Papas Fritas with Santa Fe–Style Chile Sauce
At Cafe Pasqual’s, a restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the menu of Southwestern fare includes favorites like huevos rancheros and papas fritas, crispy potatoes doused in a red or green chile sauce, covered in melted cheese and served with a flour or corn tortilla. At the restaurant, if you can’t decide between the two chile sauces, you can order your potatoes “Christmas-style” for some of each. Here, we’ve included the recipe for the red chile sauce for a simpler presentation. (You will have some sauce left over; save the rest for serving with chilaquiles or dolloping on top of tacos or tostadas.) If you can, fry the potatoes in clarified butter, which imparts a buttery flavor but won’t burn over higher heat levels like regular butter. Top each serving with some cooked Mexican chorizo sausage or a fried egg, if you like.
For the red chile sauce:
- 16 guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and halved
- 8 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and halved
- 4 dried chiles de arbol, stemmed and seeded
- 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) coarsely chopped white onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- Kosher salt
4 1/2 lb. (2.25 kg) medium red potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) clarified butter or canola oil
- 2 tsp. sweet paprika
- 1 1/2 cups (6 oz./185 g) shredded Monterey jack cheese
- 2/3 cup (5 1/2 oz./170 g) sour cream, at room temperature
- 4 green onions, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced, for serving
To make the red chile sauce, bring 1 quart (1 l) water to a boil over high heat. Add the chiles, onion, garlic, vinegar, oregano and 1 Tbs. salt. Return to a boil and cook until the chiles soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
Working in batches, in a blender, process the chile mixture until smooth. With a wooden spoon, pass the sauce through a coarse-mesh sieve to remove any tough chile skins. Measure out 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) of the sauce and reserve the remaining sauce for another use. (Store up to 1 week, covered, in the refrigerator.)
Put the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Slice the potatoes into rounds about 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick.
Preheat an oven to 200°F (95°C).
In a large fry pan, preferably cast iron, heat 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) of the clarified butter over medium-high heat. Add half of the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining potatoes in the remaining butter. Combine the two batches in the fry pan. Sprinkle with the paprika, season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
Preheat the broiler. Have ready another rimmed baking sheet. Divide the potatoes evenly among 6 heatproof bowls or serving dishes. Top each with about 1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) of the chile sauce, then 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) of the cheese. Arrange the bowls on the baking sheet and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 1 minute. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and a scattering of green onions. Serve immediately.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Breakfast Comforts, by Rick Rodgers (Weldon Owen, 2010)