Punched potatoes, or Batatas a Murro, is a Portuguese dish that is simple and delicious. I first encountered the idea of punched potatoes while planning a trip to a nearby Portuguese restaurant. We live surrounded by a lot of Portuguese Americans whose ancestors came from the Azores, so there are Portuguese bakeries and Portuguese food items in the stores. But other than the kale soup I make, which is Azorean in origin, I haven’t had a lot of authentic Portuguese cuisine.
So I researched the restaurant menu online and decided I was going to order Polvo à Lagareiro, grilled octopus served over a punched potato. The octopus is boiled for an hour, then tossed in olive oil and grilled over charcoal for a few minutes to char it a little. It is served over a punched potato that was crisped in garlic-infused olive oil, with the extra oil poured over the dish. The octopus was wonderful but the “punched” potato I received was half a huge restaurant-size russet potato, grey and gummy inside. Not the crisp, garlicky potato I was expecting.
Batatas a Murro are not hard to make and what I decided to do for our Christmas dinner. There are plenty of recipes around and there are many variations. What I will provide is simply a concept with some suggestions for variations. The basic idea is you cook (bake or boil, but baked is preferred) some small (golf ball or slightly larger) potatoes until they are done. Let them cool a bit, then using your fist or the bottom of a glass or mug, slightly smash (“punch”) the potatoes to break their skin and slightly flatten them. Then heat a small frying pan and sauté some garlic in olive oil until the garlic is fragrant and just starts to brown.
The final step is where there are many possible variations. You can:
- Place the punched potatoes in a serving bowl, drizzle with the hot olive oil and serve.
- Put the punched potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet, brush with the olive oil and bake until slightly browned and crispy. This is what I decided to do, putting them in the oven for the final minutes of the roast. Not a beautiful presentation but tasty.
- Sauté the potatoes in the pan with the garlic and oil until they are browned and crispy. This is what I expected to get with my octopus but did not get.
- Or, brush the potatoes with the olive oil and brown them on a gas or charcoal grill. If making the Polvo, you could grill the octopus and potatoes at the same time.
Hope everyone enjoys their holidays. It is warm and balmy here, not typical for early winter. I am not that upset about it and the oil tank (and my wallet) is happy. But El Niño keeps pumping out winter storms and Goliath is on its way, so we will see. After last year, I can deal with anything.