I've been on a nice run of pretty good recipes lately. There are a few here and there that haven't been exactly stellar. But it's been a while since I've thrown out the results from a night in the kitchen. And on the other hand, it's been a while since I've made something so delicious that I found myself sitting dumbstruck on the couch, staring at my plate, wondering how on earth I'd be able to find the words to describe the sensation that comes from eating such good food. That's what happened last night.
The last time I'd made one of Suzanne Goin's recipes, it had come from the NY Times' review of her latest book. Yesterday I wanted to give one of her recipes chosen for the review in the LA Times a go (either Grilled Quail with Sicilian Breadcrumbs, Pancetta and Ricotta Pudding or Olive Oil Cake with Creme Fraiche and Candied Tangerines) but neither came close to piquing my curiosity. Instead, I found myself drawn back to the NY Times recipes, specifically one for Romesco Potatoes: a dish of roasted, smashed potatoes dressed with an lushly aromatic and spicy sauce.
It was, in a word, incredible. Out of this world. The kind of food that makes you push everything else to the side of your plate so you can concentrate wholly on It. In fact, I had nothing else for dinner. Which might have been a mistake, actually. The flavors of this dish are so amazing that it's almost overwhelming. It might really be best to serve this just as a side. That way you won't have your guests falling down and begging you to scrape the rest of meal off their plate so they can run back to the stove for More Potatoes. (I had an idea, too, to serve this with a runny poached egg on top, for a one-plate meal or breakfast. If you can handle that kind of breakfast. I don't think I could. It's that good. Too good.)
Although the recipe sounds a bit fiddly, it all comes together quickly. You roast a handful of nuts before taking them out and sliding in a sheet of potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, salt and unpeeled garlic cloves to roast. You process the nuts with a slice of fried bread, more garlic, a small amount of canned tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, and ancho chiles (though because I am a chile idiot, I used chiles de arbol. I have no idea if this made a difference or not. I know nothing, but nothing, about chiles. Except that up until 10 months ago I wanted nothing whatsoever to do with them. Now I am sidling up to them sheepishly, eyeing them askance, wondering if I can ever start to make up for lost time).
When the potatoes are tender, you take the sheet out and crush the potatoes (I used the flat side of a spatula), put them in a hot, oiled pan with more fresh thyme on top and let them cook until crispy and browned on each side. Then you dollop in the entire bowl (all of it!) of romesco and the squeezed out bits of roasted garlic. You stir everything together and top with a handful of chopped parsley. Settle down to eat this, and stare in bewilderment at your plate as you chew. Roasted and raw garlic! Toasted nuts! Fried bread! Mellow thyme! Hot chiles! Creamy potatoes! It's an explosion of textures and sensations and flavors that left me speechless. Ben saw his opening and finished off the whole lot. Cheeky monkey.