Viudo (Widowed Potatoes)

 I love things that I can make out of the pantry.  Certain foods stay delicious when canned–canned tomatoes, packed when fresh, are far superior to mid-winter specimens.  Canned sardines are a peculiar taste of mine, perhaps, that I can only trace back to pregnancy (the are so good packed in mustard!).  Things like onions, potatoes and garlic don’t keep quite as long as industrially prepared cans of food, but sure can be kept on hand rather easily.

No wonder the recipe for Viudo (widowed potatoes) that I saw in last week’s Washington Post was a must try.  Widowed perhaps as they don’t have red meat but rather dried or canned fish.  Ransacking the pantry for what keeps the longest?  Who knows. 

By the way, I know I am risking you turning away in horror at my showcasing of this next ingredient.  But keep reading!  It’s good!



Easy to make on a weeknight as well.  The longest task is peeling and chopping all those potatoes.  I am not particularly fast at it and eventually they always start jumping out of my hand.  I remember being in the Czech Republic, where you could tell people made potatoes all the time as they didn’t use some sissy vegetable peeler but a knife.  I can’t say I mastered it.  I pressed onwards and of course dropped each peeled potato in cold water to rinse out the extra starch.  Probably not so necessary in this recipe, and I did not do so when the potatoes were all chopped up but rather added them directly to the pot.  In contrast, in a gratin with nicely scalloped potatoes you’d want to rinse them all again so they don’t stick together but rather delicately separate from each other under your fork.  (This bit of knowledge from the big JC–by which I mean Julia Child of course!)

I made some modifications to this recipe.  First, I never have green bell peppers at hand.  I hate cooked bell peppers.  I love spicy peppers, I like paprika, but there’s something about bell peppers I can’t stand.  I also only used half a head of garlic–I would have loved to use a whole head of roasted garlic, but I wanted this to be a meal I can make when I get home from work–requiring roast garlic adds a whole hour to the process.  If I thought about it the day before I could certainly prepare some.  But I want this to be true to the rummaging in the pantry spirit, which certainly means no planning ahead!

 The only “exotic” ingredient I had, not perhaps so typical to the American pantry, was Pimenton de la Vera–Spanish smoked paprika.  (I think you could always use Hungarian paprika).  This was the first time I had used it and once the spice hit the warm pot, a very familiar scent suddenly hit me–funny how an aroma can immediately make you recall a study abroad year in Spain 10 (um, make that 11!) years ago.  Funny also how a particular smell can really define a cuisine–an aroma that seems to be in every meal in Spain, at least as my memory has it now. 

Pimenton de la Vera

Pimenton de la Vera


Adding it all in

Adding it all in


You do have to wait while all these ingredients cook together, but there’s little work involved so you can get to doing all those other things you have to get around to when you get home.  Once the potatoes are cooked, you stir in the sardines, heat through, serve and eat.  As you might expect, this is not a glamorous dish.  It’s a humble, fill you up type of dish.  But it is rather satisfying.

giving a nice stir

giving a nice stir

The final touch

The final touch

And I must note–little E loved it.  I can’t predict anything with him.  Won’t touch strawberries or cantaloupe, but practically jumps out of his high chair in excitement when he sees this coming.  Who knows.

Viudo (Widowed Potatoes)

{my version, but adapted from The Washington Post, June 3, 2009}


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 1 can of canned diced tomatoes, plus their juices
  • 3 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 7 cups)
  • 1/2 head of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 ounces oil- or water-packed sardines, draine

Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the d onion; cook, stirring often, for about 7 minutes, until softened.  Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more, just until the garlic begins to color.

Add the tomatoes with their juices, the potatoes, bay leaf, salt, smoked paprika, black pepper to taste and water. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Depending on which potatoes are used, the mixture may have thickened slightly.

Add the drained sardines and stir until heated through. Divide among individual wide shallow bowls and serve warm.

Note:  original recipe here, which itself was adapted from “My Kitchen in Spain: 225 Authentic Regional Recipes,” by Janet Mendel (HarperCollins, 2002).


4 thoughts on “Viudo (Widowed Potatoes)

  1. I LOVE canned sardines! In my childhood it always was a big hit when my mother bought canned sardines and served them on rye bread. I’ve never eaten them in a warm meal, though, so this is a must-try!!! Thanks for this recipe. I’m going to stick with the bell pepper, though – I like them cooked…

  2. I actually have never had canned sardines. Sara only you would refer to Julia Child as the “big JC.” Friends in Lawton would call that blasphamy!
    (did I spell that word right…it’s looks funny…)

  3. My mother always had a taste for sardines. They’re an inexpensive protein source and she always worked within a budget.

    I’ll try this recipe – sounds yummy.

    John Clevering

  4. Pingback: Sardine and Fennel Pasta | Three Clever Sisters

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