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

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Roast Potato Taste Test

Dinner was at 10.30 last night, so we just got on and ate it. Despite the lack of a blindfold, we compared roast potato cutting techniques, and came up with a surprise conclusion.

In fact, there are a couple of surprises here, for all those people who think, as I do, that the perfect roast potato is made by parboiling, then shaking before adding oil. You'll be thrilled to hear that you do not actually have to model the Eiffel Tower (see picture below of Horatio with his piece de resistance). But, amazingly, we did find it was worth making a hole through the potato (for example, when you've made a flower-shaped roastie to please your mother) ... because the potato taste shines through with a sweetness that was unmistakable and remarked on separately by all those who were lucky enough to get a holey one. There was a lot of talking and not much listening going on, so you can be sure that each person who noticed this was forming his/her own judgement. We used that acme of roasting potatoes, the King Edward.

The other surprise has ended a running battle in this house, and I have lost. Whenever Lucius makes roast potatoes (he is occasionally cornered into this by the demands of family life), he drapes them in - bacon. If I notice this happening, I always say that the potatoes will be soggy, and will not go crisp. Up until now, I have been right. But the boys have found that this has nothing whatever to do with the bacon and everything to do with the oven temperature. Which should be very hot. Obviously. But I'm going to have one last defiant skirmish - if you drape the potatoes in bacon (it's better than olive oil, mum - only I notice he used olive oil as well) then you get little crumbs of completely hard, slightly burnt (and not very nice) bacon every so often.

In the end, everyone was allowed to contribute two sentences to sum up. You may therefore find some of the punctuation a little peculiar. I'm giving the comments in the order they were made.

Alfred: The best roast potatoes ever, the most fun to eat. It's like a funfair in your mouth. Modest boy.

Lucius: They were very good, but we're having them with salmon and no gravy which made comparisons difficult. They were very crispy. This is not a normal menu in this house, but the shopping had been done by the time the tasting was found to be imperative.

Lettice: They were a bit burnt. Too many different sizes, so I'm eating burn and I don't like the taste of burn (H: "extraordinary, I love it"), in a way they're a bit too crispy, they've got a shell.

Horatio was rather nettled by this last comment; his original stance was a good chef never comments, however sibling rivalry prevailed:

Horatio: I aimed for a pork scratching. The bottom half of the Eiffel Tower was excellent, but as oxygen thinned, taste decreased. What he means is that the fat bit at the bottom was just about edible, but even the dogs wouldn't eat the thin bit at the top.

It was generally agreed that the experiment would have been more successful if the trimmings from all that carving had been cooked separately, both as they boiled and as they roasted. (Please note the ingrained dislike of food waste, this was a fine maternal hour.) It was also generally agreed that further work on this might have to be done this week. Perhaps not with salmon next time.

PS my favourite roast potatoes are completely different ... whole new potatoes, the smaller the better, roasted from raw with the entire contents of a tin of anchovies in olive oil. Fabulous. Known as girlie roast potatoes in this house, because Eleanor, Lettice and I love them, whereas the chaps all see it as a waste of an opportunity to have "real" roasties. Covered in bacon.


Anonymous said...

What a fun post! Love it that the boys got into the contest in the kitchen! Cute guys. Works of art - loved the heart, flower and of course the Eiffel Tower. Very creative! Personally, I just cut my raw potatoes into cubes (smaller for crispier - no works of art), drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, cracked pepper and fresh herbs. Roast at 450 degrees for about 45 minutes or longer for crispier. Sometimes I turn them half way through, if I remember! Thanks for such a good time with potatoes!

Anonymous said...

What fun! And a good set of photos too.

Anonymous said...

Love the idea, the slide show and the potato shapes. A great way to get all the family involved in cooking and having fun together. An inspriation to us all.
Sara from farmingfriends

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Fantastic Joanna, I loved the slide show. What a lovely family memory for you all too.

Chris said...

Wonderful post, Joanna! Love the slide show!! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Joanna

Just found your blog through the UK Food Bloggers Association - it's great! It just means another one I have to check every day (the list is ever growing).

Love your roasties - though I don't think I'll be creating twenty little eiffel towers anytime soon!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

That is just out of sight fun! Those boys are real cuties (you can keep that secret if need be).
And the potatoes - this proves to me that more people doing in the kitchen multiplys fun exponentially.
And since I love potatoes, I hope one day I can have potatoes like these in your kitchen.
Really good times Joanna! Fabulous post!!!

Cottage Smallholder said...

This is such a fun idea, Joanna. It's interesting about the holes. Love the sound of the anchovies.

Joanna said...

Well, as you see, we all had fun ... but - like Richard - I don't think I'm going to be making Eiffel Tower potatoes, or cooking them with bacon. I like Sue's idea of adding fresh herbs, that would make a good change from the traditional way.

It's true, Tanna, lots of people in the kitchen is more fun, just so long as they're the only ones doing the eating, and it doesn't matter if dinner is at midnight. I'll have to dream up another challenge, although this time I think I'll have to try to make it a little healthier!

The anchovy potatoes are really good, worth trying, especially when you're in a hurry, because there's no peeling or parboiling involved.