Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Versatile Potato

Potatoes of course can be used in almost anything, but we don’t often think of them as a Latin staple. Funny since potatoes are native to South America and Peru is the origin of most of the varietal potatoes we know. So I’m going to try to disabuse New Englanders of the idea that potatoes are the province of the Irish.

Papas con chorizo
This is a standard Latin dish, which can be served on its own or used as filling for quesadillas, sandwiches, burritos, tacos… Traditionally, it’s made using big brown potatoes, the kind that are in season from Maine right now. But once, I was halfway through making it when I realized I had fewer potatoes than I needed. So I threw in a few sweet potatoes to make up the difference. It turns out that sweet potatoes not only work, they add a gentle sweetness that perfectly compliments (and calms) the spice of the chorizo (chorizo, or chouriço in Portuguese, is a spicy Latin sausage). Now, I usually use all sweet potatoes. That opened up the idea of playing with the other ingredients, and my papas con chorizo has become almost as pliable as my soup.

The Original
Serves 4
4 potatoes
3-4 chorizo sausages
1 can “salsa roja” (red sauce)
2 tomatoes, diced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Remove the chorizo meat from the casing, break into pieces and sauté in a little olive oil. Peel and cube the potatoes and add to the pan. Add the salsa roja and diced tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook, covered and stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Sweet potato: replace all or part of the potatoes with sweet potatoes or yams
Other potato: discover the particularities of other potato varieties by using them, exclusively or mixed.
Green tomato or tomatillo: use green tomatoes or tomatillos instead of red tomatoes, and use “salsa verde” (green sauce) in place of “salsa roja.” Gives the dish a wonderful tartness, but I don’t recommend combining this variation with the sweet potato variation (spicy, sweet, and tart takes the tastebuds in too many directions at once, as far as I’m concerned).
No spice: use sweet Italian sausages instead of chorizo and replace the “salsa roja” with two extra tomatoes. Works with any kind of potato.
Sweet: use sweet Italian or apple sausages instead of chorizo and replace the “salsa roja” and the tomatoes with 4 apples. Works with any kind of potato.