Salsa Brava

I went to the first of the Vancouver Winter Farmer's Markets last week and bought some beautiful cayenne. I will hang it and dry it to use later but this got me thinking about something to use it with. Salsa brava is the spicy Spanish sauce most will recognize as the accompaniment for Patatas Bravas, a dish of gorgeous fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce.

This dish emphasizes what seems to be the rule with most Spanish food. Simplicity and quality of ingredients are the key. Because really the ingredients aren't that fancy: tomatoes, olive oil, onion, garlic and a whole cayenne pepper. The heat in this Salsa Brava is subtle, developed over time by letting the cayenne pepper stew in  the sauce while cooking.

The onions and garlic must be cooked slowly until they almost melt We're going for translucence, and mellowing, not browning. The tomatoes can be fresh or canned but save yourself some trouble and use some good quality canned ones. I used some of my own making that had been put in jars early in the fall. Olive oil is used to smooth the mixture. 

I like to divide the sauce batch up in portions for freezing so that I can easily make Patatas Bravas when the mood strikes. The sauce is also great on other things - like eggs. I even add leftover sauce to a chicken soup for some spicy tomato flavour.


Salsa Brava

1 onion

4 cloves garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1 litre canned tomatoes

1 whole dried cayenne pepper, split in half

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for thickening

Chop the onion and sauté on low heat in about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Yes, it's more than you'd probably usually use, but we're going for a slow fry here so it's almost more like making a garlic confit. The olive oil will get absorbed into he sauce and make it smooth. Add the garlic after a few minutes, keeping an eye on everything so that you avoid browning. Keep the mixture going for about 1/2 an hour until everything is translucent and the onions have a melting texture.

Add the tomatoes and both halves of the cayenne pepper. Cook on low heat and slowly let the flavours develop. Keep tasting, adding salt and pepper to taste and checking the heat levels imparted by the cayenne. If you find it's getting too hot, take half or both peppers out. When the flavour is where you want it, put the sauce into the blender (with he cayenne pepper) and blend until smooth. Add a bit more olive oil to smooth the sauce as required.

To make Patatas Bravas: Chop potatoes in large dice. Use 2 small potatoes per person. Shallow fry the potatoes in olive oil until lovely and brown.Yes I fry in Olive oil and so does every other Spanish person. Does it make your house smelly? Yes. Is it delicious?  Yes. Once cooked, drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt before transferring to serving dish. Spoon Salsa Brava over the potatoes. Refrigerate or freeze any leftover sauce for another use.

Buen provecho!