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Tortillas de Papas and Canyon Road Winters, circa 1970

November 3, 2010

Christmas Eve at El Farol
December 2005
Karen Rivera

1970s at the old El Farol and it was just locals  crunching up the road in the snow in the late winter. We had the tourists in Santa Fe for the summer but the serious skiers went to Taos Mountain for the season, leaving peace and quiet and poverty.

Upper Canyon Road was an icy ghost town except for a few galleries, a couple of restaurants and dozens of cheap, badly insulated cold water studios. Most of us didn’t sell enough after Christmas to heat our small studios, so we headed to the El Farol as the sun went down. We drank cheap jug wine and ate wedge after wedge of the cheapest thing on the menu, hot tortillas de papas, before skidding in the snow back to our frigid casas for the night.

Tortilla de papas

3 1⁄2 pounds potatoes, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
1⁄2 c. plus 1 Tbl good olive oil
1 Tbl coarse salt
1 very large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
8 large eggs


Heat 1⁄2 c. of oil in a 12-inch skillet. Add the potato slices and toss gently to coat with oil.

Cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally about 15 minutes.

Stir in the salt and onion slices, cover again and cook until onions are soft and potatoes are fully cooked but not falling apart.

Remove from heat and put onions and potatoes in a bowl. Cool.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs. Add to the potatoes and onions and mix.

Heat remaining oil in a 10 1⁄2 inch skillet(cast iron is best), until just before it smokes. Pour in the potato and egg mixture and allow it to set for 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to very low and cook until set, about 15 minutes.

Place a large pan cover over the skillet and carefully flip the tortilla over on it and slide it back into the skillet. Cook until set. Press your fingertip over the top to check. It should feel firm.

Place warm serving plate over the skillet and flip the tortilla onto it. Serve hot or cold with lots of cheap jug wine and fresh salsa.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2010 5:19 pm

    I like your description of Canyon Road in the winter long ago and faraway. Sounds pretty harsh, but there was El Farol and the food, cheap wine. We’ll try the Tortillas de Papas soon. Thanks.

    • February 24, 2010 9:57 pm

      Thanks. I’ve spent a lot of time in odd places with little cash: a summer cooking in Jemez Springs, another camping out behind the Santa Fe Opera when I worked a season there. When I finally had my own kitchens in Santa Fe, I found that the really old recipes made the biggest impact plus I got to eat all the foods from my childhood.

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