Chat Leftovers: Success with spuds
By George, it's Wednesday again. Are you ready for another Free Range chat? We'll be joined today at 1 by beer columnist Greg Kitsock, who just wrapped up the championship round of Beer Madness 2010, and by Lucie L. Snodgrass, who has just written a cookbook about Maryland food, farms and watermen. Come one, come all, and bring us your food conundrums and questions.
And speaking of questions, here's a leftover we couldn't get to during last week's chat. It's one I bet a lot of you out there can help with.
I need a foolproof way to make oven-roasted potatoes. This seems to be the one basic cooking thing that I mess up every time! I prefer to cut them in wedges, so usually I’ll do that, toss them in a little olive oil and salt and pepper, then put them on a baking sheet at 350. Somehow they never end up crispy on the outside like I want, and often they stick to the baking sheet, Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
I feel your pain. I've tried several roasted potato recipes that promise a crispy, crunchy exterior -- like french fries, but without frying, the guarantee always goes -- but they fall short.
The technique I use that gets me closest to your ideal is different from yours in two key ways. First, I parboil the potatoes before roasting; second, I roast at a high temperature. The two ideas are connected. The very hot oven makes for a crisper exterior, but if I started out with raw potatoes, they'd be browned before they were cooked through. The parboiling solves that problem.
I'll bet other readers have strategies to offer, but here's mine, which I adapted from one of those Cook's Illustrated best-way-to-do-this features. Try it and see how it works for you.
First, when I preheat the oven (to 450 degrees) I put a rimmed baking sheet or 9-by-13-inch pan inside the oven to get it good and hot. I parboil the potatoes (sliced into 3/4-inch rounds, but by all means, try wedges if that's what you like) for 5 minutes, then drain them and return them to the hot pan (burner turned off) with olive oil and more salt. I give the spuds a few stirs, then I cover the pan and shake it vigorously for about 2 minutes, until the slices start to look like they have a moist, starchy coating. I pull the hot pan from the oven, pour in about a teaspoon of olive oil and carefully spread it with a brush, then dump the potatoes into the pan in one layer and put it on the lowest oven rack. After 15 minutes I turn the potatoes over and roast for another 15 minutes, then flip them over again. In all, I probably keep the slices in the oven for maybe 45 minutes or longer, continuing to turn them to get them nice and brown and crisp -- not french-fry crisp, but not bad. Oh, I forgot to mention that I like to use garlic-infused oil, because otherwise the potatoes lack zip. I could probably also use fresh herbs, but I'd have to watch for burning.
I'm told that Nigella Lawson has a similar technique, except instead of olive oil, she uses goose fat. Along with the fat and salt, she adds a little semolina to the saucepan before shaking, which creates a crunchy crust on the potatoes. That sounds intriguing enough that I'm sure I'll try using semolina before long. But probably not the goose fat.
-- Jane Touzalin
April 21, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
| Tags: crisp roasted potatoes, how to roast potatoes
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