JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Roast potatoes: a question

Lunch today with Horatio, Lettice and Alfred, always a pleasure. The talk turned to roast potatoes, a great favourite in this house, particularly among the blokes. Last night, while I was out watching Lettice play hockey (her team won 7-0 and are now in the semi-final), Horatio and Alfred made roast potatoes out of the three spuds they found in the bottom of the veg box. This took them most of the evening, and they'd only just finished eating them when we got home at 10.20.

Men - at least the ones in my house - have a completely different take on cooking ... it seems to be a sort of running science experiment. And so, this lunchtime, the conversation went like this: We know they always get crisp on the bottom, so we have to decide how to get them crispier on the top. The sharp bits get the crispiest, so we need to cut them. Triangles would be best. No pyramids. Castles. I told them that the usual method is to shake them vigorously in the colander once you've drained them, to rough them up.

So tonight's plan is for competitive roastie-making: each of them to cut the potatoes into their chosen shape, cook those, and to shake one or two of each shape. We may have to taste them blind. Dinner may not be on the table until midnight. There will be much laughter. And they will mind - very much - who wins. As I am not cooking, I will take photographs.

Just as well I bought a large bag of King Edwards this morning.

Oh and my question is: how do YOU make your roast potatoes crunchy?


Toffeeapple said...

I make mine crunchy the same way as you do. I'm looking forward to seeing the photos of the Roast Off! I hope you have enough oil??

Magic Cochin said...

I'm with you - boiled as much as you dare before they've fallen to bits, shake to scuff them up a bit, roast in very hot goose fat (is that allowed in your heart-healthy regime?).
Some of our left over cooked new potatoes made excellent sauté potatoes fried in cold-pressed rape seed oil - this is a locally grown product I'm giving a try. Very very crispy, lovely colour and great flavour. So maybe it would be a good option for roast potatoes too?


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

This should just be super Fun, can't wait for the photos and the report.
I guess I just roast mine in the oven in olive oil and garlic, about 400°F 20 minutes and shake them around to turn them over and let them go another 20 minutes.

Joanna said...

The whole issue of roast potatoes is fairly dodgy for those limiting their cholesterol ... the standard advice is no saturated fat, which would seem to rule out goose fat. And yet there are those who say that it is in a class apart from other saturated fats, and is the healthiest fat of all. There's also the question of what happens to oils, even good oils, even cold-pressed good oils, when you heat them. I've been feeling guilty about my ignorance on all this, and now have no excuse for not getting down to some serious Jeffrey-Steingarten-style research. Maybe he's already done it, and I can just find the links!

I was brought up on the maxim, a little of what you fancy does you good ... which means that when you DO have a roast potato, it had better be the best it can be ... I think I'd better look for a good dark blindfold for the cook-off tonight


David Hall said...

Hi Joanna

I'm with you and Celia here - rough them up, hot fat or oil and into a hot oven with perhaps one turn halfway through. Rapeseed oil that Celia mentions is a good one too, I used them tonight funnily enough to make some wedges and they came out perfect with a superb aroma.


Amanda at Little Foodies said...

It all depends on how much time I have not allowed myself. If enough time, I don't pre-boil I put them in at the same time as the chicken or meat. If I do pre-boil then I bash them around.

I bought some Pampered Chef stoneware and one of their bottles that you fill with your own oil and then you can spray it on food, reducing the amount of oil you use. I have to say that I'm a big roast potato fan and using the stoneware and the spray bottle has produced some lovely roasties. I think a lot of the Pampered Chef stuff is overpriced and not worth the extra money but I do love the spray bottle, which I think you can now get from Lakeland too.

Enjoy your roasties! It will be like Heston B's - perfect.... all over again, but in your own kitchen.

farmingfriends said...

Hi Joanna,
I just peel my potatoes and roast them in a little melted lard. I don't pre-boil them and they turn out fine.
I look forward to the results of your roast potato competition.
Sara from farmingfriends

Cottage Smallholder said...

This roast potato challenge sound great fun, Joanna.

Danny par boils, shakes and uses goose fat (we keep the fat from the Christmas goose). His potatoes are the best roasties that I have ever tasted.

Linda said...

my mom has the best method i've seen so far: preboil then and then scrape each potato with a fork to make little grooves all over the surface. crispy all over- yum! and never a shortage of volunteers to scrape the potatoes!

Joanna said...

There seems to be a consensus about roughening them up a bit ... I think Linda's mom wins hands down for taking the trouble to do it with a fork - I should think they are particularly delicious!

I'm going to do some investigation into the various different types of fat - I've already found claims (not just from French farmers) that goose fat contains "good" fats as well as saturates ...

Thanks for all your thoughts - obviously there are a lot of us who take the roasting of a potato seriously!