Patatas Bravas with Allioli

Catalan style Patatas Bravas

I’ve been back from Barcelona for less than a week, and I already miss it terribly. Everything from the meandering back alleys steeped in history, to the azure blue sky, welcomed me with open arms and then held me tight when it was time to leave. Despite my poor grasp of Spanish and non-existant Catalan, the people were patient and always there to help.

These factors made for a good trip, but the thing that left me fantasizing about quitting my job and staying, was the food. It’s simple, full of flavour, and tastes comfortably like home. While there are many delicacies that I won’t be able to nosh on until my return, patatas bravas are both easy to make and deeply satisfying. The preparation varies by region, but the Catalan version of this tapa is covered in a piquant olive oil mixture and silky smooth allioli. Put simply, it’s a match made in Heaven.

Bar Tomas is famous for their Patatas Bravas

Knowing my fervor for potatoes and all things fried, I sought out the best patatas bravas while in Barcelona. Many of the English language websites and forum posts seemed to point towards Bar Tomas, so on my first full day there, I hopped on the FCG north to check out the legend. Situated on a corner in a quiet residential neighborhood, it’s the kind of place you’d pass by without a second thought if it weren’t for the line of people coming out the door. The setup is pretty typical of a tapas bar and involves squeezing in between some people along the narrow counter and catching someone’s attention just long enough to rattle off your order. Since this was just the first stop on a longer food crawl, we went for a single order of patatas bravas and croquetas.

Patatas Bravas from Bar Tomas

I’m not sure if I was expecting too much, or if they were just having an off day, but the patatas bravas didn’t live up to all the hype. They were soggy, greasy and tasted more like they were poached in oil rather than fried. The only thing that saved it from being filed in the unmemorable bin was the luscious white allioli melting all over the top of the potatoes. Put simply, it was one of the best condiments I’ve ever tasted; high praise coming from someone who doesn’t care for mayonaise. It was creamy and intensely garlicky, without being cloying or harsh. What set this allioli apart from any I’ve had back home was the lip-smacking umami that flooded my taste buds as the smooth white sauce dissipated across my tongue.

If you’re in the US you may know allioli by it’s Provençal name, aioli. In Catalan, all i oli literally means “garlic and oil” and is the preferred sauce for patatas bravas in the region of Catalunya. Traditionally made by grinding garlic and olive oil together with a mortar and pestle, modern versions add egg yolk as an emulsifier to help the garlic and oil mix together. For my rendition, I’ve added some lemon juice and honey help balance the salty richness of the allioli. It doesn’t quite have the same level of umami that Bar Tomas’ version had, but it comes close. My guess is that the flavour in Tomas’ allioli is either coming from some grated cheese, or they’re using some kind of animal fat instead of olive oil.

Patatas bravas frying in duck fat

This combination of duck fat fried patatas with the pungent allioli makes for a tasty take on this classic tapa. The spuds take on a crackling crisp exterior with a soft and steamy interior, and each golden brown morsel is brimming with umami thanks to the rendered duck fat they fry in. They’d be delicious with the sea salt, pimentón and olive oil, but the freshly emulsified allioli that crowns this mound of carbs takes the dish from humble to sublime.

Patatas Bravas with Allioli

for allioli
6 cloves garlic finely grated
1 egg yolk
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 C olive oil

for patatas bravas
4 yukon gold potatoes cut into irregular 1/2″ chunks
1/2 C duck fat (or more if you have it)
pimentón
cayenne pepper
sea salt (maldon or flor de sal work well)
olive oil

To make the Allioli, put the garlic, egg yolk, lemon juice and salt in a bowl and whisk together. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking until you have a thick pale yellow emulsion.

Thoroughly dry the cut up potatoes using paper towels. Heat the duck fat in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat until about 350 degrees F. I only had about half a cup of duck fat left, but if you have more fat, your potatoes will fry faster and you won’t have to flip them. Put the potatoes in the oil and fry, stirring occasionally until they have just a hint of colour on the exterior. Transfer them to the paper towel lined rack and let them cool for a minute. This step removes the excess water near the surface of the potato, allowing them to crisp on the second fry.

Put the potatoes back in the hot oil. If you are shallow frying, leave the potatoes undisturbed until you can see the edges turning golden brown. Flip the potatoes over using tongs and brown the other side. When they’re brown and crisp all over, transfer to a paper towel lined rack.

Pile the potatoes on a plate and sprinkle with pimentón, cayenne pepper, and sea salt. Drizzle with olive oil, then put a few dollops of allioli on top of your patatas bravas. Serve with some toothpicks.

  • http://inigoaguirre.wordpress.com/ Umami Madrid

    Hi Mark. Great post, but i have a few comments on your recipe:
    Patatas bravas should have a lightly spiced tomato sauce (sometimes with added vinegar) made with spicy pimentón. This is the salsa brava that gives the name to the potatoes.

    The allioli should be done with a blender in order to fully incorporate the garlic into the sauce. I suppose your sauce has bits and pieces of garlic and that is definitely not what you’re looking for in this sauce. Your recipe has far too much garlic, we normally use no more than 1 clove for 300 ml of allioli. And we normally mix a bland oil (sunflower works well) with extra virgin olive oil in order to incorporate a olive oil taste that doesn’t hide the rest of the flavours. The taste should be very garlicky and slightly olivey

    You’re right, the potatoes are peeled normally poached covered in oil and not fried. They are slightly golden but not crispy, but I like your idea of crisping up the potatoes, good point!

    I’m glad you had a good trip in my country… there are so many good things to eat here

    Cheers,
    Umami Madrid

  • http://inigoaguirre.wordpress.com/ Umami Madrid

    Hi, good post,Just a few comments on your recipe:

    Patatas bravas should have a lightly spiced tomato sauce (sometimes with added vinegar) made with spicy pimentón. This is the salsa brava that gives the name to the potatoes.

    The allioli should be done with a blender in order to fully incorporate the garlic into the sauce. I suppose your sauce has bits and pieces of garlic and that is definitely not what you’re looking for in this sauce. Your recipe has far too much garlic, we normally use no more than 1 clove for 300 ml of allioli. And we normally mix a bland oil (sunflower works well) with extra virgin olive oil in order to incorporate a olive oil taste that doesn’t hide the rest of the flavours. The taste should be very garlicky and slightly olivey

    You’re right, the potatoes are peeled normally poached covered in oil and not fried. They are slightly golden but not crispy, but I like your idea of crisping up the potatoes, good point!

    I’m glad you had a good trip in my country… there are so many things to eat here

    Cheers,
    Umami Madrid

  • norecipes

    Thanks for your comment. I just want to point out that as I mentioned in the
    post, this is my version of the dish. If you want an authentic Madrid style
    patatas bravas, there are hundreds of other recipes out there.

    If you use a fine grater you will not have chunks of garlic. While you could
    use a blender, to make such a small quantity in a blender would mean wasting
    a lot that gets stuck to the sides of the blender.

    Also, regarding the tomato sauce, I'm obviously no expert on patatas bravas,
    but I am fairly certain that unlike the ones you get in Madrid, the Catalan
    style does not use a tomato based sauce(opting for a spicey pienton + olive
    oil based sauce and allioli instead.

  • http://www.honeyfromrock.blogspot.com Claudia

    Marc, great inspiration, and I do have that duck fat and potatoes, so nothing is holding me back.

  • http://stickygooeycreamychewy.com/ Susan @ SGCC

    Those patatas bravas are making me drool. They look fabulous! I'll bet that allioli auce would also be great on a nice crispy torta.

  • http://www.highlowfooddrink.com/ Andrea @ High/Low

    Welcome back! You had me at duck fat and aioli!

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com/ Manggy

    Shucks, that's too bad about the foreign potatoes. (Hey, at least that means you edge them out on the taters, if not the aioli!) Spain looks beautiful – as is expected…

  • http://www.rowdychowgirl.wordpress.com/ The Rowdy Chowgirl

    This brings back fond memories of the time I spent in Barcelona, scarfing up patatas bravas at every opportunity. Yum!

  • GourmetFury

    Bravas is one of my favourite things in the world! I don't believe there was a single tapas place I went to in Barcelona where I didn't order it. Thanks so much for sharing, Marc!

  • http://recipespicbypic.blogspot.com/ Núria

    Bar Tomás was my favourite Bar for Bravas during my youth. Never got tired of eating them!!! It's great to see that they are still up there :D.

    Glad you enjoyed Barcelona.

  • http://inigoaguirre.wordpress.com/ Umami Madrid

    As you are quite aware of, there are two types of salsa brava, the tomato base one and another which is more like a vinagrette and that is made with pimentón, olive oil, vinegar, salt and other spices (sometimes cumin is used). In Barcelona they use both. In Madrid you mostly get the tomato based one, but you can also get the vinagrette version.

    Re. allioli, I meant using it the blender to make the garlic mayo adding the whole clove of garlic in order to have it perfectly distributed into the sauce, so nothing would get stuck to the sides. Still using 6 cloves would definatelly result in a too overpowering sauce.

    I was only explaing how we do it here, I hope I didn't upset you with my comment, not trying to correct you ,only trying to explain how we prepare it in Spain. I perfectly understand that you were not trying to replicate an authentic recipe

  • eatnlisten

    This looks so great I shared it on facebook, wish I could take a bite, thanks for the amazing recipe!

  • http://www.sugarbar.org/ diva

    Oh this takes me back to last summer when we had this by the coast in Salou. Sipping cocktails and sangria (not both at the same time), in pretty summer dresses and flip flops eating tapas and enjoying the Spanish summer. Yum! This is so pretty and makes me want a good hoilday now.

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    Is there anything more addictive than Spanish tapas? You bring back a lot of memories with this dish…I prefer my patatas bravas with allioli as opposed to some of the tomato versions I've tried.

  • http://bunkycooks.wordpress.com/ bunkycooks

    I was in Barcelona in October and fell in love with the city! The tapas were so incredible anywhere we ate. I cannot wait to go back!

  • joannova

    I know what you mean about Barcelona. Between the food and the architecture, it definitely grabs hold of you. Good job on the patatas bravas – interesting twist with duck fat.

  • http://www.shesimmers.com/ Leela

    There's something about the name patatas brava that's really cool. And you had me at duck fat.

    Saw aïoli made the old-fashioned way in the Provence episode of No Reservations just last night and now I'm looking at this Catalan version, allioli. I think it's a sign. Must make and eat this lest the gods be angry at me.

  • http://www.sense-serendipity.com/ Divina

    Duck fat is the best, isn't it? You versions is absolutely delicious.

  • http://www.glutenfreegourmand.blogspot.com/ Gina

    I love patatas bravas! It's true that much-hyped bars in Barcelona can disappoint, but hopefully you found something else off the beaten track that delivered.

  • http://trissalicious.com/ Trissa

    Bravo Marc! This looks muy delicioso! I adore potatoes, much more when they are cooked in duck fat and with allioli? Heaven! How wonderful you got to go to Barcelona – it's a beautiful city. I love the fact that you can walk in the middle of the street while the cars are on the sides like in las ramblas!

  • http://mylittleexpatkitchen.blogspot.com/ my little expat kitchen

    I first cooked with duck fat a month ago. I'm so used to using olive oil in everything- well I'm Greek I can't help it- that it seemed odd to me. But the result was spectacular.
    This is a great recipe!
    Magda

  • http://fivestarfoodie.com/ 5 Star Foodie

    Barcelona is so much fun to visit! The potatoes look quite heavenly with the Allioli!

  • sippitysup

    I like your attitude, and I am sure that the patatas appreciated being given the Marc touch too. GREG

  • Susan

    not likely to use duck fat…although having lived in Europe, I understand it'd be the preferred fat….what would be best sub?

  • Susan

    I must say that I LOVED Barcelona when we visited in May 05; Gaudi Architecture…and going to Dali's much painted Coastal town nearby was great….driving into Peripingnan France was a great day trip which included a Vineyard….Wish I could return tomorrow :)

  • norecipes

    Chicken fat (aka schmaltz would be a good substitute), but if your
    aversion is with using animal fat, you could always just use canola
    oil, but you won't get the same flavour.

  • http://quisimangiabene.blogspot.com/ Peter

    This was always my favorite tapa in Spain, and made me a convert to mayonnaise in certain applications- including, strangely, the sriracha mayo in spicy fill-in-the-blank rolls. Go figure.

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  • Krizia

    Hi Marc! I live just a 2 min. walk from Bar Tomas. I have to say that I’ve tried quite a few patatas bravas around the city, and their memorably garlicky allioli is what keeps me coming back! Tonight, I noticed that they use a squirt bottle filled with olive oil and pre-mixed spices onto their bravas. Genius. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for putting up this recipe as I was seriously inspired to try and replicate their recipe.

  • Jon

    Hey Marc,

    As someone who doesn’t use raw eggs very often, I’m curious if you have any opinions on pasteurized vs unpasteurized. I tried a method I found on the internet where you mix the egg yolks with water and lemon juice and heat them in the microwave a few times, but it’s such a strange method that it makes me a bit concerned…any thoughts? Thanks.

    Jon

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Jon, Davidson’s makes pasteurized eggs you can use. Otherwise if you have the ability to maintain a water bath at 135 degrees for 75 minutes, you could pasteurize them yourself. Killing any bacteria and viruses in eggs is a function of time and temperature. The higher the temperature, the faster the the eggs are pasteurized. The problem is if you raise the temperature too high the egg will coagulate as coagulation is also a function of time and temperature. The trick is to find a temperature where the egg won’t coagulate in the time it takes to kill most of the harmful organisms . The microwave technique sounds dodgy because you can’t regulate the temperature of a microwave (only the power level), microwaves also tend to have hot spots, so chances are you’d be cooking the egg in parts and not pasteurizing other parts. I hope that helps.

  • Matt

    If you go back to barcelona..
    I was there three weeks ago and my fiancee and I stumbled across an absolute gem. Place is called ‘la bombeta’ and it is in barceloneta, 12 mins walk from las ramblas. They speak no english, but it doesnt matter. Best bravas, croquettes and bombas in all of spain!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Matt, thanks for the tip!

  • Luis

    Hello, I read your blog and I’m glad you like the Catalan culture because it is the best in the world. I am Catalan and Barcelona, I will tell you a secret. The aioli sauce garlic and oil is translated only that but very hard to prepare, you have to crush in a mortar 6 or 7 garlic with salt and go hechando the oil moving slowly drops until it has a white body and very strong flavor, this would be the original, then no egg or mayonnaise.

    Regarding pumps mashed potatoes are cold and filled with spicy beef burgers such as.

    I hope you have helped a little. If anyone wants to know a recipe typical of barcelona I leave my email: luis-rg@hotmail.es

    Greetings i bon profit …

Welcome!

I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!