Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Patatas Bravas (Fierce Potatoes)


In honor of my amazing sister's birthday last week, I created a fun and festive Spanish tapas meal to celebrate. Tapas are one of my favorite styles of small plate meals (along with dim sum) and can always get on board for enjoying tapas with family or friends whether at a tapas bar or in my home.


Along with a pitcher of fruity sangria (a tapas meal without sangria is just sacrilegious) I created a spread of dishes that included an Empanada with Marinated Pork Roasted Red Peppers, Shrimp with Garlic, Mussels on the Half Shell with Escabeche (served cold and prepped in advance), Patatas Bravas, and Roasted Broccoli (not exactly traditional tapas, but we needed some green veggies!).

Empanada with Marinated Pork and Roasted Red Peppers

Shrimp with Garlic

Mussels on the Half Shell with Escabeche


I also fulfilled my sister's only menu request (luckily she gave me free reign over the rest of the menu) for the birthday cake. A couple years ago, I posted the recipe for the famous Hollywood Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake, and this is the cake my sister desired on her birthday this year.

Hollywood Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake

It's a personal favorite as well, light and spongey with a slightly tart grapefruit-infused cream cheese frosting and fresh supremes of grapefruit in the filling and to garnish. It's truly timeless and reflects back to the olden days of Hollywood's Golden Age.


I won't be sharing recipes for all of the dishes I made, but instead just a couple (at least for now). Today I'm highlighting my favorite tapas dish of all time: patatas bravas (or fierce potatoes). I'm not sure I've ever attended a tapas meal without ordering this popular tapas staple. Typically it begins with fried potatoes (usually cubed) and is served with a smokey, slightly spicy tomato sauce and a mellow garlic allioli (the Catalan version of aioli).


It's magical... seriously. In this particular case, instead of frying the potatoes, I boiled, halved, and then roasted red-skinned fingerling-style potatoes. They weren't quite as crisp as their fried friends, but they had wonderful flavor from the olive oil and were nicely golden around the edges.


The sauces are truly what take these "patatas" from ordinary to extraordinary. The bravas sauce is a slightly spicy, smokey, garlicky tomato sauce. This recipe actually yields way more sauce than you will need for 1 1/2 pounds potatoes, so either plan to make more potatoes, cut down the sauce (if you desire) or save some of the sauce for another use (or freeze some of it... I did both). I've actually seen this sauce served at a tapas bar with croquettes, so there are really many ways it can be utilized.


The second sauce is a traditional allioli, which much like an aioli (the French/Provencal version) is a garlic mayonnaise. The garlic in this recipe is olive oil-poached and thus results in a soft and mellow garlic flavor than if using fresh garlic. It's super tasty and would be a lovely spread or dipping sauce on its own. Married with the smoky tomato-based bravas sauce, the allioli takes the "patatas" to a delicious dimension where potatoes reign supreme.


Patatas Bravas rule my tapas universe, and I'm so thrilled to finally create them in my own kitchen (after so many delicious experiences in restaurants). Stay tuned for future posts with more fun tapas creations.

Patatas Bravas
Serves 4 (although the sauces yield enough for more servings)
(Adapted from The Barcelona Cookbook)

Allioli:
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or just enough to cover
1 cup mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bravas Sauce (note this makes a lot more sauce than needed--but the quantity can easily be cut down if desired):
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large Spanish onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika (I used 3 teaspoons/1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika total instead of the two different kinds)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 35-ounce can plum tomatoes (I used one 28-ounce can of tomatoes plus 7 fluid ounces crushed tomatoes from another can)
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I used Champagne vinegar)

Patatas:
1 1/2 lbs waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, red-skin, or fingerling potatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

To make the allioli: In a small saucepan combine the garlic cloves and olive oil and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the garlic is tender and honey gold (occasionally tilt the pan as needed to keep the garlic submerged--even off the heat the olive oil should be hot enough to keep cooking it). Watch the garlic carefully so that it does not overcook. Life the garlic cloves from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to cool. Reserve the garlic oil for another use (1 tablespoon will be used later for the allioli).

In a small food processor fitted with the metal blade, puree the garlic cloves, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of the garlic oil. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and pulse to mix. Scrape the allioli into a lidded storage container and chill for up to 3 days. You should have about 1 1/4 cups allioli, and may not use all of it for the patatas bravas, but it can be used as a dipping sauce or spread for other dishes as well.

To make the bravas sauce: In a large saucepan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, or until they soften but have not colored. Add the garlic and cook gently for 6 to 8  minutes, or until the garlic is tender and aromatic. Stir in both paprikas, the cumin, and the cayenne.

Put the tomatoes and their juice in a bowl and, using your hands, crush the tomatoes slightly. Add the tomatoes, their juice, and the vinegar to the saucepan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce is heated through and the tomatoes have begun to break down.

Let the tomato sauce cool a little and then, working in batches if needed, puree in a blender until smooth. As one batch is pureed, transfer it to a bowl or a container with a tight-fitting lid. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Use the tomato sauce right away, refrigerate it for up to 3 days or freeze it (like you would with any other tomato sauce). This recipe makes a lot more sauce than you need. You can probably make at least 4 times the amount of potatoes in this recipe for this amount of sauce, cut the recipe down to make less, or you can use the extra sauce for another purpose. It's delicious!

To make the patatas: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Put the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover by an inch. Season generously with kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until just fork tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool. The potatoes can be boiled and cooled a day in advance (be sure to refrigerate them if you do this in advance). When cool, cut the potatoes into wedges, cubes, or if using fingerling potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise.

Season the cooled potatoes with salt and pepper and toss them with a generous drizzle of olive oil in a shallow baking pan. Spread out the potatoes in the pan so they are an even layer, and not overlapping. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are nicely browned on one side. Rotate the pan and turn the potatoes over. Roast for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until browned and crisp on the other side (I actually roasted mine for a total of 30 to 35 minutes).

If you prefer fried potatoes, heat about 10 cups of canola or another vegetable oil in a deep, heavy pot until it registers 375 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 250 degrees F and line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels.

Fry the potatoes in batches so that you don't crowd the pan. Carefully submerge them in the hot oil and let them cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until crispy and browned. Lift the potatoes from the oil with a slotted spoon and let them drain on the paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining potatoes.

Serve the potatoes with the bravas sauce (either pool some of the sauce on a plate and top with the potatoes, or drizzle the sauce over the potatoes) and with the allioli (either on the side or drizzled over the potatoes).

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