This series of articles will highlight some of our favorite culinary offerings around the world. For us, the joy of travel is inextricably linked to eating well, and we like to recreate our favorites at home. Join us as we share some of our best travel stories and then take our turn cooking the iconic dishes that make our travels so special.
Oh, Barcelona. You captured our hearts with your hidden tapas bars, beachy vibe and endless plastic cups of wine on the boardwalk. We spent our honeymoon in Barcelona years ago, our first holiday abroad as a couple. It was an unforgettable vacation, though the photos leave a lot to be desired. Hello blond highlights. Hello fuzzy pictures.
We spent more time in Barcelona last November, when I attended a blogging conference and Drew stopped by to hang out for the weekend. I never in a million years thought the words, ‘stop by Barcelona to hang out’ would be in my vocabulary, but there you go. This time, the snaps were a lot nicer.
Oh, and get this – the first time there, we rented a cute apartment in the Gothic quarter for our honeymoon, which was lovely. The second time there, I booked a place through AirBnB which was literally around the corner from the first place. I didn’t realize the coincidence until I was wandering around trying to find a convenience store open to buy some wine and I stumbled into the same store we went to every evening during the last trip. And then I saw our old front door, and the rest was history.
The only thing missing from the little neighborhood courtyard was the pay phone we used back then to call our parents using a calling card to let them know we were safe and sound. Technology.
For most visitors to Barcelona, the food is a big part of the whole experience. La Boqueria, the massive market, is a city highlight and is also home to all of the fresh squeezed juice you could drink in a lifetime. There is a nice mix of casual and upscale eateries, and thanks to the location on the sea, well, let’s just say the seafood is fresh and not to be missed.
One of the classic Spanish tapas, and one of our all-time faves, is patatas bravas. Fried potatoes, spicy tomato sauce, garlicky aioli? What’s not to like? Paired with convenience store wine, and we’ve got ourselves a party. Given the simplicity of this dish, we have made this before, but we decided for this attempt that we would use all of the quintessential Spanish ingredients and do it right.
The batch was gone in an hour.
2lb Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
1 14oz can whole plum tomatoes
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs sherry vinegar
1 Tbs sherry vinegar
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, whole
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Add the whole plum tomatoes without any of the additional juice (a 14oz can should yield about 4 plum tomatoes) to a food processor or blender and pulse for a few second to break down the tomatoes. It does not have to be perfectly smooth.
Pour the tomatoes into a pan with the olive oil and garlic. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and add the sugar and smoked paprika. Turn the heat down to low and let gently simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced slightly. Once reduced, remove from heat and add the sherry vinegar and salt, stir and let cool to room temperature.
Combine the egg, vinegar, olive oil and garlic in a blender. Puree for a few seconds to break down the garlic. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil. As the mixture comes together and thickens slightly, you can pour the oil in more quickly. The resulting aioli should be thick and easily coat the back of a spoon. Place in a bowl and let chill in the refrigerator. It will thicken slightly as it cools as well.
Add the cubed potatoes to a pot and pour in enough cold water to just barely cover the potatoes. Place lid on the pot and bring it to a boil, cooking the potatoes for about 15 minutes. Check the potatoes with a fork. If they almost break apart, then the potatoes are fully cooked, which is what we want.
Drain the potatoes well. In a high-sided saute pan, add about 1” of vegetable oil and heat over a high heat. Test the oil with one potato. The oil is ready when the oil bubbles instantly, which is about 350°F if you have a thermometer.
Working in batches, add the potatoes to the hot oil in one even layer. Do not crowd the pan. Let the potatoes cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side before flipping and rotating them to get an even browning. The potatoes should be a deep, golden brown and crunchy.
Drain the potatoes on a wire rack, add salt and pepper while hot.
Place a pool of the tomato sauce on a plate, pile on the potatoes and drizzle with the amazing garlic explosion that is the aioli.