Who doesn't love a warm, comforting dish of potatoes? Mashed or smashed, whipped or chunky, skin on or off, baked or fried, it really does not matter, people love them. They pair so nicely with meaty dishes, compliment most vegetables and make the perfect home for fatty drippings or creamy sauces to settle right in.
I, too, love potatoes, but I enjoy them in so many different ways it would be difficult to talk about each one (even as much as I like to do that, you know, talk). I'm also quite sure that if I did a quick search online, there is probably someone out there who's little heart pitter-patters for potatoes and is already blogging about the various types, uses and ways people can bring more potatoes into their lives. Therefore, I've decided that over time I will share just a few ways I enjoy them, and will leave the rest up to you.
These Rosemary-Roasted Potatoes, from chef-owner Judy Rodgers of San Francisco's Zuni Café, are not only incredibly easy to prepare, but capture the simplicity of using fresh, but very few ingredients. This is a dish that allows you to taste the actual potato. There is no butter or creamy additions that sometimes mask their true starchy taste. The only added fat is extra-virgin olive oil*, and, when using good, quality oil, it truly enhances the taste of the potatoes as it dresses the delicate, still-warm chunks.
These potatoes are salted just before boiling and only then. They are then perfectly seasoned once boiled and cooked through; no more salt is needed. Once roasted, the crisped-up rosemary adds a bit of contrasting crunch to the tender potatoes, yielding a range of textures and tastes in each bite. While roasting, the rosemary also perfumes the air with it's fresh, wintry scent, which is such a cozy and comforting smell this time of year. This dish is also a great way to put your hearty, ever-growing rosemary to use, if you are lucky enough to have an abundance of it.
Although these potatoes turn a beautiful golden-honey color while roasting, I can never get them too crispy. I was hoping for the best with the roasting pan I used, and by that I mean I was hoping it would have allowed these potato chunks to cook more and stick to the bottom so I would have to scrap up lovely browned bits of potato. I may leave some skin on next time, use less than the 1/4 cup of oil suggested, set the oven temperature higher than 400º or perhaps place the rack in the upper 1/3 of the oven. You may have some handy tricks of your own, so please use, and please pass them on!
*The Zuni Café usually prepares this recipe with extra-virgin olive oil, but during the winter, the café sometimes substitutes duck fat to serve the potatoes with poultry, or rendered beef fat, to accompany beef. D'Artagnan is my favorite brand of duck fat, found in some grocery stores and many specialty stores. I will frequently ask my local butchers or stop at an Asian market for rendered beef fat, given to me at no charge or for less than a dollar. Get to know your butcher, or ask nicely!
(adapted from The Zuni Café Cookbook, by Judy Rodgers)
*1-11/2 pounds peeled yellow-fleshed potatoes, cut into irregular 1-1 1/2 inch chunks
*spring of fresh rosemary
*1/4 cup of good extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400º.
Place the peeled, cut potatoes in a large dish and add cold water to cover by a few inches. Salt the water and stir to dissolve. Taste the water, as it should be well-seasoned. I use about 1 1/2 teaspoons per quart of water (so for this dish I used maybe a touch more than 2 1/4 teaspoons of salt). Bring to a simmer over high heat and stir again, and then reduce the heat to just hold the simmer. Cook until the potatoes are soft on the edges and tender inside, 6-12 minutes, depending on the variety of potato and the size of the chunks. Drain well and taste. The potatoes should be perfectly seasoned as is. Place in a bowl while still warm.
Strip a spring of rosemary of its leaves and smash and bruise them with the back of of a knife blade to release their wonderful, fresh smell. Add them to the bowl of warm potatoes and then drizzle in the olive oil. Gently toss the tender potatoes, so as to coat them evenly with oil. The potatoes will both soak up and shed into the oil.
Transfer the potatoes to a wide, shallow roasting pan and spread in a single layer for even roasting. Roast until golden about 20-25 minutes, or longer if you are determined to get some browned, crispy chunks and bits. This dish will serve about 4 people.