This is the kind of breakfast my dad would make.
Torta. It came in many forms, but at it’s most basic, it was fried potatoes, onions, garlic and eggs. Often he would add ground meat or tomatoes or other vegetables, but my favorite was when it was just made with the potatoes and onions. For me this makes perfect sense, since my favorite breakfast will always include hash browns :)
My dad was a great cook and he cooked often. If he was the first to the kitchen, the smell of garlic frying was sure to follow. He generally left the making of sweeter breakfast items like pancakes and waffles to others; he preferred a savory breakfast. Many mornings he would make fried rice. We always had leftover rice and leftover rice makes the best fried rice. He would check out the refrigerator and any leftover meats or vegetables would get pulled out, be efficiently chopped or thinly sliced up and then added to the mix. My dad wasn’t one for wasting food and he always turned whatever version of fried rice he made that day into something completely mouthwatering.
But on other mornings, when fried rice wasn’t his savory breakfast of choice, then eggs would be the main dish. It’s not that he didn’t occasionally just scramble or fry up some eggs, it’s just I mostly remember him making something more out of those eggs. So if I came into the kitchen and saw potatoes all diced up and frying up crisp in a pan, I knew Torta was on the menu.
So what is Torta? Depending on what cultural background you’re talking about, it could be anything from a flat bread to a sandwich to a sweet cake. But in the Philippines, it is essentially a Spanish influenced omelette. In our house, it meant dad was making breakfast, and it was going to be good.
Torta is not difficult to make and only has a few steps. First, you fry diced potatoes until they are browned and crisp. Then, saute some chopped onions and garlic. Whisk some eggs up, add the cooked potatoes, garlic and onions then it all goes into a hot frying pan. Once it is mostly set, it gets flipped out of the pan and onto a plate, then slid from the plate back into the pan, so that the uncooked side is now facing down. Once it’s done, slice it and serve it hot, warm or room temperature.
It makes a hearty breakfast served with another protein or some fruit. It’s perfect for lunch with a side salad and great for brunch because it doesn’t need to be served warm. I’ve always eaten it for breakfast, but until this post, hadn’t had it since my dad used to make it for me. It brought back a lot of memories…the smell of garlic, watching him dice up the potatoes with complete precision and looking on in awe as he flipped the Torta out and back into the pan.
Making his food is one way I can share my dad with my kids. It’s a real life experience that makes a lasting connection for them; they picture me as a child watching my dad make the very same dish for me that I am making for them today.
I think that’s about as good as it gets.
For the potatoes:
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups 1/2"diced Yukon gold potatoes no need to peel
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic minced
For the torta:
- 4 extra large eggs
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- chopped fresh flat leaf parsley for garnish if desired
Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a small non-stick skillet (mine is about 8 1/2") until hot and shimmering.
Add diced potatoes and cook, stirring frequently until tender and beginning to get crispy and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove potatoes from pan and put into a mesh strainer placed over a bowl to drain. Season with salt immediately, while still hot.
Cook onions and garlic in the now empty skillet adding oil if necessary (I had enough oil leftover in the pan from the potatoes.) Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until onions are translucent and beginning to brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic, lowering the heat if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and remove them from the pan, placing in the strainer with the potatoes.
In a small bowl, whisk 4 eggs until they are thoroughly broken up and they're just beginning to get frothy. Season with about an 1/8 teaspoon salt and a few turns of some fresh ground pepper.
Add cooked potatoes and onions/garlic to the beaten eggs and stir to combine.
Wipe out skillet if you have any brown bits remaining from cooking the potatoes and eggs.
Add 1 Tablespoon oil to the pan and heat until hot. You want it hot enough to get an immediate sizzle on your eggs once they hit the pan, so they won't stick.
Pour egg, potato, onion and garlic mixture into hot pan, moving potatoes around to get an even layer. You should hear an immediate sizzle and the sides of your eggs will bubble up and cook quickly. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes until edges are firming up and the center is about half set. I put a lid on the pan to help the center cook a bit faster, but I don't leave it on long enough for the middle to completely set.
You're ready to flip it once you still have a wet center, but there's not enough liquid to pour out of the pan. If you have too much liquid, it will get messy when you flip it. Get a plate that's larger than the pan. Place it over the pan holding it with your hand and flip the pan over so that the eggs are cooked side up on the plate.
Carefully slide the eggs back into the pan so that the uncooked side can finish cooking. This will take about 5 minutes over medium low heat. The time will depend upon how uncooked that side was when you flipped it.
Loosen the torta around the edges. It should slide easily around in the pan when you shake it.
Gently slide it off onto a serving plate. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.
Cut and serve hot, warm or room temperature.
*You can double the recipe and make in a larger skillet for more servings.
*This amount will serve 2 nicely, but we added some other side dishes and used it to serve 4.
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