We sat in the lobby of the Montehabana the first morning after our much-anticipated arrival in Cuba. The yellow and green glaring in the lobby was almost too much for our winter eyes to handle, but we needed breakfast. The three of us ladies sat at one of the tables in the restaurant located in the lobby, and were given a menu. The tortilla española sounded exotic enough, perfect for the first morning in Cuba. The described omelette of potatoes, onions, and ham came about thirty minutes later and was happily received by my growling stomach. The waiter brought ketchup and mustard over to the table, which I wasn’t accustomed to putting on eggs, but in my hungry state, I didn’t care. I looked down at my breakfast and chuckled. No ham, no onions, just french fries strewn among the cooked egg. Yes, seriously, french fries, which I guessed did qualify as potatoes. I called the waiter over and asked “Where are the ham and onions?” He replied, “We didn’t have any today.” “Really?” I replied back. “Yes, really.” I guess I did need the ketchup.
That was my first experience with the idiosyncrasies of food in Cuba, but it certainly would not be my last. Food is not as easy to locate in Cuba, and so you never know what you will get or what actual menu items will be available. The Montehabana, a three star hotel in Miramar, a nice section of Havana, was infamous for this. The Montehabana became almost a mythical being to us and took on a character and life of its own during our trip. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to cook a version of that omelette (this time with onions and ham) and name it after the Montehabana.
Tortilla Española a la Montehabana
Notes: Yes, this basically uses french fries as the potatoes, but just cut them into cubes or slices if that offends you.
3 medium sized potatoes
2 small ham steaks
¼ cup cream
½ cup oil
12-inch saute pan that is oven safe
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Crack eggs into bowl and add cream. Whisk until combined. Add in ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and whisk. Set aside.
- Peel and slice potatoes into french fry shape. Chop onions into ½ size dices. Chop ham into ½ inch dices.
- Add oil to pan over medium heat until shimmering.
- Add potatoes and fry until light golden, then add onions and ham to cook. Cook until onions have softened and ham has crisped a bit.
- Ensure that the potatoes, onions, and ham are evenly distributed on the bottom of the pan. If you have a lot of excess oil, discard some at this point.
- Pour egg mixture into pan and let it begin to set.
- Push the sides of the egg in once they begin to set and let the uncooked egg sitting on the top begin to pour onto the side so it can begin to cook as well.
- Once the majority of the egg has set, except the top part, put the pan in the oven.
- Let the tortilla cook for about 5-10 minutes, checking often to see once the eggs have set.
- Take out of the oven and slice to serve.