When I met the mister oh-so-many-moons ago, he was dismayed – nay, distraught – that I had never heard of roasted potatoes, much less knew how to make them.  Mashed? Yes.  Fried? But of course.  Baked? No problem.  Gratin?  Mais oui.  But roasted so that the outside is crispy and golden and the inside is fluffy?  Nope, mom never taught me that one.

So, over the course of the last few years, I think I’ve nailed the simple roasted spud.  Gorgeous with gravy, the roasted potato might be a nice change o’ pace from your regular mash at your holiday table.  Or, if the thought of not having mash on your table is making you reach for your smelling salts (and your family reach for their torches and pitchforks), then give it a try one weekend when you’re making a roast. 

There really isn’t a recipe for this – I’m just going to go over the procedure.  The number of potatoes you decide to use is up to you.  There are only 4 things that you must have for outstanding roast potatoes – and these are MUSTS, not “well, if I have them at hand.”

  • Floury potatoes.  In the UK, we use King Edward or Maris Piper.  In the US, go for Russet potatoes.  They will give you the light and fluffy texture you want.  (General rule of thumb:  if your potato is going to be boiled and needs to hold its shape, use a waxy potato like Yukon Gold.  If you want a lovely fluffy finish like in a mash or roasted potatoes, go for Russet).
  • Hot-hot-HOT oven.  I’m talking 450-475F
  • Hot-hot-HOT oil.  Even though it has a lower smoking threshold, I like to use olive oil.  You can also use a super-light vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper.
  • 

British Roasted Potatoes – a guide:

Peel and quarter your potatoes, then place them in boiling water and cook until a sharp knife just pierces the outer 1/8of the potato.  In other words, you’re just starting the cooking process.  If you boil them too long, they’ll break down in the water (that’s what floury potatoes do).  Place them in a colander and drain well, then give the strainer a good shake back and forth to rough up the surface a bit.

In the meantime, crank up your oven to 450-475F.  On a rimmed baking sheet (if you’re making a large amount of potatoes) or pie tin (if you’re only making a few), pour enough oil to just cover the bottom of the sheet.  Do not crowd the potatoes – make sure they have enough room between them so that  they won’t cook in their own steam.  Place the oiled pan in the oven for 5-7 minutes to get super-hot.  Working quickly – but carefully – pull pan out of the oven and pour potatoes into oil.  Sizzling is exactly what you want to hear right now.  Turn each of the potatoes to coat in the oil, then season with salt and pepper and put back into the oven.  Cook for 20-25 minutes, then turn, season and continue to cook another 20-25 minutes.  The outside should turn golden and crispy.  Serve piping hot.

crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle, golden nuggets of YUM

Options:

To give the potatoes a little extra crunch, when they’re sitting in the colander, toss them with a little corn meal (not loads – you’re not making cornbread – just a tablespoon or so).  The cornmeal will cook in the oil and give it a fantastic crispiness.

Instead of using olive or vegetable oil, give yourself an extra-special treat and use  duck fat.  Believe it or not, duck fat is more like olive oil than it is animal fat and is better for you than butter.  And there’s a reason Alton Brown calls duck fat “liquid gold” – it is all kinds of tasty.  Most butchers carry it by the jar (if you’re in Atlanta, Harry’s definitely carries it).

You could also substitute a little Old Bay seasoning for the salt and pepper to give your potatoes a little kick.

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