Last month Jackie and I, along with a friend, spent ten days in Spain: Madrid and Andalusia. We ate consistently well, but three dinners really stood out: in Madrid at La Tasquita de Enfrente (modern takes on traditional cooking) and La Tasquería (mostly offal, handled with elegance), and, in Granada, at Bar FM (perfect seafood with minimally invasive cooking).
I mention those restaurants more as enthusiastic recommendations than as background to today’s recipe, which draws on Spanish flavors but is not based on any dish we actually ate on our trip. It’s a potato side dish that soon after our return we ate with roasted monkfish; it would also have been terrific with eggs (or even in eggs: you could build a good omelette around it), and nothing should stop you from serving it with just about any not-too-powerfully-flavored main course. Just use your imaginary palate to anticipate what a potential pairing will taste like.
Aim to use what used to be called “waxy” potatoes – varieties like German Butterball, one of the many fingerlings now available or even the ubiquitous Yukon Gold. In a pinch, of course you can use Russets (Idaho potatoes), but they won’t hold up quite as well as those yellow-fleshed varieties.
You’ll also need two Spanish ingredients: smoked paprika (pimentón) and chorizo. Pimentón is a useful thing to have around (keep it in the freezer, please); look for Pimentón de la Vera Dulce, la Vera referring to the place of origin and dulce to its mildness: you can always add heat using other chilies if you want it. And for the chorizo, look for Spanish-style chorizo, but not the dried, salami-like slicing varieties: You’ll want the fresh ones used for cooking (for instance in paella and other rice dishes). There are a few brands out there; a good one is Despaña (either their traditional links or the skinnier chistorra). Another fine on-line source is La Tienda.
Between the chorizo and the smoked paprika, the Spanish flavors here are unmistakable – blatant, even. Much of the dish (frying the chorizo mixture and boiling the potatoes) can be done an hour or two ahead. My only caveat is this: When you’re tasting the chorizo mixture, try not to eat it all.
- 1 1/4 Pound potatoes (see above)
- 2 1/2 to 3 oz chorizo
- 1 large shallot or small onion
- 1 small clove garlic
- 1/2 Teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (pimentón dulce)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and (optional) black pepper
- Parsley (optional)
Peel and rinse the potatoes, place them in a pot of generously salted water, bring to the boil and simmer, covered, until 95 per cent done (very slight resistance at the center when probed with a knife or cake tester), 15 to 20 minutes depending on the variety and size. If you are using large russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut them in half lengthwise before cooking. Drain.
While the potatoes are boiling, cut the chorizo into small dice, about 1/8 inch (don’t remove the sausage casing; it adds texture). Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat and add a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. When it is hot, add the chorizo and stir to combine with the oil. Continue to stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, finely chop the shallot (or onion) and the garlic. When the chorizo has lightly browned (this will take perhaps five minutes) and has rendered some of its lovely fat (red from the paprika with which it is seasoned), stir in the shallot and garlic, lower the heat and cook until they are tender; they can turn golden but they must not burn. Depending on how fine you have chopped them, this could take two to four minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the paprika; it will grow warm and even more fragrant in the residual heat. Scrape into a little bowl and reserve. You might add a tablespoonful of water to the skillet to retrieve all the flavorful residue, scraping with a rubber spatula; add this to the bowl with the chorizo mixture.
Twenty minutes before serving, cut the nearly cooked potatoes into slices 3/8 to 1/2 inch thick. In a 12-inch skillet, preferably non-stick, warm 3 Tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes in one layer, lower the heat just a little, and slowly fry until golden on one side, about 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the potatoes (I use tongs for this job), sprinkle the browned side with salt and continue to cook until the second side is golden brown and crisp. You can now give them another turn and cook until re-crisped on Side One.
Add the chorizo mixture to the potatoes and stir or toss well to combine. Cook briefly to heat everything through. Adjust salt and, if you like, add some freshly ground black pepper. Finally, toss in a small handful of roughly chopped parsley if you have any; the dish won’t suffer much in its absence.