Patatas bravas

Back in the day I used to go to Spain fairly frequently, especially if you consider that I had no business in Spain and didn’t speak Spanish.

When I first went – and this is dating myself significantly – the tapas craze had not yet hit these New World shores. Tapas in Spain, where they are everywhere, are different from tapas in the U.S. There you don’t settle down for the evening and order a bunch of tiny plates in one restaurant. No, there you grab a drink and whatever tapas a particular bar is best at one place and move on to the next spot for another glass and a different snack: gambas a la pancha, coquettascroquetas, bocalones boquerones, and, of course, patatas bravas.

“Brave potatoes” have lived in my mind ever since. I finally got it together this week and made some. Shazam! I nailed it the first time out of the gate. We ate them as part of dinner, but if the potatoes were cut into bite-size pieces and toothpicks were used, these would have been fabulous passed hors d’œuvres.

Patatas bravas

The sauce can be poured on or used more as a dip – in any case, make sure not to sauce the potatoes too heavily. This will be difficult because the sauce is crazy good. So good, in fact, that you may want to make a double batch and eat the extras with a spoon before you go to bed.

About a pound of potatoes – Russets or Yukon Gold work well

3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes or a small red chile, minced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 cup pureed peeled tomatoes or tomato sauce

Tabasco, if you like

Cut small potatoes in half or into quarters, or cut them into bite-size cubes – whatever you like. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy pot or cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add potatoes, in a single layer if you can, and cook, partially covered, until browned on one side, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn to brown on other side(s) and cook, again partially covered, until potatoes are browned and tender.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add onions and garlic and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes.  Add paprika and chile and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add white wine and cook, stirring, until most of the wine has evaporated. Add tomato sauce, stir to combine, and adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered and relatively undisturbed (try to avoid stirring it if you can) until the sauce is thick, about 20 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more salt or some Tabasco, if you like.

You can whirl the sauce in a blender to smooth it out, if you like, but I rather dug the ever-so-slightly chunkiness of the unadulterated version pictured above.

Serve potatoes with sauce in whatever way you see fit.