Thursday, June 17, 2010

Recipe: Perfect Roasted Potatoes

Whether they're fried, baked, mashed, or roasted, I think potatoes are the ultimate comfort food.  My longstanding love affair with potatoes stems from my mother, who derives no particular joy from cooking but will make an exception when it comes to potatoes. I remember eating a lot of baked potatoes as a child, but occasionally - and this was a real treat - we'd have them tossed with dried rosemary and roasted until the skins attained a satisfying crunch. Other than peas (yes, really), I think roasted potatoes were my most often-requested dish growing up.

I don't think we ever had herbs that weren't straight from the spice rack in my house, so it was quite a revelation when I discovered how fresh herbs and whole cloves of garlic could elevate my favorite potato preparation. Still, I hardly ever made roasted potatoes - most recipes call for 45 minutes or more of roasting, and I don't always have that kind of time to devote to a side dish (plus, I hate scrubbing potatoes). I tried roasting them at different temperatures to speed up the process, but while setting my oven to 425F or higher shortened the cooking time, the high heat shriveled the garlic cloves and dried out my fresh herbs beyond recognition.

Recently I've hit upon a smack-myself-on-the-forehead kind of solution: parboiling the potatoes. The salted water imparts flavor to the potatoes, and boiling them for five minutes knocks at least fifteen minutes off the roasting time - which means you can use a lower temperature and keep the garlic and herbs from drying out. Why didn't I think of this years ago?? Along with a couple of other useful tips which I'll outline below, I think I've finally found the recipe for perfect roasted potatoes.

Recipe: Perfect Roasted Potatoes
1 lb small red-skinned potatoes
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
5-6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
Handful fresh herbs, roughly chopped (rosemary, sage, thyme, tarragon - anything you have on hand will work)

Preheat your oven to 400F and set a pot of water to boil.  Clean and quarter the potatoes, leaving skins on.


When water is at a rolling boil, salt it heavily and add the potatoes. Cook for five minutes.


Meanwhile, wash and chop your fresh herbs.

Just before draining the potatoes, pool the olive oil in the center of your baking sheet and cover with foil, then put it in the oven.  Drain the cooking water out of the pot, then replace the lid. Now this is the fun part. Holding the lid on, shake the pot until potatoes are banged up and soft around the edges.

This somewhat unorthodox step serves two purposes: the potatoes will come out more tender and evenly cooked, and your herbs will stick to them better. Plus, it's kind of fun.

Take the hot baking sheet out of the oven, remove the foil, and pile your potatoes in the center. You should hear a satisfying sizzle.  Stir the potatoes around in the oil, add your herbs and however many whole cloves of garlic you like, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast for about fifteen minutes undisturbed, then stir the potatoes every five minutes or so to prevent sticking.  Cook for 30 minutes total, or until the potatoes have the desired texture.

Voila! The shorter cooking time keeps the herbs from drying out too much, and your garlic will be roasted just to the point where it's soft enough to eat whole or mash in with the potatoes. Even better, you'll have perfect roasted potatoes with just the right balance of tenderness and crunch.

Serves 2 as a side, or, let's admit it, 1 as a meal.


  1. Mmmmm!! More potato recipes please!
    My love of potatoes is from Grandpa!

  2. Oh yum, two of my favorite things in the world -- potatoes and garlic. <3