What to CookMexican

Cali Rivera's Family Meal at Gramercy Tavern

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How the staff eats at restaurants.

Cali Rivera, line cook at Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan, and native of Honduras, shares one of his most dependable (and delicious) family meal dishes. His Tortilla Espanola recipe is a great starting point, allowing you to use whatever you have on hand to bulk it up. It's successful as a main dish or as a side, hot or cold. -Helen

Family meal is an endless challenge. While the meal itself is informal, the pressure to create an interesting dish for discerning restaurant folk, only using available odd cuts and pantry basics, can get overwhelming. In the many family meals I have prepared there is one guiding principle: less is more. Naturally, I am not talking about quantity- everyone is always hungry when a free meal is involved- I’m speaking instead about the simplicity of the idea.

One of my all time favorite recipes is the simple Spanish Tortilla. This is a peasant dish, created out of necessity by resourceful Spanish women who cooked each day with three basic ingredients: eggs, potatoes, and onions.  A thick, fluffy tortilla can easily feed a hungry staff of twenty or a family of four. It can be served warm or at room temperature and is satisfying at any time of the day as a main course or complement.

I learned this recipe from my good friend Ramon, a native of Barcelona. This recipe is all about technique and ingredients. Adding a touch of cream keeps the tortilla light and fluffy, and finishing it in the oven avoids the rubbery texture that comes from overcooking. From the basic recipe, many variations are possible. Mushrooms, zucchini, green peppers and chorizo have all worked out well for me in the past.  I have often made entire family meals out of thee or four different kinds of tortillas. Have fun experimenting with your own personal touches as you plan your own family’s meal!

Cali Rivera's Tortilla Espanola

Makes 1 Tortilla

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 8 large eggs
  • dried oregano
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 dash heavy cream


    1. Preheat the oven to 400. Peel and slice the potatoes into thin and even rounds. Heat up enough olive oil in a pan so that the potatoes can be covered. Add the potatoes to the olive oil. Fry until translucent but not cooked all the way through. It's not necessary for the potatoes to get color. Drain the oil, save some of it. Place the potatoes in a 9"-12" nonstick or cast iron skillet.


    1. Mince the onion, and saute until translucent in some of the olive oil used for the potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Drain the excess oil from the onions, and add to the pan with the potatoes.


  1. Whisk the eggs in a bowl, and whisk in a dash of cream (really, just a tablespoon or two). Season with salt, and pour over the potatoes and onions. Cook on the stove top, over medium heat, until the bottom just starts to set, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the oven, and cook 15-25 minutes, or until done. Check it regularly, and don't overcook!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Spanish, Egg