Thursday, October 1, 2009

Roast Potato Challenge?

I've been getting sort of down on Cook's Illustrated lately... either the dishes haven't been that interesting, or they are ones where their "improvements" to justify a redo of a classic have been... at best trivial... or at worst detrimental. However, I gotta say... in browsing recipes last night, I noticed that the fall issue is out (online for $$$ - all the links hereafter to Cook's Illustrated's website are behind a subscription gate unfortunately), and it's got some pretty interesting dishes... two of which are revisions of classic "Best" recipes that I've used successfully in the past, but where I'm actually intrigued by their modifications for a change. They've got a cassoulet that seems worth exploring more in depth in a later post (at least the version with duck confit, as I'm too hardcore infatuated with the dish to mess with facsimiles), a chicken "bouillabaisse" I might give a shot (a chance to make rouille at least), and last... but certainly not least... a roasted potatoes recipe.

I believe I've made my (very strong) opinions regarding how potatoes should to be roasted pretty clear: 1) you can only do them in the oven, and 2) there needs to be a parcooking phase. I've been more than satisfied with the version from The New Best Recipe, which accomplishes its parcooking by covering the roasting pan with foil for the first half of cooking so that the potatoes steam in their own moisture. Besides producing perfect potatoes, this recipe has the advantage of being very simple and using only one pan.

The new Cook's Illustrated recipe gets the (allegedly) moist creamy interior action going by parboiling on the stove top... dirtying an extra pan... but you are much more in control, so it seems like it might produce more consistent results. They also "roughly toss" the potatoes with the oil and salt, which is supposed to build up some coating that turns super crispy or something... intriguing indeed... we'll just have to see.

I can't honestly say I expect this to be a really big improvement on The New Best Recipe, as I suspect it may be complicating a recipe for no real gain, but it's at least interesting... and if I find the parboiling works really well (and it should) and the rough tossing does wonders (it could), I might try to use those techniques to make skillet roasted potatoes that don't suck. So I should get something tasty as well as some new ideas out of it no matter what... which is all you can really hope for in a new recipe.

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