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I'm fresh off an extended vacation to Spain, where patatas bravas was the starch of choice to accompany all of the incredible cured meats, aged cheeses, and fried vegetables that made up many of my tapas meals. During my two-and-a-half week journey, I never once encountered two patatas bravas sauces that were the same—they ranged from thin smoky tomato sauces to thick garlicky aiolis, each one having its own charm.
While my personal taste led me to like the spicy aioli versions best, the most unique and attention grabbing were the multi-layer tomato sauces. These had an intensity so strong that very little was needed to fully flavor the crisp, creamy spuds.
A stressful first week back at work had me longing to relive the relaxing long nights at Spanish bodegas and tabernas, so I fried up some potatoes and put together what I think is a pretty spot on interpretation of salsa brava. To the tomato, onion, and red pepper base, I added more garlic, vinegar, and hot and smoked paprika than I would have thought necessary in order to achieve the strong tang, smokiness, and heat that made this sauce so memorable. I was taken back to Spain in an instant.