Saturday, May 11, 2013


Patatas bravas--golden cubes of fried potatoes with a spicy sauce.

These are “hot” potatoes. Hot, as in spicy. Cubes of potatoes are fried until golden and served accompanied by salsa brava, a chile-spiked sauce. They are the patatas bravas that supposedly originated in the Madrid tapa bar, Café Brava, but are crazy popular in tapa bars all over the country.

No one “authentic” version seems to exist. Every bar has a “secret” way. Most  versions of salsa brava are basically a smooth tomato sauce with enough cayenne or Tabasco to add heat. Others contain no tomato whatsoever, but are ruddy-red with pimentón, both sweet and hot. The sauce should be about the consistency of ketchup. Some bars serve the potatoes with both the brava sauce and alioli, pungent garlic mayonnaise (recipe ).

As for frying the potatoes. Olive oil, preferably extra virgin, is the best frying medium. Yes, really. Not your most expensive olive oil, as it loses its prized organoleptic characteristics at higher temperatures. But any good supermarket olive oil is fine for frying.

Add oil to the skillet to a depth of about ¾ inch. The quantity of oil depends on the size of the skillet. Heat olive oil until shimmering, but not smoking. If you have a frying thermometer, that is between 350º and 360º F (180ºC). Fry the potatoes in small batches, never crowding the skillet.

Carefully turn the potatoes in the bubbling oil. A crust forms on the potato cubes so the oil doesn’t penetrate, but they don’t brown too quickly. This way the interior of the potatoes cooks thoroughly. Then reduce the heat to medium and continue frying until a potato cube when tested is tender (about 6 minutes). The potatoes will not be browned yet. Either raise the heat again to high and fry them until golden. Or, skim them out of the oil onto paper towels. Shortly before serving, heat the oil again until shimmering-hot. Add the potatoes and fry until golden.

Serve patatas bravas with beer.

Patatas Bravas
Fried Potatoes with Spicy Sauce

For the spicy bravas sauce
Pimentón picante is spicy-hot paprika. If not available, substitute a pinch of cayenne. For the sweet pimentón, use either ordinary sweet paprika or smoked pimentón de la Vera.

Makes about 1 ½ cups of sauce.

Spicy salsa brava.
6-8 plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon sweet pimentón (paprika), smoked or not smoked
1 teaspoon pimentón picante (hot paprika)
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon flour
½ cup water
1 teaspoon vinegar

Cut out stem ends of the tomatoes. Cut a slit in the skin of each and place them in a microwave on high for 1 minute. Turn the tomatoes and microwave 1 minute more. Allow the tomatoes to cool. Slip off the skins and break up the tomatoes, saving the juice. There should be about 1 ¼ cups of pulp and juice.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and sauté the onions and garlic until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sweet and hot pimentón, cumin and salt. Return to the heat and add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then purée it in a blender with the flour, water and vinegar. Sieve the sauce and return it to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the sauce begins to bubble. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. The sauce will thicken somewhat as it cools. It can be stored, refrigerated, for several days, but bring to room temperature before serving.

For the fried potatoes

Serves 6 as a tapa or side dish.

2 pounds baking potatoes, such as russets
Olive oil for frying
Chopped parsley, to garnish

Peel the potatoes and cut them in cubes of more or less 1 inch. If preparing the potatoes in advance, cover them with water so they don’t darken.

Heat oil to a depth of ¾ inch. Drain the potatoes of water and pat them dry on paper towels. Fry them in batches in hot oil, as described above, until tender on the inside and golden on the outside.

Skim out the potatoes onto paper towels. Sprinkle with salt immediately.

Serve the potatoes in a bowl with the sauce dribbled on top. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Patatas bravas, a favorite tapa dish.


  1. I'm sure I could eat 2 bowls of those while I drink 2 beers!