I love potato salad in summer but, variety being the spice of life, I like to shake things up a bit now and again. One delicious option are papas arrugadas, or ‘wrinkled’ potatoes. I had them for the first time at a local tapas place run by celebrity chef José Andrés, and it was truly love at first bite. I immediately had to learn how to make them, and it turns out they are nothing but small, baby potatoes boiled with their skins on in heavily salted water until dry. Their skins crinkle up in the process (hence the name) and the salt forms a powdery surface.
Perfectly delicious just like that, papas arrugadas are typically served with a sauce, or mojo, either red or green. Although I am very partial to green sauces, this time I went for the mojo rojo, or red sauce, made from puréed dried chili peppers, garlic and oil.
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
For the potatoes:
- One bag (approx. 750g/1-1/2 lbs.) of baby potatoes, unpeeled
- A large fistful of sea salt
For the mojo rojo:
- A handful of small dried red chili peppers (chiles de árbol work well)
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- A spoonful of pimentón (smoked paprika)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
NB: Many recipes call for a pinch of cumin as well, although I prefer to leave it out.
Place the potatoes in a pot with water to cover and a big fistful of sea salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then let the potatoes boil uncovered until the potatoes are cooked and the water has completed boiled off. (NB: If the potatoes are done and the water has still not boiled off, you can pour most of it out to speed things up a bit.)
While the potatoes are cooking, make the mojo: Soak the chiles in hot water to soften for a few minutes. Drain them, trim off the stems, and place them in a blender (or the beaker of a hand blender) along with the other ingredients, including enough oil to come, say, halfway up the ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl
Serve your papas arrugadas hot, with the sauce on the side for those that like it.
This is a great choice for a cookout or just about any time you need an interesting side dish. It makes a great part of a tapas meal (which is how I first tried them) and, as far as I’m concerned, served with the sauce they are interesting enough to serve as a light meal, along with some salad and a piece of fruit.
There is also a green sauce, or mojo verde, that goes with these potatoes, made much like the Italian salsa verde, but with a bit of cumin and substituting cilantro for all or a part of the parsley. Some recipes will tell you to finish the potatoes in the oven, but I like the simplicity of doing all the cooking in one saucepan.
Papas arrugadas come from the Canary Islands, where they were originally cooked using water from the sea. If you don’t have access to sea water, lots of sea salt helps give a similar flavor.
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