Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crisp Roasted Potatoes

Gave this recipe from Cook's Illustrated (subscription required) a go again last night, and was more satisfied with the results since I didn't crowd the cookie sheet, but I'm still not sure about the following "innovation":
A rougher surface offers more escape routes for moisture than the flat surface of a raw potato, and the damaged exterior cells surrender their moisture more readily than intact cells. So why not rough up the surface even more? We tossed the potatoes vigorously with olive oil and salt, forming a thick layer resembling mashed potatoes on the exterior. Once roasted, the spuds were crisper than ever—and nicely seasoned, to boot.

Maybe I'm just too timid with the vigorous tossing, but I really didn't notice any effect with the starchy coating... it just seems to evaporate in the oven.

The recipe does result in a creamy interior and crisp exterior... but it still takes about an hour to make them, and you've got to keep an eye on a dutch oven full of water and 1/2" potato slices so they don't overcook... which takes a fair amount of time to come to a boil in the parcooking phase... so it's not as hands off as the classic recipe. The author of this recipe claimed not to like the texture from steaming quite as much... I don't agree, as I think they're fairly similar... but YMMV.

The recipe is basically this: slice about 2.5 pounds of Yukon Golds into 1/2" rounds, making sure they'll fit into a single layer on a cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 450 with the cookie sheet on lowest rack. Put the potatoes in a dutch oven and cover with cold water and add in a tablespoon of salt. Bring 'em to a boil and then simmer until they're almost cooked through (still resistance in the middle) - about 5 minutes. Toss them with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt... then add 2 more tablespoons and another 1/2 teaspoon of salt and toss for 1 to 2 minutes. This is where you build up the starchy coating... so get closer to 2 minutes, I guess, if you buy their crispiness argument. Then it's onto the preheated cookie sheet (ends skin side down) 15-25 minutes to brown first side... flip... then 10-20 minutes to brown the second. If your oven has problems browning evenly, you can obviously rotate the pan one or two times in there... but I didn't find it necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Eat.

I think what would make this a significantly better recipe is to cut it down to skillet size and to figure the timing to get it done all on the stove top... it makes good roasted potatoes, but I'm not really sure they're enough of an improvement to justify the extra steps and increased number of dirty dishes from they way I roast potatoes currently.

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