I am SO excited to share this recipe with you! The most exciting part about it, the method of cooking the potatoes, is more of a technique, and a ridiculously simple one at that, but still the results were so delicious and impressive in a rustic kind of way. My brother Chris (of meatball fame!) came to cook, and the first dish we settled on was this one from José Pizarro (Chris found the recipe at Food 52, but I remembered it from Spanish Flavors: Stunning Dishes Inspired by the Regional Ingredients of Spain which is in my collection). We gradually built up the rest of the menu until it included Lime Chipotle Shrimp and a brined and grilled chicken (that is my brother’s specialty, but my grill was so old and sad that all of the skin stuck to it. So I will share it another day.). But for me, personally, these salt crusted potatoes were the star of the show.
The mojo, or dipping sauce, for the potatoes is silky, bright and fragrant. It complements the potatoes beautifully. My brother voted for reducing the garlic next time, whereas I would sauté the garlic, just to make it a little easier on the stomach. Otherwise it was perfect.
The potatoes rely on an absolutely genius method of cooking and other than that are seriously the simplest thing you will ever make and still really wow your guests. The potatoes start in heavily salted cold water, in a single layer, and then you just boil until the water is gone. It is that simple. It is more visually stunning with either whole fingerlings or whole tiny baby potatoes; as you can see I used an assortment, and the cut potatoes do not look as nice–although they tasted every bit as scrumptious. Sammy and I are the true potato fanatics, so we may have been the most excited over the dish, but everyone agreed it was a fantastic way to cook potatoes. I cannot stop craving them since I made them. My mom had one cold a few days later (I doubled the recipe, which gave us a few leftovers) and agreed it was delicious.
- 2 1/4 lbs evenly sized waxy new potatoes, such as fingerling, scrubbed but unpeeled
- 2 T sea salt
- 1 qt cold water
- 3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped (toasted first if desired, to reduce stomach distress)
- 1 green chili pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 t freshly ground cumin seeds
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 t white wine vinegar (Muscatel if possible (we could not find Muscatel))
Put the potatoes into a wide, shallow pan in which they fit in a single layer. Add 2 tablespoons salt and 1 quart cold water (just enough to cover). Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil.
Leave it to boil rapidly until the water has evaporated. Turn the potatoes gently occasionally while they cook. When the water is mostly gone, reduce the heat to medium low, or even low depending on your stovetop. You want all the water gone, the potatoes somewhat wrinkled, and coated in a crusty salt layer. Obviously, you do not want them to burn or scorch, so if that seems a risk, turn the heat down further. When the pan is completely dry and the potatoes are salt crusted, take the pan of the heat.
While the potatoes are cooking, make the cilantro mojo. Put the garlic, green chili pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt into a wet dry grinder, a powerful blender like a Vita Mix, or a food processor. Puree until roughly minced. Then add the cilantro and puree until a paste forms. Add the cumin, and then, with the blender/processor running, add the oil in a thin stream so that it emulsifies into a creamy sauce.
Just before serving, mix in the vinegar, and spoon into a small bowl.
Pile the hot potatoes onto a plate and serve with the mojo.