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The potato: a golden tuber

Although it didn't reach Europe until the 16th century, it seems as though the potato (originally from Chile, Peru or Bolivia, according to different opinions; its name derives from the Quechua word papa) has always been part of our cooking, due to its extraordinary culinary versatility and the wealth of dishes to which it has given rise.

It was brought to Spain in the 16th century by Francisco de Pizarro, from Extremadura, and it was introduced into Great Britain by Sir Walter Raleigh, who discovered it during his travels through Virginia.

However, no one contributed to its fame as much as French army pharmacist Parmentier, author of Traité sur sa culture et son usage, who dispelled all of the myths surrounding the potato.

For example, there were Germans who believed that it caused leprosy, and even the French considered it to be hog feed, or food for the poor.

Then the kartoffel suddenly grew into a surprising popular staple eaten by Prussian soldiers during the major battles of the 17th century.

The French Revolution was one of the events that contributed the most to the potato's prestige, when it became known as a "Republican delicacy" and triumphed especially when fried in oil.

Given the extensive nature of crops in Spain, potatoes are produced nationwide. In some areas the harvest is early, such as eastern Andalusia, Valencia, Murcia and the Balearic Islands, and in some places it falls later, as in Álava, Burgos and Galicia. Some of the highest quality come from Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Today we highlight a few recipes with potato available in restaurants in Madrid, most of them very traditional, popular dishes.

José Luis has been making Spanish omelet for more than 50 years, shaping it into a healthy recipe and the restaurant's trademark dish.

The same goes for Casa Lucio, helmed for over40 years by the charismatic Lucio Blázque and known as the "King of Cava Baja". His scrambled eggs with potatoes have been savored by everyone from high-ranking politicians to tourists visiting the city and everyone in between.

Lorenzo García, from Palencia, moved his restaurant Támara Casa Lorenzo to Madrid 14 years ago, along with his delicious juicy oval-shaped Spanish omelet (by special order only), made with minced onion, which some say is the city's finest.

Another locale known for the same recipe is run by three brothers: Redruello, Nino and Santi, who make Spanish omelet with cod brandade, truffled eggs, tripe, and vegetables... golden on the outside and tender on the inside.

One of the most popular recipes in Madrid is patatas bravas (fried potato squares served in a spicy sauce), and they are a top tapa at chef Sergi Arola's two restaurants in the capital, Vi Cool and Sergi Arola.

Asturian chef Paco Ron, who moved to Madrid a few years ago, is having considerable success at ViaVelez with his dish patatas a la importancia (thinly sliced potatoes browned in olive oil and served in a sauce). Senén González, from Sagartoki in Vitoria, has branched out to different points of sales, including the El Corte Inglés Gourmet Experience, on Goya street, with his top-notch gourmet Spanish omelet burgers.

Another place in the city for excellent tortilla is Sylkar,a long-standing restaurant where the García family uses quality products and specializes in tortilla, with and without onion, which are very unique and impossible to find elsewhere.

ADDRESSES

JOSÉ LUIS. Rafael Salgado.11. Tel. 914 58 80 28

CASA LUCIO. Cava Baja 35. Tel. 913 653 252

TAMARA LORENZO. Paseo de la Habana, 107. Tel. 914 155 176

LAS TORTILLAS DE GABINO. Rafael Calvo, 20. Tel. 913 197 5905

VI COOL. Lagasca 32. Tel. 91 435 57 01 (with a second location on Huertas, 12)

VIAVELEZ. General Perón 10. Tel. 91 5 79 95 39

LA COCINA DE SENÉN. Gourmet Experience. El Corte Inglés. Goya, 87. Tel. 914 329 300

RESTAURATE SYLKAR. C/ Espronceda, 17. Tel.: 915 54 57 03915545703

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11/12/2014