Readers Question: Herb-Roasted Potatoes

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04 Dec Readers Question: Herb-Roasted Potatoes

Herb-Roasted Potatoes

This is another of James Ingram’s photos, snatched from the pages of Michael Smith’s The Best of Chef at Home because I was too hungry to take a shot. In my defense, these potatoes were cooked alongside the Apple Roast Chicken so it was one monumental act of gluttony on my behalf, not two.

When I saw this recipe, I realized it answered a couple of reader questions, so in a move of pure altruism, I elected to cook this dish instead of the equally tantalizing Oven-Crisped Potatoes or Twice-Baked Potatoes.

Terry of Beamsville, Ontario asked:

Why is that sometimes when I make roast potatoes, they come out crispy, and other times they don’t? I think I’m doing things the same way but my results aren’t consistent. Thanks.

While Lillian of Whitby, Ontario wonders has a similar issue. She writes:

Whenever I roast potatoes, half of them come out burnt and the other half uncooked?

As Smith says, the secret is in a two step process: Boil then brown.

I’d also add that you need to cook potatoes of similar sizes, or cut them to similar size before boiling and roasting. And when roasting them, don’t pile them high. Make sure you pick a pan that allows the potatoes to lie in a relatively thin layer, otherwise the ones in the middle won’t crisp.

Other than that, if you can boil water and turn on an oven you should be able to make crispy, golden roasted potatoes that leave everyone fighting for seconds.

Are you a potato fan? If so, how do you like them?

Herb-Roasted Potatoes

Excerpt with permission from The Best of Chef at Home: Essential Recipes for Today’s Kitchen By Chef Michael Smith. Published by Whitecap Books 2009.

The secret to perfectly oven-roasted potatoes is a two-step process. First, gently boil and cook potatoes through, then rapidly roast and brown them. The resulting crisp exterior and tender interior are quite addictive.

Serves 4

  • 1 lb (500 g) of any potato, large or small (unpeeled)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) of olive oil
  • a sprinkle or two of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a sprinkle or two of thyme or rosemary, dried or fresh
  • chopped parsley and/or a few sliced green onions, for serving

Cover the potatoes with salted water and bring to a simmer, cooking just until tender. Alternatively steam the potatoes until they’re just tender.

When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into large bite-sized chunks. Depending on the size of the potato, this may mean simply cutting a smaller one in half or a larger one into 6 or 8 pieces.

Meanwhile, place a baking pan, casserole dish or large skillet in your oven and preheat it to 375°F (190°C). When the potatoes are done, toss them with the olive oil, thyme or rosemary and salt and pepper, coating each piece evenly.

Carefully add them to the preheated pan. The heat of the pan will help keep them from sticking.

Roast until golden brown and crunchy, about 30 minutes or so. Stir occasionally to help them brown evenly.

Just before serving toss with the parsley or green onions or both.

Freestyle Variations

Try tossing the freshly roasted potatoes with a few handfuls of baby spinach.

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No Comments
  • Lisa MacColl
    Posted at 10:41h, 04 December Reply

    So THAT’S what I’ve been doing wrong…my sweet potato fries have been “cajun inspired” (Read-BLACKENED, burnt…)although we ate them anyway.

    Will need to try this.

    Thanks Charmian, as always you save me from myself and my culinary disasters.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:27h, 07 December Reply

      I’m sure you don’t have as many culinary disasters as you say. I’ve had your baking and it’s great!

      Not sure how this would work with sweet potatoes since they are different vegetables, but I see no reason this trick wouldn’t work. I’d be curious to know how your boil-then-bake sweet potatoes turn out. I usually must cut mine in chunks, toss in oil and bake at 350F to 375F. The trick to sweet potatoes is to cut the pieces into fairly even pieces and stir ever 15 minutes.

      Anyone else have sweet potato tricks?

      • Cheryl Arkison
        Posted at 13:44h, 08 December Reply

        @Charmian Christie, I would echo the stirring recommendation. I cut mine like fries and stir at least once when roasting.

        • Charmian Christie
          Posted at 16:32h, 08 December Reply

          Cut like fries? Nice idea. I bet they’re better than French fries — and way less fattening.

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 11:58h, 04 December Reply

    My Irish dad will die of embarrassment when I say this … but … I could take or leave potatoes. Sure, I like them, especially baked or mashed, but honestly I prefer polenta, pasta or any kind of grain over potatoes.

    ~hangs head in shame~

    That said, I make them all the time because my husband adores them any way he can get them – even boiled, which is just plain wrong! LOL

    I do like roast potatoes with a roast chicken though and I’m loving the spinach add-in idea too, Charmian.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:24h, 07 December Reply

      Potatoes can be the best dish on the table or totally forgettable. I can live without boiled potatoes, but roast them up? Better than French fries any day.

      If you try the spinach version, I’d love to know how it works for you.

  • Cheryl@5secondrule
    Posted at 13:29h, 04 December Reply

    I love this post because even though potatoes have never been at the top of my to-eat list, I did recently learn the boil-then-brown trick and it makes a HUGE difference in the overall potato-eating experience. The texture is fluffy inside/crispy outside, and yes, I could eat them happily and without complaint.

    And have you ever boiled-then-grilled little potatoes? Did that this summer for the first time — wonderful, too!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:20h, 07 December Reply

      Boil-then-grill? I think that will go into the barbecue repertoire! You’re right, the pre-boiling makes a big difference in texture. Who knew? Oh wait. Chef Michael Smith…

  • Angelique
    Posted at 15:28h, 04 December Reply

    Thanks for the tips :) I’m not a huge potato fan but it is for sure good to know how to make ’em properly! Thanks for taking the time to respond to the readers out there!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:19h, 07 December Reply

      My dad isn’t much of a potato fan either, so I certainly understand your position. These might win over the pass-on-the-potatoes crowd. If not? Can I have yoru share?

      And I’m always glad to respond to readers. They ask such good questions and I always learn something when researching their answer.

  • Terry (from Beamsville, lol)
    Posted at 17:35h, 04 December Reply

    Thanks Charmian. I will DEFINITELY be trying this out. I am making preparations right now to be the crispy potato queen of the family. (ordering a tiara, in case you’re wondering how one might prepare for such a thing). :)

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:17h, 07 December Reply

      This post has brought out a lot of royalty. Queens and princesses — there will be a rush on the tiara market. I’m sure you’ll look stunning and your potatoes will shine as bright as the gemstones.

  • Lorraine
    Posted at 23:02h, 04 December Reply

    I just ate dinner an hour ago, but after seeing your post photo of those golden, crispy roasted potatoes, I’m ready to eat again.

    I adore potatoes cooked any way–boiled, baked, mashed, fried, etc. But oven-roasted taters are an all-time favorite.

    I sometimes do a (sort of) two-step version by covering the baking dish in foil and popping the covered pan into the oven. Halfway through cooking time I remove foil–potatoes are somewhat steam-cooked–and continue roasting.

    I’m just a wee bit worried that pre-boiling will mushify the potatoes slightly. I like kind of leathery roasted potato skin that bites back a little.

    In the name of culinary science, however, I will give Chef Smith’s method a go.

    Thanks, Charmian.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:16h, 07 December Reply

      I like a crisp skin on baked potatoes, so understand your concern. If you try this, don’t overcook the potatoes, just parboil or steam until barely tender. The skin will crisp a bit, but it won’t be the same as a baked potato — but then it’s not supposed to be. The entire outside is crisp.

      By the way, when I eat oven-roasted whole potatoes, I save the skin for last because they’re my favourite part.

  • Jill
    Posted at 11:46h, 06 December Reply

    Hi Charmian; It finally happened. Without knowing it, I made a recipe on the same day you posted it. The stars have aligned! And oddly, it was my first time trying to ‘shake up’ my boring roasted potatoes. Here is what I did:

    I followed Chef Smith’s method…mostly. I peeled and cut the potatoes into similar sized chunks, then par-boiled them in salted water. I only cooked them until they were tender on the outside, and still very firm in the middle.

    I drained all the water, put the lid back on the pot, then shook (shaked?) those guys until they got sort of mushed. THEN I basted them ( I was roasting a chicken so used the drippings) and finished them in the oven in the pan w the chicken.

    Best. Potatoes. Ever. The secret, apparently, is roughing up the edges. They get all cripsy and golden. I read about this -somewhere- and can’t recall where (and if you tell me it was here I shall die of embarassment). No matter. It worked perfectly. OH, and I drained them on some paper towel before keeping them warm in the oven until the chicken was carved and ready to go.

    I served it all together, lovely sides of green beans, carrots, the beautifully browned chicken….but the potatoes all disappered first. Then seconds. While the rest of my fab dinner waited on the plates.

    Jill. New potato princess of Woodside.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:13h, 07 December Reply

      Jill, these sound amazing! Love that you used the chicken drippings. And don’t worry. I wasn’t the one that told you about roughing up the edges. That’s new to me, too!

      Thanks so much for your enthusiastic comment. I’m now going to give your roughed-up, chicken-dripping, best-ever version a try! Brownie points to the Woodside Potato Princess.

      • Jill
        Posted at 11:23h, 07 December Reply

        @Charmian Christie, mmm. brownies.

  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 15:24h, 07 December Reply

    Good idea on the chicken drippings Jill! I also like to use bacon fat for that kind of thing. Better yet, goose or duck fat it if I have it.

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 13:47h, 08 December Reply

    I’m going to add my two cents. I think red potatoes are the best for roasting. You can get that fantastic, creamy texture without the par-boil method.

    Oh, and where is the lemon? I can’t roast my potatoes without a very liberal does of lemon juice.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 16:34h, 08 December Reply

      Red potatoes are great for roasting. Thanks for mentioning this. I’m partial to Yukon Golds myself, but par-boiling will work when roasting almost any potato.

      And did you say LEMON? I love lemon on potatoes. Next time, Cheryl. Next time.

  • Elaine
    Posted at 17:38h, 05 November Reply

    I read an article by Nigella Lawson in which she gave the best method for making perfect roasted potatoes for a Christmas dinner. Peel and cut the the potatoes, parboil and drain. Put them in a large bowl and shake them to rough up the edges. Spread them on a pan and drizzle with fat and seaon. Roast in a very hot oven. I tried them and they were wonderful! Roughing up the edges increases the crisping surface.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:47h, 07 November Reply

      Roughing up the edges? Great idea. I love crispy roasted potatoes and will try this trick the next time. Thanks so much for suggesting it.

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