I recently read that Spaniards will give you the evil eye if you don’t have jamon on your plate. But I think that if you don’ have an appreciation for patatas bravas, you are even less likely to be taken seriously.
This ubiquitous dish bears a striking resemblance to huevos rancheros (without the huevos) and could make a satisfying breakfast. It is most often consumed as an afternoon snack or tapa (small plate before dinner), as the spicy sauce is a great kick in the butt to your palate before a meal.
My recipe for bravas is a mix of recipes I have read and chefs I have observed in Spain. Though there are countless ways to cook the potatoes – only fried, only baked, boiled and baked, and so on – this is the most authentic that I have found.
Though this recipe seems a little time consuming for such a simple dish, most of the cooking time doesn’t require effort on your part. Restaurants often serve it simply as potatoes covered with ketchup, so it is definitely worth making it at home to become aquatinted with a real version of this Iberian munchie.
Serves: 4-6 (as side dish, more as tapa)
Prep time: 30 minutes
- 8 small red potatoes
- 1 small onion
- 1 can diced tomatoes (un-salted and un-spiced)
- tablespoon sherry vinegar*
- pimenton dulce (sweet smoked paprika)
- olive oil
- ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Heat two tablespoons of olive oil over a low flame.
- Dice the onion and finely chop two cloves of garlic.
- Add the garlic and onion to the heated oil and cook until the onion has softened, about five minutes.
- Wash the potatoes and pat dry.
- Cut the potatoes into eights by cutting along each axis. First cut the potato in half, then, lying it with the flat side on the cutting board, cut two ways (like an X or a + sign).
- Line a baking sheet with foil and spray or wipe with olive oil.
- Spread the potatoes on the baking sheet, brush with oil, and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake the potatoes for 10 minutes.
- Set a deep frying pan with one inch of oil over medium heat.
- When the onions and garlic have softened, add 1 teaspoon each pimenton dulce and cumin and a half teaspoon each of chili powder and salt.
- Stir the spices into the onions for one minute and then add the can of tomatoes (with liquid) and 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar.
- Stir to combine and raise the heat to medium-high. Allow the sauce to continue cooking until the potatoes are ready. Once the liquid from the tomatoes has burned off, lower the heat to low.
- After the potatoes have cooked for ten minutes, remove them from the oven.
- Put one potato in the hot oil to check the temperature. If the potato starts to fry and does not sizzle and burn, add the rest of the potatoes with a slotted spoon. Otherwise, remove the pot from heat for a minute so the oil can cool and turn the heat down to medium low.
- Keep an eye on the potatoes while they are frying. After five minutes, remove one and cut it open. When the potatoes are ready, they should be only slightly crisp on the outside and soft enough to bite into.
- Cover a large plate with paper towels and set the cooked potatoes on the towels with a slotted spoon.
- Allow them to cool for a minute, then blot them with the paper towels and transfer to a serving bowl.
- Drizzle the potatoes with the sauce and serve warm.
Note*: I have used many other types of vinegar when I did not have sherry vinegar available. White wine or apple cider is best, but you can even through in a little balsamic (use 1 teaspoon instead of a tablespoon since the flavor is stronger) in a pinch.