion, about one medium, chopped

eggs (I used 5. That was about right for the amount of potato I used)

olive oil

salt

pepper

First, cook your potatoes. Grandpa’d already done that before we arrived. I think he microwaved them. So that’s what I did, using the “baked potato” setting on the microwave. Then I peeled them and mashed them up, like so:

I ended up using only about two-thirds of these potatoes.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a skillet (enough to coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of oil). I used a 10-inch non-non-stick skillet so I could be sure the omelet got well browned. Add the onions and saute until translucent.

Add the mashed potatoes and some salt and pepper, and saute for a minute or two more, stirring well and adding more olive oil as the potatoes suck it up.

In the meantime, beat your eggs well in a separate bowl. Add some salt and pepper, beat again, then pour the eggs over the potato and onion mixture. Mix the eggs in with the potatoes gently. Babysit the skillet and pull the egg in towards the middle with a rubber (silicone) spatula, keeping the forming omelet in a mass in the middle of the pan.

You’ve got to kind of use the Force to know when to flip this baby over. You want it to be firm, basically cooked through (the top will be raw still, though), and browned on the bottom. This takes several minutes. You can kind of tell when the browning is happening by the smell. Slide your rubber spatula under the edges to loosen them, and you’ll get an idea of the firmness of the omelet. At some point, you just need to make the leap and flip it.

Here’s how:

Take a large plate and invert it over top of the omelet in the pan:

Very carefully, flip the omelet and the plate over so the plate ends up on the bottom and the skillet ends up on top (with the omelet on top of the plate and under the skillet). Put the skillet back on the heat and gently slide the omelet back into the pan from the plate:

Then just put this gooey plate in the wash while the other side of the omelet browns. This will take a couple of more minutes. You might need to add more olive oil at this point, just lifting the edges of the omelet to get the oil underneath. When you’re pretty sure the omelet is cooked through and the other side has browned, slide it onto a clean plate to serve (or you can flip it again to make sure it’s brown on the underside).

Cut the omelet into wedges and serve. Grandpa served his with some cold ham. That was tasty. He said that chorizo, sliced thin and added with the onions, was a really good addition. This had been my plan with this omelet, but chorizo seems to be one of the items that’s not in every Utah grocery store. I’ll need to make a special trip to get some, though, as chorizo sounds awesome with this.

Grandpa also says this is great leftover in a sandwich. We didn’t have any leftover, so I couldn’t say.

I can’t speak to the authenticity of this Spanish Omelet, but as my Grandpa’s Spanish and he said it was a Spanish Omelet, I’m going with it. Much like I do with our family history.

4 comments

  1. TouchstoneZ · February 22, 2011

    So yummy. Interesting that I have an almost identical recipe from my German Great Aunt. Also, my dh can flip an omelet over in the air. I’m not that brave. So, thanks for the plate trick. I may start making omelets without needing help 🙂

    Like

    • CJ · February 23, 2011

      In the air? Wow, I would worry about splashing undercooked egg all over the kitchen. I am duly impressed (but glad Grandpa showed me the plate trick).

      Like

  2. timbra wiist · February 16, 2011

    talk talk talk, that’s what i do. . . i didn’t even let you tell me the story about your grampa and the “twin” thing today. . . .tell me next time, cuz i want to hear it, and i won’t go on about my mom’s uncle or worrying about my children’s “time to go” in 80 years. . . . had such a fabulous time with you ladies today. . .love the laughs, do NOT love when my child inflicts harm or tears! also. . . i love this little piece of “family history” you got to hear/experience/share!

    Like

    • CJ · February 16, 2011

      Thanks, Timbra! What I blogged here was about all I had to say about Grandpa and his “twin” (my Great Uncle Ping. He was a boxer. That’s another story). What I really should tell you is the wonderful story my grandpa told about the Spanish Civil War and the way one side of the family turned against the other. Incredible stuff.

      Like

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