The standard fall back options for cooking a potato are to bake it, mash or french fry it. Any one of the three methods is capable of producing fine results if the motive for its choosing is not because one does not wish to bother thinking of any other possibilities. Somehow, anything prepared in the spirit of disinclination to expend energy or thought over it, tastes of that spirit, too.
So, as Agnes Jekyll, that articulate and opinionated writer on the subject of cookery, once exhorted her readers in one of her columns in The Times, when deciding how to cook anything “let us not,..be so timorous as to sit down under a rule of what a schoolboy friend in a recent examination paper alluded to as ‘that practice introduced by the Greeks of a man having only one wife which is called Monotony.”
Papas Bravas is a way of cooking the humble potato with flair and without…monotony. The recipe for it concludes the Menu: A July 4th Dinner under the Desert Sky. And, it seems a fitting conclusion, bringing together an ingredient originating in the New World with a style of preparation from the Old, specifically… from Spain…a country that has contributed richly to the culture and history of the Americas.
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- 1 and 1/2 pounds of Potatoes: Russets (the large-ish potatoes with the coarse, dark brown peel) are a good choice…but a large, thin-skinned potato (so long as it is not a waxy new potato) such as the Golden Yukon will be fine, too.
- a 14.5-ounce (411 grams) can of Diced Tomatoes, drained
- 5 whole Garlic Cloves, sliced
- 1 teaspoon of Ground Cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon of White Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 2 teaspoons of Tabasco or other Hot Sauce…or to taste
- 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
- Optional: 3 Tablespoons of canned Roasted Chopped Hatch Green Chiles: The chiles are not traditional to Papas Bravas, but they are a good addition if you happen to have them.
- 1/4 cup of fresh Cilantro (aka Coriander) chopped
- Coarsely ground Salt or Kosher Salt to taste
- a wide, heavy-bottomed Pan which will hold the potatoes in a single layer
- a Food Processor or Blender
1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into small cubes (about 1/2-inch size).
2. Put the tomatoes, garlic, cumin, sugar, red pepper flakes and Tabasco in the food processor or blender and pulse just until the tomatoes break up—The mixture shouldn’t become a purée.
3. Heat the olive oil in the pan over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the potatoes. (They should fit in the pan in a single layer.) Fry them without turning them, (for, perhaps up to 10 minutes) until they brown well on one side. Then turn them and brown them on the second side. The less they are turned, the more effectively the potatoes brown.
4. Add the tomato mixture and the chopped green chiles (if including them) to the browned potato cubes and stir to coat them. Continue cooking the potatoes over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are cooked through and they have begun to absorb the sauce…for, perhaps, 5 minutes or a little more.
5. Sprinkle the potatoes with the chopped cilantro and add coarsely ground salt to taste.
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© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2013