Fried Potatoes with Harissa Tehina
This dish happened by serendipity. At Zahav, our Israeli pickles come packed in huge cans with a ton of excess pickle juice. One day, in a passion for brining, I decided to throw some peeled potatoes into that leftover pickle juice. A day later, I drained and fried the potatoes, ending up with the most amazing French fries ever. The potatoes were seasoned from within with a garlicky tang from the pickle juice. Deep-frying can be an undertaking, so when I make this dish at home, I just slice the potatoes into rounds and pan-fry them on both sides in a cast iron skillet until they’re nice and crispy.
I serve the potatoes with tehina augmented with harissa, the North African condiment based on dried chiles that’s a staple on the Israeli table. In my harissa, I use ground Aleppo pepper from Syria, which has a fruity flavor and is not screamingly hot, so you can appreciate the pepper’s earthy undertones. I thin the sauce with a little more pickle juice to cut through the richness and echo the flavor of the potatoes. I’ll bet there’s a jar in your fridge, with a lonely pickle or two bobbing in a sea of brine. This recipe is the perfect excuse to put those pickles out of their misery.
- 3 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼-inch rounds
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons pickle brine
- Canola oil, for frying
- 1 cup Basic Tehina Sauce
- ¼ cup harissa (see below)
- Combine the potatoes and the 2 cups pickle brine in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready to cook the potatoes, drain them well and pat dry with paper towels.
- Add ¼ inch oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Working in batches to avoid crowding the skillet, add the potatoes in a single layer and fry until brown and crisp on the outside and tender within, about 3 minutes per side.
- To make the harissa tehina, whisk together the tehina sauce and the 2 tablespoons pickle brine. Stir in the harissa—I like it when the sauce looks a bit broken and streaky. Serve the potatoes with the tehina sauce.
- Harissa: Harissa is the famous North African red pepper sauce that’s most commonly used to spice up couscous and is so essential to my cooking. Excellent versions are available in jars and tubes. Here’s our Zahav recipe if you’d like to master your own. We call it by its Hebrew name harif, which means spicy.
- Combine ½ cup ground Aleppo peppers, 1 garlic clove, 1½ tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, a pinch each of ground coriander and ground caraway and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Blend in a food processor to a course puree. Add ¼ cup canola oil and process for another few seconds. Stop short of making it perfectly smooth. Refrigerated, harissa will keep 2 weeks.
- “Fried Potatoes with Harissa Tehina” from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. Copyright ©2015 by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
- Photograph from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Photography copyright ©2015 by Michael Persico. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.