Apr 16 2024

Tor-ti-lla! From USA to the World

One of Spain's most representative dishes lands in the US, thanks to Senén González and José Andrés

It's an indisputable queen at any self-respecting Spanish tapas bar. Spanish omelet is the favorite of many (countless people, really) to be enjoyed with beer, vermouth, or wine. It's difficult to find someone who does not like this dish: the only divisive issue is between those who prefer it with onion and those who like it without. A matter of taste. What never changes is the list of remaining ingredients: potato, egg, salt, and olive oil.

Despite its popularity, its surprising that, until now, it has not been available as a ready-to-eat dish in supermarkets and delicatessens around the world. In the end, pioneering Basque chef Senén González was able to bring this dish to the United States with a version that many consider to be one of the best.

In order to understand how this all came about, it's important to look at the story of this chef from Vitoria (Basque Country). It all began in 2005, when his restaurant Sagartoki won the 1st Championship for the Best Pinchos and Tapas Bar in Spain. "That award, which we won two more times, turned us into the most popular bar in Spain. That created a problem: it became difficult to keep up with demand. I then thought about creating a workshop to produce my recipes in a more controlled and standardized way," recalls González.

In 2010, his Spanish omelet was also considered the best in Spain. González started to dream of creating "a Spanish revolution," and achieved the unthinkable: a packaged, frozen version that anyone could finish cooking at home in a few minutes. "We added gelatin, safe for consumers, to the recipe, which allowed the omelet to maintain its shape and integrity but added no flavor. In fact, this gelatin loses its consistency when heated, disappearing . You only have to place it in a frying pan with a little oil and cook it for two to three minutes on each side for it to be perfect.

In this case, the challenge for González and his team was to come up with a product where the tortilla could go from frozen to warm and juicy without the gelatin in the previous formula."We achieved it after a lot of work, and we have had among our allies the air fryer, which allows the tortilla to be warm and creamy in just 15 minutes. It can also be heated up in a conventional oven or microwave.

The key was to avoid industrial methods. "We make the Spanish omelet, as anyone would make it at home, in a frying pan. The challenge was to achieve a mechanism with which to emulate that manual, artisanal, traditional way of cooking."

The chef has taken this new product to the United States with José Andrés as a partner. "We were in California with him and he fell in love with the product. What this means is that, at last, a quality tortilla can be bought in the US and enjoyed in a matter of minutes.” The company will also distribute this tortilla as well as the previous version of this formula, in countries all over Europe as well as in Hong Kong, Singapore, Panama, Canada...

Canned tortilla

The ready-to-eat tortilla is not the only revolutionary product from this company. They have also developed a canned tortilla that doesn't even need to be kept cold. "It has a shelf life of around a year and a half and, although it's a different product from the one we're making for the United States, it's very interesting because it can be eaten anywhere," explains the chef.

The good thing about this is that there is a Senén tortilla for everyone: “The first version is great for those that want, not only to heat the tortilla, but to choose their desired doneness. The José Andrés tortilla is the right one for those who just want to heat it and eat it! And finally, there is the canned one, which is great for those willing to carry it with them everywhere: it is perfect for a picnic, a hiking day, an evening at the beach…".

In the end, González believes it's only a matter of time before the Spanish omelet ends up conquering the world. "It's a recipe made from eggs and potatoes, ingredients that just about everyone likes." And without having to flip it to cook it....