Want to know the secret to Spanish food?
The best recipes in Spain are made with a few simple ingredients and only a few simple steps. From sunny southern Seville to the heart of the Basque Country, home cooks prepare delicious meals with only a handful of ingredients, creating dishes greater than the sum of their parts.
If you need proof, look no further than this classic salt cod omelet.
A Basque cider house classic
Tortilla de bacalao is one of the most typical foods in San Sebastian. In the right season, you’ll see it served at every cider house in the city! Basque cider houses are open from January until May, and locals flock to them to worship at these temples of San Sebastian’s cuisine.
Not to be confused with restaurants, these cider houses are more like giant workshops. Gigantic oak tanks full of cider line the walls, with long tables set between them. Locals will pay an entry fee that covers all of their food and drink (usually around €30–35 per person).
That ticket covers not only unlimited cider (poured straight from the barrel whenever someone yells Txotx!, or “cheers!”) but also a set menu. And first up? A salt cod omelet. The salty, umami flavors of the cod are the perfect pairing to the tartness of the rustic apple cider.
But if you can’t make it to San Sebastian during cider house season, don’t worry! With just a few simple ingredients, you can make your own tortilla de bacalao at home. Check out our authentic salt cod omelet recipe below!
Salt cod omelet recipe: tortilla de bacalao
- Recipe Type: Main
- Cuisine: Basque
- Prep time: 5 mins
- Cook time: 30 mins
- Total time: 35 mins
- Serves: 2
- 250 g (9 oz) bacalao (salt cod) fillet, rehydrated* and chopped into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus extra for serving
- 1 small yellow onion, finely sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
- 5 large eggs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and sauté until transparent. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until you get some light brown color on the onions (around 15 minutes). Transfer the onions to a plate and set aside.
- Turn the heat back up to medium high. Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the pieces of salt cod. Sauté for 5 minutes until the cod is tender.
- Add the garlic and parsley, and season with salt and pepper (remember that the cod is quite salty). Saute for another 1–2 minutes or until the garlic is golden and fragrant.
- Return the caramelized onions to the pan.
- In a small mixing bowl, gently beat the eggs together. Add the eggs to the pan and gently stir to mix everything together evenly.
- Sauté until the bottom of the egg mix starts to set, but most of it is uncooked. Use the flat part of your palm to firmly tap the handle of the frying pan a few times to prevent sticking, and then fold the cooked eggs from the edges into the middle of the pan. Some fluffy-looking folds should be in the middle.
- When the edges have set and the middle is still slightly soft, take the pan off the heat. Place a large plate upside down on top of the pan and flip! This should also flip the omelet out onto the plate. Drizzle with some extra olive oil, garnish with extra parsley, and serve!
*Note: the salt cod will need to be rehydrated before use. Rinse the cod in water to remove excess salt, and then submerge in a bowl of water. Place in the fridge and soak in water for at least 36 hours, changing the water 5–6 times in the process. Cut a piece off and taste, it should be salty, but not unbearable! If the cod is boneless, it could take as little as 24 hours.
Want to learn even more secrets of Basque cuisine? Sign up for our online pintxos making class, where you’ll discover how to bring the magic of a Basque pintxos bar to life in your own kitchen!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.