We all come to the kitchen with a different level of experience. Maybe you grew up around the stove with your mom or you've taught yourself through trial and error and many Food Network episodes or you've stayed away completely because you're scared of failing. I think our audience here is largely somewhere in the middle of all that, a practiced homecook, but I thought it'd be nice to incorporate a number of posts that are cornerstones of our families table. This may seem redundant and boring for some or maybe a step forward for those that want to be confident in a few recipes so they can feel good about cooking for other people. I also feel like having basics down helps you to experiment just outside of them. You mastered roasted potatoes? You can do the same thing with cauliflower or other root vegetables, no problem. Now you basically have three sides down, perhaps change up the seasonings next time? Go, you. I took a Food Science class in college and read a book called What Einstein Told His Cook (wish I knew where that was now) and it helped me to understand the why about food, instead of just blindly following a recipe. I've made A LOT of bad potatoes before consistently making good ones.
These potatoes look pretty basic at first glance, but it's a few details that make them delicious every time. A few notes from the field:
- I use a mix of potatoes for flavor and texture and because they look pretty. You can use all one kind in the same volume with the same results. I wouldn't use more than one sweet potato if you go for the mix because they have a higher water content which means they'll cook faster and keep the potatoes from crisping. This is also why I par boil any other potatoes besides the sweet, it allows the potatoes to get ahead so you can roast them at a higher heat for browning without burning them before the centers are cooked through.
- Do not overcrowd! Leave the potatoes enough space for the edges to brown. Overcrowding = steaming = no crisping. It's also good to let them give off a little steam before transferring to a serving dish if you're going to pile them on top of each other. We usually just scoop from the sheet pan because we're very fancy.
- Potatoes love salt, don't be shy, but remember it's always easier to add than take away so I will finish with a little more if I didn't add enough before the roast. I use garlic powder instead of fresh garlic because the later burns with 40 minutes in the oven. The herbs are better after for the same reason, and because the vibrant green is pretty on brown foods.
In other news, I am hosting a book event with Heritage Mercantile in Costa Mesa, CA on 11/13 from 3-5pm. You can sign up on that link so we can get a head count. Would love to meet you if you're in the area!
MIXED ROASTED POTATOES // Serves 4
This recipe can be doubled but you will for sure need two large sheet pans. The garlic here will roast with the potatoes to be smooth and delicious, we smush some out of the skin and dip our fork in it before taking a bite of potato.
The par boil and chopping may be done in advance. I don't like to keep them in the fridge but you can do this morning of or even the night before and let them sit out at room temp until you are ready to roast.
These love a little sprinkle of parmesan in the last minute of roasting too if you're into that sort of thing.
2.5-3 lbs. mixed potatoes*
3 whole garlic cloves, whole, in peel
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
3 Tbsp. rosemary
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
zest of one small lemon
In a large pot, combine the baby red, white, purple potatoes and the larger fingerlings - if they're the volume of a ping pong ball or more, the smaller ones can stay raw. Bring the water to a gentle boil and cook for 10 minutes, drain and cool to the touch. Preheat the oven to 400'.
Peel the sweet potato and cut it into larger 2" chunks. Leave smaller fingerlings whole and hack larger ones in half or thirds. Cut the remaining baby potatoes into 1" and 2" chunks - go for uneven, imperfect chunks for lots of edges. Collect all the potatoes and the garlic cloves on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, garlic powder, smoked paprika, pepper and salt and toss everything to coat. The potatoes should be generously coated, add a little more oil if needed. Sprinkle a little more salt on top.
Bake in the upper third of the oven for 35-40 minutes, stirring once, gently, halfway through, until browned on the edges and the largest potato chunk can be easily pierced.
While the potatoes roast, chop your rosemary, parsley and lemon zest.
Pull the potatoes and let them cool for a moment. Add the herbs and lemon zest to the baking tray and stir to mix. Taste for salt. Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy warm.
* I use one medium sweet potato, and the rest a mixture of baby red, baby white, baby purple and fingerlings. Trader Joes sells a small medley bag.