A POUND OF BUTTER: On Making Smoked Sablefish “Tortilla de Patatas” With Allioli

June 21, 2012.

by Owen Lightly | The traditional Spanish dish tortilla de patatas combines four workhorse ingredients – eggs, onions, potatoes and olive oil – with the help of a little black magic to make them sing. The black magic I speak of is the Maillard reaction, which is what happens when food is exposed to heat and turns tasty golden brown. This is what makes a lot of things very delicious, including French fries, maple syrup, coffee and this recipe that you’re about to make. When I’m feeling saucy, I like to add smoked sablefish into the mix, which ups the richness quotient and adds a certain I don’t know what. Enjoy!

Smoked Sablefish & Potato Tortilla with Allioli

This is good to make early in the morning, mid-day, in the evening or very late at night – in other words, anytime. Note: allioli is the Catalan original “aioli”.


3 ½ cups / 454 g yukon gold potato, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup + 3 tablespoons / 250 millilitres + 15 millilitres extra-virgin olive oil
1 large / 250 g Spanish onion, peeled and thinly sliced
350 g smoked sablefish filet
6 large free-range eggs
kosher salt, to taste
yields 4 large portions


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rinse the potatoes in cold water, drain and dry on paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Heat a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat and add 1 cup of olive oil. Add half the potatoes to the oil and fry until light golden brown and cooked through, approximately 5 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon and blot on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potatoes. In the same oil, cook the onions until soft and lightly caramelized, approximately 10 minutes. Rub the sablefish lightly with olive oil and bake on a small baking sheet in the preheated oven until cooked through, approximately 12 minutes. Let the fish cool slightly and then flake the flesh with your hands, being careful to remove any bones. Crack the eggs in a large mixing bowl, add the potatoes, onions and sablefish and season lightly with kosher salt. Heat a cast-iron or non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil begins to smoke add the egg, potato, onion and fish mixture and cook for 30 seconds.

Lower the heat and continue to cook until the sides appear to be set but the center is still quite liquid. At this point you have two options. You can attempt the dangerous but oh-so-satisfying flip, or you can place the pan in the oven and cook until just set (approximately 10 minutes at 350°F). If you decide to flip, place a plate over the top of the pan, lift and invert. Place the pan back on the heat and slide the omelet back in. Cook for an additional 1 minute, remove the omelet to a plate and let cool slightly. At this stage, the omelet is still slightly runny in the center. If you prefer your eggs cooked more thoroughly, leave in the pan for an additional 2 minutes (or so).



2 cloves / 6 g garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons / 10 millilitres fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon / 5 ml white wine vinegar
2 free-range egg yolks
250 millilitres extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
yields 250 millilitres


Place the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar and egg yolks in a food processor. While running, add the oil drop by drop at first, increasing as the mayonnaise texture begins to form. If it appears to be getting too thick, add a teaspoon or two of cold water to loosen. Season to taste with kosher salt and lemon juice and store in a sealed container in the fridge.

To serve

Cut the tortilla into wedges and serve with warm baguette and allioli on the side. It also works well as a sandwich filling. Just slide a wedge into a halved baguette with some allioli and enjoy. For canapé parties, we cook the mixture in a parchment-lined baking sheet, allow to cool and then cut into perfect little squares.

(photos by Michael Sider)


Owen Lightly is the founder of Butter On The Endive, a full service catering company dedicated to providing inspired food experiences to its clients. A veteran member of many local kitchen teams (among them Aurora Bistro, West, Au Petit Chavignol, Araxi, and Market), he pens Scout’s new Pound Of Butter food column. Read our interview with him here.



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