Three years ago, Dave and I celebrated our tenth anniversary in Barcelona. For all the traveling we had done before we met each other and then over the decade we had been together, I had never been to Spain. Now completely familiar with my night owlishness, and my inability to function (let alone speak…or be spoken to without visible annoyance) before 10 am, Dave was excited to introduce me to this country he loved and from which I probably inherited these charming characteristics. The Spanish ancestry on my mother’s side gives itself away every now and then.
As predicted, I LOVED Barcelona. Art, architecture, Spaniards walking around speaking Catalan and Spanish all day long and mistaking me for one of their own, the Med just a short walk away…and the food. Served at all the right times. Breakfast late morning, lunch late afternoon, and dinner at midnight. And then there was the perfect lull between lunch and dinner when we’d stop for tapas and a glass of wine. There were so many delicious little bites to try, and to my amazement, a favorite turned out to be potatoes. Fried potatoes. With a spicy tomato sauce for drizzling or dipping. Patatas Bravas.
We had friends over recently who love good food and wine, and as much fun as it can be to serve a long meal over several courses, I wanted something more casual but just as delicious. So with Dave as my sous chef, we set to work preparing several tapas, which gives everyone the excuse to just snack their way straight through the evening and open several wines. Trying to stay true to the idea of tapas, with some focus on traditional Catalonian tapas, Patatas Bravas made the list. But I knew it would be hard to achieve a crispy potato without the luxury of an industrial deep fryer like a restaurant would have. So, having never made these in my life, but with a vivid memory of what they tasted like overlooking the Plaça Reial, I did what I always do. I experimented on our guests. I roasted the potatoes in the morning, let them sit at room temp during the day, and then fried them right before serving. Hot and crispy potatoes paired with a homemade spicy tomato sauce and it was a taste of Barcelona right here at the kitchen table.
Recipe by Stephanie Kunstle, inspired by Barcelona and some web research
Note: serves 6 people, and this recipe will make about 6 oz. of spicy tomato sauce
- 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes sliced into wedges
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Good sea salt
- Lots MORE extra virgin olive oil for frying
- 15 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/2 yellow or sweet onion (I had a Walla Walla sweet on hand), chopped
- 1/4 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/4 tsp. roughly ground dried chile (not completely ground, but not left as “flakes”)
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Scrub potatoes and slice into wedges, not too thin and not too thick. Just go with your gut on this one.
- Put the potatoes into a large ziplock bag, drizzle generously with olive oil and sea salt and shake to completely coat the potatoes.
- Spread the potatoes over a large baking sheet, and roast for about 45 minutes, flipping about halfway through the roasting time for even browning.
- Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, add about 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to a small saucepan, over just medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes or so until softened but not browned.
- Add the whole peeled tomatoes and gently break them down a little with a wooden spoon. Add the paprika, chile, and cayenne. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Much of the water from the tomatoes will cook out, but you do need to make sure the heat is low enough that the sauce can slow cook without burning and completely drying out. Just keep your eye on it and stir!
- I used a potato masher to fully crush the whole tomatoes, but it isn’t necessary. Add salt to taste, you know it’s just right when the sauce is just singing to you!
- Puree tomato mixture, checking to make sure there is enough salt. A food processor or blender will work, but if you have an immersion blender, put the sauce in a large liquid measuring cup, and use your immersion blender in this. It will be perfectly smooth.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet (I used a big cast iron skillet), pour in enough extra virgin olive oil to create a depth of about an inch and 1/2. Heat over medium flame until oil is starting to move a bit on its own, but be sure it doesn’t get so hot that it smokes. Burned oil will ruin the flavor. If you aren’t sure that the oil is hot enough, just add one slice of potato to test the heat. It should start frying immediately if the oil is ready.
- In three batches, fry the roasted potato wedges for about 1 minute or so on each side until crispy and fully golden. Remove to a bowl lined with paper towels, and scatter with sea salt.
- Serve potatoes hot with the spicy tomato sauce and enjoy!