The perfect roast potato

Guest blogger Barry C. Parsons cooks up a potato revolution

The time has come for a potato revolution!

To be clear at the outset, I am not here to disparage the simple but somewhat utilitarian boiled potato. The boiled potato stands on its own merits and has served many a Jigg’s Dinner admirably over the centuries. Even if familiarity has not bred contempt for this most common of boiled vegetables, one could never be blamed for proclaiming it, well, not to be unkind but…boring.

Having taken so much of our culinary heritage in this province from the United Kingdom, I have always thought it curiously surprising that we never adopted the iconic British roast potato into our own traditional fare. If a juicy beef joint or succulent chicken is king of the time-honoured British “Sunday Roast”, then the roast potato is certainly a crown prince. Roasted in oil, butter, or even in goose or other animal fat, no proper British Sunday dinner would be complete without them and once you’ve sampled a well prepared roast potato, I’ve no doubt you’ll discover why.

The straight-forward method of making these is also the secret to their success. The potatoes are parboiled before roasting, which loosens up the starches at the surface. A “dry” potato like a plain, dependable, old russet variety is best for roast potatoes because their surface starches break down more easily. The fat then combines with those surface starches to create a crispy exterior which surrounds a piping hot, almost creamy, center.

With their crispy jackets and steaming fluffy inside, my family finds these spuds irresistible. My eleven year old son, in particular, loves them; often having second and third helpings. We like to roast garlic along with the potatoes to squeeze the sweet, sticky, roasted cloves onto our plates to be eaten along with the potatoes and a generous dollop of sour cream; truly one of the simplest and best things I have ever eaten. Give this almost effortless recipe a try and you’ll see why I say so. Viva la revolution!

Roast Potatoes

6 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled

Parboil the potatoes in salted water for about 5 minutes. Some people prefer to boil them longer; up to 8 minutes or so. This will produce a thicker and crispier jacket to the potato if you prefer.

Meanwhile in a 375 degree F oven, heat a baking pan of sufficient size to hold your potatoes without crowding them. A glass or metal pan is fine, as long as it is well heated beforehand. This will help to prevent the potatoes from sticking to the pan.

After parboiling, drain the potatoes and let them stand for 5 minutes. Then toss the potatoes with:

¼ cup olive oil (butter or other oil will work as well; a butter/olive oil combination is very good too)

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp cracked black pepper

1 whole garlic bulb broken into about 4 pieces (optional)

Transfer the seasoned potatoes, garlic and oil to the hot baking pan. These should sizzle as they hit the pan; a good indication that they will not stick. Roast the potatoes for about 60-75 minutes or until they are nicely golden brown all over, turning them every 20 minutes or so. After the first 10 minutes, give the pan a shake to make sure the potatoes are not stuck to it. The roasted garlic may have to be removed before the potatoes are finished as it generally cooks faster.

For more revolutionary recipes visit the chef’s blog Rock Recipes

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