Patatas Riojanas: Potatoes and sausage with a spicy Spanish accent

by Terry B on November 3, 2010

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.”

tapas-andresMy, 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.

Kitchen Notes

“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.


{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

pinky black November 3, 2010 at 7:39 am

i love potatoes! i love spicy spanish food! to sum it up i love this recipe! though i don’t like chorizo, this recipe made me crave for chorizo. im really amazed at how chefs make you eat foods you really don’t eat.

[email protected] November 3, 2010 at 8:34 am

Sounds like a very tasty dish.

Carolyn November 3, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Ooh, this reminds me of my favorite, long-lost tapas place. Love the idea of resurrecting it as a main course.

Congratulations on your anniversary! You’ve come a long way, baby. :)

Terry B November 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm

You know, Pinky, the more I get into food through blogging (and therefore constantly thinking about and exploring food), the more I find myself liking things I used to hate. Partly, it’s finding more interesting uses of these foods, and partly it’s just being more open to trying new things.

Thanks, Nancy!

Thanks, Carolyn! In some ways it feels like I’ve been doing Blue Kitchen forever, but mostly it seems like I’m only getting started. As a tapa, Andrés made this dish much more meat heavy, using about equal parts meat and potatoes. But that’s because as small dishes, tapas have to offer bang in every bite. As a main course, meat can take a secondary role as a flavor note.

Ronnie Ann November 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Happy anniversary to the man who got me blogging when I didn’t even know what a blog was. (I still plan to get even.) Over the years I’ve watched Blue Kitchen grow into the fabulous more-than-just-a-food-blog that it is today. You’ve imbued Blue Kitchen with warmth, heart and endless curiosity – in other words, the blog personification of the Terry I know so well. Congrats, Mr. B.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) November 4, 2010 at 2:49 am

Anonymous was right! Happy blog anniversary to one of my favorite reads.

Toni November 4, 2010 at 6:40 am

Fourth anniversary? Wow! I think I’ve been reading you for just about that amount of time, too…….

Love this post, Terry. How can you go wrong with these ingredients?

Adrienne November 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm

This looks so good! Love the idea of using potatoes as the star!

macarons November 4, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Who is anonymous? …seems like an interesting character! I love potatoes/sausage!

Thanks for the recipe, slightly different from what I am used to!


Laura [What I Like] November 4, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Terry, this looks fantastic, I can’t wait to give it a try! I’ve always turned to good old Nigella for her potatoes and chorizo with sherry and bay, but it may be time to move on to your version. Happy Anniversary!

Terry B November 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Awww, thanks, everyone. And Ronnie Ann, I’ll watch my back.

Laura, do give this a try—and email me Nigella’s recipe, please!

Alissa November 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm

This looks so good! I can’t wait to make this, and great photo btw… :)

alta November 6, 2010 at 12:08 pm

It has been too long since I’ve had Spanish chorizo in the kitchen. Think it’s time to get some!

Terry B November 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Thanks, Alissa! And I’m glad to have discovered your blog.

We don’t buy Spanish chorizo often, Alta, but any time we do, we’re always glad. Another dish I like to make with it is Warm Butter Bean Salad with Chorizo and Tomatoes.

katie November 6, 2010 at 7:36 pm

I love this dish – never thought of making it myself. I used to eat it when we lived in Andorra. Now I can make it and eat it in France.

Denise Michaels - Adventurous Foodie November 7, 2010 at 6:50 pm

I’m inspired! Inspired to make a dish like this – hearty and comforting as the weather gets cooler. But also, inspired to lighten it up a little bit. My grocery store sells a chicken chorizo sausage which is really spicy and good. I’d probably do the potatoes with the skins left on to up the nutrients and fiber. Maybe add some diced veggies – sort of a Mirepoix – to up the anti-oxidant level with similar flavors. I appreciate the idea and will of course link back to this original recipe when I come up with my own version.

Renise Black November 9, 2010 at 4:40 am

That looks really delicious and the recipe looks very well constructed and flavorful. I want to make this for sure because it sounds very tasty. I am always looking for new recipes from different cultures.

LimeCake November 9, 2010 at 7:04 am

I love the vibrant colours in this dish! it looks delicious!

Terry B November 9, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Katie—And when you do, you’ll be helping make these simple Spanish potatoes truly global. Thanks!

Denise—One of the great things about food is that we can endlessly experiment with it. Your approach to the dish won’t be the traditional patatas riojanas, but it sounds like it will be delicious.

Renise—One of my favorite things about cooking is exactly that, exploring foods and borrowing ingredients and ideas from different cultures.

Thanks, LimeCake!

Kathryn November 10, 2010 at 5:59 pm

My husband’s mother is from Spain and the dish you posted was a recipe her family gave us to make at home. It’s one of our favorite dishes.

The Rowdy Chowgirl November 10, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Happy Anniversary! And I loved that tidbit about the “cracked potatoes”. I’d never heard of it before, but now I want to give it a try!

Terry B November 10, 2010 at 11:18 pm

I can see why it’s a favorite, Kathryn. I think it will become part of our regular rotation.

Thanks, Rowdy! You know, when I first read about “cracking” the potatoes, I was kind of ‘meh.’ But it ended up being kind of fun while doing it, and besides exposing more starch to thicken the sauce, it just makes the potatoes look nicely rustic to not have all the sharp angles.

Yum! November 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Loved it. The leftovers were also fantastic with scrambled eggs in a breakfast burrito the next morning.

Terry B November 21, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Sounds like a great use for the leftovers, Yum!

Christine December 11, 2010 at 2:21 am

I absolutely loved this–and am currently making it for a second time! Wonderful recipe!

Terry B December 11, 2010 at 3:10 am

Thanks, Christine! I love to hear from readers who cook something I post here.

Alison December 31, 2010 at 3:38 am

I liked this recipe a lot, though I think I would reduce the oil next time– it came out a little bit greasy.

Mick Spillane July 15, 2012 at 4:39 am

Can I use dry Spanish chorizo for this dish? I have some in my refrigerator…..


Mick Spillane

Terry B July 17, 2012 at 2:10 am

Mick—Dried Spanish chorizo is perfect for this.

Mick Spillane July 17, 2012 at 2:24 am

That’s a relief, Terry! I have no idea where to find fresh, Spanish chorizo around here; not even at Wegmans, where I purchased the dry chorizo. I didn’t want to use Mexican and/or Wegmans brand. The Spanish chorizo flavor is much more subtle. Thanks, Terry!


Mick Spillane

Tammy November 19, 2014 at 10:39 am

Love this dish! I was looking for a Spanish dish to make for my daughter’s Spanish class. I tried this on family this weekend and they loved it. I’m making it again today for my daughter’s class. I feel confident they will love it as much as we do. Thanks for the great recipe.

Terry B November 21, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Thanks, Tammy! Let me know how the Spanish class likes it.

IFortuna October 1, 2016 at 3:40 pm

I will be making this for dinner tonight using Spanish chorizo. Hubby will complain because in our Mexican family we only use Mexican chorizo. Oh Well.
He loves my cooking and I am hoping he will like this. This recipe looks great!
I have had Spanish chorizo before and I love it. I spotted a package in the deli of a large grocery we go to so I grabbed 2 packages which was all they had. This was in Abilene Tx home of Tex-Mex which we don’t like. This store is my happy place because we live in a small town hours away and there is more variety in a larger city.
Thanks again! : )

Terry B October 1, 2016 at 11:02 pm

Thanks, IFortuna! Hope you like it.

Leave a Comment

{ 5 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: