Whenever I think of fried foods, I can’t help but think of two friends, whose opinions couldn’t be more divergent.
On one side, I have my buddy Ben of the blog, FocusSnapEat, who vows no fried foods will ever pass his lips.
On the other side, I have my friend Andrea Nguyen, creator of the Viet World Kitchen blog and a veteran cookbook author, who is an avid home-fryer and chides me for not wanting to fry my own chicken or spring rolls at home.
To Ben, I always say: Relax. A couple french fries or a doughnut now and then won’t kill you.
To Andrea, I always say: Ugh, the mess, the splatter, the leftover oil to deal with.
That’s why I love this particular recipe for patatas bravas. In this traditional Spanish tapa, potatoes are deep-fried, then drizzled with a creamy, smoky and gently spicy tomato-y sauce.
I always order it at Spanish restaurants. I have not made them at home, though, because of the whole deep-frying conundrum.
But “Kinda, Sorta Patatas Bravas” lets me have my crisp potatoes without a second thought because these potatoes are boiled, then roasted on high heat — not fried at all.
The recipe is from the new cookbook, “Small Victories: Recipes, Advice & Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.
It was written by recipe-developer Julia Turshen, who co-authored “It’s All Good” (Grand Central) with Gwyneth Paltrow. But, ahem, don’t hold that against her if you’re not a Gwyneth fan. And have no fears that this is a cookbook full of austere recipes and obscure cleanses.
It’s not that at all, but a book of more than 160 delicious-sounding recipes that would be right at home in any kitchen. Each recipe includes easy “spin-offs” if you want to try different flavor variations.
The title of the book refers to little lessons or tips that are highlighted in each recipe. For instance, the small victory in “Creamed Corn,” is learning that pureeing half the dish adds body and richness without having to make a roux or use a ton of butter or cream. The small victory in “Greek-ish Grilled Shrimp” is learning to use two skewers for each shrimp kebab to make turning easier and cooking more even. In the “Cripsy Fish with Bacon and Chives” dish, the small victory is learning that a coating of cornstarch gives the fish an incredible crisp exterior.
For “Kinda, Sorta Patatas Bravas,” the small victory is realizing that boiling small potatoes, then roasting them in a super-hot pre-heated cast-iron skillet, gives them a head-start in cooking with exceptional results.
The exterior of the potatoes gets burnished, wrinkly and crisp. OK, maybe not as full-on crunchy as deep-fried, but plenty nice, nevertheless. And the flesh is blissfully creamy, almost like really good mashed potatoes.
The sauce couldn’t be easier — a quick stir of mayo, ketchup, vinegar, garlic, hot sauce and Spanish smoked paprika (a mixture that would be fabulous slathered on a sandwich or burger, too). Drizzle it over the hot potatoes with a sprinkle of parsley.
As I enjoyed one potato after the other, I couldn’t help but think of my two friends:
Ben, who would love these because they are not the result of dreaded deep-frying.
Andrea, who will still tell me to load up on oil at Costco so I can finally take the deep-frying plunge.
I don’t know if that day will ever come. For now, I’ll just happily eat another one of these kind of, sort of, “fried” potatoes instead.
Kinda, Sorta Patatas Bravas
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tomato paste or ketchup
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or a few dashes Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon hot pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 1/2 pounds fingerling or small creamer potatoes, halved if larger than bite-sized
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pimenton. Season the sauce to taste with salt and set aside.
Place a large cast-iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
Put the potatoes in a large pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and cook until they’re barely tender, about 10 minutes (start counting once the water comes to a boil); the potatoes should still have a little resistance when you test one with a paring knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander; turn them out onto a dish towel, and pat them dry.
Transfer the well-oiled potatoes to a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon pimenton, and toss everything together. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and add the potatoes. Return to the oven and roast the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until they are super-browned and crispy, about 40 minutes.
Transfer the potatoes to a serving platter, drizzle with the reserved sauce, and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately.
From “Small Victories” by Julia Turshen
More Potato Goodness: Microwave Potato Chips
And: Potato Chip Cookies