Patatas a La Riojana: Rioja-Style Potatoes

There is something so comforting about potatoes. They’re a guilty pleasure on a cold day whether they’re baked and smothered in butter and sour cream, mashed, tossed in a stew, or puréed into a soup. They’re hearty, filling, and during the long winter, make an appearance in my kitchen often. Luckily for me, I’m not far from the Basque Region of Álava, known Iberia-over for their potatoes.

Patatas a La Riojana: A favorite Spanish dish

What happens when you take potatoes, throw in some onion, garlic, peppers and marry them with chorizo? Complete magic, I tell you! That’s why Patatas a La Riojana are one of my favorite meals to snuggle up to on a cold winter day. They are the kind of warm-you-up-from-head-to-toe, stick-to-your-ribs dish that sit in my (unofficial) top 10 list of Spanish plates.

Originally a dish for peasants, Patatas a La Riojana, while humble, are Spanish cuisine at its finest: unfussy, flavorful and utilizing simple ingredients with time-honored preparation. Spaniards are quite pleased to note that famed French chef Paul Bocuse, (known for being one of the chefs credited with introducing nouvelle cuisine) upon trying three plates back-to-back of Patatas a La Riojana said that a plate this good should represent Spain in the world.

Give them a try and I’m sure they’ll capture your heart (through your stomach) too!

Wine Pairing

Since this dish is ideally made with products from La Rioja and La Rioja Alavesa, it is best accompanied by a Rioja wine. 

Patatas a La Riojana
  1. 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and "broken"
  2. 2 picante Riojan chorizo sausages, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  3. 1 large onion, chopped
  4. 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  5. A generous splash of extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 1 tablespoon of choricero pepper pulp
  8. 1 teaspoon Spanish pimentón (sweet paprika)
  9. Salt to taste
  10. *Optional A pinch of cayenne pepper
  1. 1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic, onion and the bay leaves.
  2. 2. Add the chorizo and cook until browned for 1-2 minutes.
  3. 3. Add the broken potatoes, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and stir well.
  4. 4. Increase the heat to medium-high, adding enough water to cover the ingredients and bring to a boil.
  5. 5. Reduce heat to low and stir in the choricero pepper pulp.
  6. 6. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked, stirring occasionally.
  7. 7. With a ladle, take off the layer of grease that will float to the top from the chorizo.
  8. 8. If the stew still isn't thick enough, crush a few of the potatoes and stir.
What are "broken" potatoes?
  1. This is a method of cutting the potatoes so that they release more starch, resulting in a thicker stew. Cut into the potato only half-way, breaking off the rest with the knife. The broken edge helps thicken up the dish.
Adapted from Karlos Arguiñano
Adapted from Karlos Arguiñano
christine in spain
 Image via  Lorena Suárez.

Spanish Omelette Recipe

I’ve eaten a lot of strange foods since I’ve been in Spain: cow tongues, squid cooked in their own ink, blood sausage…and the list goes on. I stand by my own personal mantra that I need to at least try the dish, before I turn my nose up at it, (though that gets more difficult all the time.) I don’t know why I allow this mantra to continue to exist, because when something sounds weird and/or slightly disgusting to me, in my experience, it usually is. But hey, there’s no shortage of people who have tried garlic-fried grasshoppers or pickled pigs feet in exotic places and their taste-buds fell in love. I’m just not one of those people.

The beginnings of a Tortilla Española

What I do love is simple and delicious, and there is no shortage of that in Spanish cuisine. The focus is on fresh, cheap ingredients stemming from the country’s past history of people living off the land and stretching their meals as far as they could. Though there is a lot of gluttony-inducing variation of food amongst the different regions in Spain, a few dishes are embraced by all. If there were to be something crowned Spain’s national dish however, the Tortilla Española (also known as the Tortilla de Patatas) would reign king. And no, this tortilla has nothing to do with the beloved Mexican flat-bread.

Thick slabs of this “Spanish Omelette” are a staple in any self-respecting tapas bar, and a well-constructed one will surely be the center of attention on a weekend lunch. It consists of four main ingredients: potatoes, onions, copious amounts of olive oil and eggs. Of course, you are at liberty to customize your omelette, and red/green peppers, mushrooms and ham are all acceptable additions.

So without further ado, here is my first recipe EVER:

Spanish Omelette
  1. 6 potatoes (waxy-skinned) washed, peeled and cut in cubes
  2. 6 eggs
  3. 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  4. Salt, to taste
  5. Olive oil (count on using about 2 cups!)
  6. Optional ingredients: green peppers, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, etc.
  1. Heat enough olive oil to generously (this is key!) cover the bottom of the skillet, over medium heat.
  2. Wash and peel potatoes, cut into small cubes and set aside.
  3. Chop onion and optional ingredients.
  4. Add potatoes, onion, a few pinches of salt, and optional ingredients to skillet. Stir occasionally, until potatoes are tender. Don’t worry if potatoes slightly brown.
  5. Once tender, remove potatoes from skillet into a medium-sized bowl whilst draining the olive oil. Return approximately 1 tbsp of used oil to skillet.
  6. Beat eggs in separate bowl, and add to potato/onion/optional ingredients. Return to skillet, cooking 3-5 minutes on one side.
  7. Here comes the most difficult part and separates the real Spanish Omelette chefs from the posers: Grab a large plate that’s wider than the skillet and flip the omelette onto the plate. Return to skillet on uncooked side for an additional 3-5 minutes.
  8. Return to plate by “flipping” again and let cool.
christine in spain
If you’re not salivating too much, you can store the tortilla in the fridge until the next day to really let the flavors permeate, but I understand and won’t judge if you dive into it right away! 😉

¡Y aquí esta! Here is what the finished product will look like:

I took the liberty of pan-searing some canned roasted red peppers and garlic and topping the omelette with them, and though this is completely optional, it is highly recommended!

Mmm. ¡Buen provecho!