Spanish chorizo—dense, flavorful sausage—paprika, red bell peppers, onion and garlic turn potatoes into a colorful, satisfyingly hearty meal, perfect for chilly nights. Recipe below.
Before I get started, I’d just like to say that this post marks Blue Kitchen’s fourth anniversary. As Anonymous once said, “Time flies when you don’t know what you’re doing.”
My, we’ve been bookish lately. Today’s second post below mentions two books, one the memoir of a chef who forever changed food and professional cooking, the other, a resource for anyone interested in a career in the kitchen. A recent USA Character Approved Blog post reviews Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook, which many home cooks will find essential indeed. And this recipe was inspired by José Andrés’s lively, inventive Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.
Andrés comes by his inventiveness honestly; he is a protege of Ferran Adrià, chef of El Bulli, Spain’s temple of molecular gastronomy (although Adrià himself uses the term deconstructivist to describe his cooking). In Tapas, he reimagines traditional Spanish dishes as tapas, or small plates, putting creative spins on the originals and often finding ways to take dishes that typically take hours to cook and matching them to contemporary busy schedules. The sixteen chapters, generously illustrated with beautiful, instructive photographs (I like seeing how finished dishes look, don’t you?), are divided by key ingredients—tomatoes, legumes, fish, cheese and eggs, pork (of course), potatoes…
For this dish, I’ve unspun Andrés’s spin, turning the tapa back into a traditional stewlike main course, patatas riojanas (pah-Tah-tahs ree-oh-HAH-nas). If you’ve heard the term Rioja before, it’s most likely in connection with wine. La Rioja, a small region in the north of Spain, produces some of the country’s best and best known wines. It’s also known for this simple, hearty, slightly spicy meal, perfect for the chilly fall weather that has settled over much of the Northern Hemisphere. As with most traditional dishes, there are as many versions as there are cooks. And as always, I studied numerous recipes, borrowed from several and then took off in my own direction.
A quick note about the meat: Spanish Chorizo is made from coarsely chopped fatty pork and seasoned with mild Spanish paprika, salt and garlic. That’s pretty much it. Spicier versions will also include small dried hot chiles. The small, dense Spanish sausage is quite a different, um, animal from the larger Mexican chorizo made with ground pork. It’s worth seeking out, either in local markets or online.
Patatas Riojanas: Rioja-style Potatoes with Chorizo
Serves 2 generously as a main course
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced or “cracked” into bite-sized chunks (see Kitchen Notes)
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
3 to 4 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced into 1/4 to 1/3-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika (see Kitchen Notes)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (see Kitchen Notes)
1 small bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 cups water
salt, to taste
Heat a large lidded skillet over medium flame. Add olive oil. When it starts to shimmer, add onion and cook, stirring often, until it just starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add potatoes and toss to coat with oil. Cook for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until potatoes begin to brown. Add red bell pepper and chorizo and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Stir in paprika, crushed red pepper flakes and bay leaf. Stir in wine and cook until it is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Add water, turn heat to high to bring to a boil. Water should almost cover potatoes; if not add a little more. When liquid is boiling, reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover pan and cook for another 10 minutes or more, until potatoes are tender.
Discard bay leaf, adjust seasoning with salt and serve in shallow bowls.
“Cracked” potatoes? More than one recipe described this traditional technique favored by Spanish cooks for cutting up potatoes. Slice the peeled potatoes in half lengthwise. Next, place the potato half cut side down on the cutting board; slice halfway into it near one end, then give your knife a twist. This will break off rough chunks of potato, exposing more surface, causing the potatoes to release more starch into the sauce to help thicken it. For this same reason, do not rinse the potatoes after you’ve “cracked” them, or you’ll wash away the starch. Don’t use the tip of the knife, as some recipes advise—this is the knife’s weakest point, and you could snap it off.
Picking your paprika. If you use Spanish paprika or pimentón for this dish, make sure to use the sweet kind; avoid smoked Spanish paprika, or it will overpower the dish. I used Hungarian paprika because that’s what we typically have on hand. It worked just fine.
Easy on the heat. Many recipes called for Guindillas, mildly hot pickled chile peppers which you remove at the end of cooking. I substituted crush red pepper flakes, which are more readily available in most areas. I also used an uncharacteristically light hand with them. Heat isn’t the point here, just a little liveliness on the tongue.