28 September 2011
I first encountered the concept of tapas at a restaurant called Pamplona in Philadelphia many years ago, and I immediately fell in love with Spanish food. Unfortunately for me, Pamplona soon went out of business, and it was many years before another tapas bar opened in Philadelphia, but every time there’s been a new one, I’ve been right there, and every time I go travelling to a new city, one of the first things I look for is a tapas bar. In Philadelphia, I have been a regular at Bar Ferdinand and Amada. Blake Joffe, the original chef at Bar Ferdinand, used to use me as a guinea pig for trying out new dishes!
I now have a healthy selection of Spanish cookbooks, but the interesting thing is that unlike many other regional cuisines which I am easily able to cook at home, I never tire of also going out for tapas, because tapas is as much a social event as it is a culinary event, be it on the way home from work, or late at night.
I adore the flavors of the Mediterranean, Italian, French, Middle Eastern, and Spanish alike. The olives, the olive oil, the lemons, the herbs, the wines…I could go on and on. Tonight for dinner, I decided to make a couple of my favorite dishes, Lemon Rosemary Chicken (because of my unholy attachment to the Tuscan Chicken Wings they serve at Bertucci’s, the only chain restaurant I actually like), and Patatas Bravas, a classic tapa consisting, usually, of fried potato chunks served with a spicy, tomato-based sauce.
I like to make my potatoes in the oven, because deep-frying is such an effort, and the oil is quite expensive when used like that. I cut my potatoes into chunks, swirl them around in a bowl with some EVOO and sea salt, and bake them at 400 deg F for about 40 minutes, or until I think they’re brown and crispy enough, giving them a turn or two for even cooking. Actually, this has always been my go-to method for making potatoes, because not only is it easy, it’s delicious, and makes a beautiful side dish for near any roast.
In any case, now that I’ve covered the potatoes themselves, allow me to introduce to you my version of the bravas sauce. Patatas Bravas is traditionally also served with a bit of aioli and well as the red sauce, but we don’t really need to cover aioil, do we? Beware of many recipes on the Internet you may come across which use mayonnaise or ketchup. These things have no place in an authentic dish. There are many different versions of the red sauce, depending on region in Spain, but my version is thick, heavy on the pimentón, and requires no heating. Feel free to play around with the proportions, depending on whether you discover you like it a bit thinner, a bit sweeter, a bit saltier, a bit hotter, a bit more tomato-y, what have you. You might also notice this recipe is vegan, as well.
Sauce for Patatas Bravas
(Makes about 1 cup)
4-6 large cloves of garlic
1/4 c. EVOO
1 T. smoked sweet paprika
1 T. sweet paprika
1/4 t. ground chipotle
1/2 t. fine sea salt
3 T. red wine (a Rioja would be appropriate, of course)
3 T. sherry vinegar
2 T. tomato paste
2 T. sugar
Mash garlic until a smooth paste forms. Stir in all other ingredients, and allow to stand at least two hours for flavors to meld.