- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic, minced to paste
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ½ cup water
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2-¼ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Kosher salt
- 3 cups vegetable oil
The best versions of patatas bravas showcase crispy, well-browned potatoes served with a smoky, spicy tomato-based sauce and this recipe from Cook's Illustrated produces just that.
To create an ultracrispy crust without the need for double frying, we first parboiled russet potatoes with baking soda, which triggers a chain reaction that causes the pectin on the exteriors of the potatoes to break down and release a substantial layer of amylose that, when fried, develops into a thick crust. We also tossed the parcooked potatoes with kosher salt, which roughs up the surfaces of the potatoes, creating many nooks and crannies through which steam can escape. As the steam escapes, the nooks and crannies trap oil, helping to make an even more substantial crunchy crust. For our sauce, we cooked tomato paste, cayenne, sweet smoked paprika, garlic, and water to make a smooth, smoky, and spicy mixture, finishing with sherry vinegar for tang. Finally, adding mayonnaise allowed us to combine the bravas sauce and another common accompaniment, alioli, into a single sauce.
1. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add garlic, paprika, salt, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds. Whisk in water and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer sauce to bowl, stir in vinegar, and let cool completely. Once cool, whisk in mayonnaise. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
2. FOR THE POTATOES: Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Add potatoes and baking soda. Return to boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain potatoes.
3. Return potatoes to saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, shaking saucepan occasionally, until any surface moisture has evaporated, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and stir with rubber spatula until potatoes are coated with thick, starchy paste, about 30 seconds. Transfer potatoes to rimmed baking sheet in single layer to cool. (Potatoes can stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours.)
4. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over high heat to 375 degrees. Add all potatoes (they should just be submerged in oil) and cook, stirring occasionally with wire skimmer or slotted spoon, until deep golden brown and crispy, 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Transfer potatoes to paper towel-lined wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt to taste. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce onto bottom of large platter or 1-1/2 tablespoons sauce onto individual plates. Arrange potatoes over sauce and serve immediately, passing remaining sauce separately.
While this dish is traditionally served as part of a tapas spread, it can also be served as a side dish with grilled or roasted meat. Bittersweet or hot smoked paprika can be used in place of sweet, if desired. If you make this substitution, be sure to taste the sauce before deciding how much cayenne to add, if any. A rasp-style grater makes quick work of turning the garlic into a paste.