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José Pizarro's Salt-Crusted Potatoes with Cilantro Mojo

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Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Boil new potatoes just a little differently for a head-turning new appetizer.

The season of relaxed entertaining is upon us, and it's time to let go of your favorite crostini recipe.

And so we bring you a flashy new appetizer -- one that will kick off a party with heart-thumping flavors, invite ice-breaking questions (are those fossils? how do I eat them?), and break down any notions of proper etiquette (spoiler: everyone's fingers are going to get salty -- no frilly toothpicks allowed!). 

More: An eat-with-your-hands kind of party.

It comes from José Pizarro's Spanish Flavors, a handsome book on the cuisines of five regions of Spain. As Food52er shovel2spoon explained to me, "This recipe transforms plain boiled potatoes into a tapas quality dish."


And she's right -- you're essentially just boiling potatoes. But you do it in a wide shallow pan, in a single layer, without a lid. And with a lot of sea salt. 


The water bubbles away, and in 20 minutes, the potatoes have sort of steam-boiled tender. "The crust only comes out on the potatoes in the very last moments, and then poof!" wrote shovel2spoon. A dusty layer of salt covers the potatoes like ash.

The outsides look fiercely salty, but the middles are creamy and gently seasoned, so an initial slap of salt and pop of taut skin quickly gives way to buttery flesh. 

Pizarro says you can advise your salt-fearing guests that they're welcome to brush off as much salt as they like. But given this recent New York Times article, is there really anything to fear? Discuss. (Another ice-breaker!)


The kicker is a cuminy, garlicky cilantro mojo -- a bright green slurry you bang out in a mortar and pestle or mini-food processor, perfect for dragging your crusty potatoes across.

Altogether it's so good you won't want to wait for your next dinner party to make it again. And that's okay -- it makes a great any-night side too. Just grill a steak or chop or butterflied chicken to go with it and the mojo will get even more play. And yes, we'll allow a fork and knife -- just don't get used to it. 

José Pizarro's Salt-Crusted Potatoes with Cilantro Mojo 

From Spanish Flavors (Kyle Books, 2013)

Serves 6

Salt-Crusted Potatoes:

2 1/4 pounds evenly sized waxy new potatoes, such as fingerling, scrubbed but unpeeled
Sea salt flakes

Cilantro Mojo:

3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 green chili pepper, seeded and chopped
Leaves from a bunch of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
Scant 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, Muscatel if possible

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by James Ransom 

Tags: Potato, Long Reads, Editors' Picks, Genius Recipes, Genius