Smushed patatas bravas with romesco sauce

By Bob Blumer
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Patatas Bravos are a Spanish fried potato snack traditionally found in tapas bars. When an order arrives at a table, it's not uncommon to see people elbowing their way to the super-browned, extra-crispy bits. My version helps keep the peace with a two-step process that makes every bite of every potato the absolute best, crispiest, crunchiest bite. When served with a rustic romesco sauce, the two easily executed components deliver a perfect storm of flavor and texture. 

SERVES
4
 TO
6

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 12 tennis-ball-size Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup romesco sauce
  • Home-made ketchup or your favorite store-bought condiment

Romesco sauce:

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 very stale slice sourdough bread, broken into pieces
  • 1/3 cup roasted almonds
  • 1/3 cup roasted hazelnuts, skins removed (as much is possible)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 dried ancho chili, stemmed and seeded, or 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 1/4 cup parsley, stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, or regular paprika in a pinch
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or red wine vinegar in a pinch
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. If you want to work in advance, the potatoes can be boiled earlier in the day. They can also be baked earlier in the day and held on the sheet pan, then reheated at showtime for 10 minutes at 450°F. Romesco, aioli, or ketchup can be made up to a couple of days in advance 
  2. Bring a large pot of water with the salt to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil for about 40 minutes, or until they are soft to the poke of a fork. Remove from the water and let cool until they can be handled easily. Set rack in top third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Set out a large sheet pan ideally covered with two sheets of parchment paper. Generously drizzle the surface with olive oil. Space the potatoes evenly across the sheet pan. Using your hand, slowly but firmly smush (I assure you, this is not a typo) the potatoes down on the sheet pan until they are about 3/4 inch thick. Use a pastry brush to generously brush the tops with oil.
  3. Bake for about one hour, or until the potatoes are browned to within an inch of their lives and super crispy. Serve with romesco sauce.

Romesco sauce:

  1. Blacken the red peppers and tomato over a gas burner or barbecue. Put them in a bag for five minutes, then peel off and discard the skins along with the seeds and stems. Reserve.
  2. To a food processor, add the bread, almonds, hazelnuts, garlic, and ancho chili. Puree for 30 seconds. Add the tomato, bell peppers, parsley, paprika, and vinegar. Puree for another 30 seconds. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Taste for acid balance and adjust if desired.

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