Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'd Rather Live to Eat

Potatoes and I do not always share a loving relationship. Yes, I know that they're dirt-cheap. Yes, I know that they're a staple to many. Yes, I know that they drive our local economy. I'm also aware that a New Brunswicker speaking out against potatoes is like Raffi speaking out against children. Forgive me, but my problem with potatoes is that they're just a little…they don't always…I just can't seem to…OK, they're boring. Boring, boring, boring! There, I said it.

There's just something so depressing about a group of plain, boiled potato chunks sitting in a sad mound on a dinner plate. Just like everyone else who grew up with this kind of potato as an accompaniment to most meals, when faced with them, I simply eat them as quickly as possible before moving on to the rest of my meal. Well, now I say, that's ridiculous! Food shouldn't be so boring that it is shoved absent-mindedly down our throats, just because it's there! How SAD that we waste so much foodie potential on these unexciting vehicles for butter and salt! I call for CHANGE! Change we can BELIEVE in! DOWN with mediocre potatoes; NO excuses! Rah! Rah! Rah!

In my quest over the years to make potatoes more exciting, I've read many different recipes and have even tried a few of them. It turns out that making potatoes into a gourmet side dish that you will want to savour is surprisingly easy; really, once you move away from the boil-and-serve method, they can very enjoyable! I have cut baby new potatoes in half, poked holes in them, and let them soak up a Greek-inspired marinade before grilling them to a tasty crisp on the barbecue; I have also roasted quartered potatoes in olive oil and lots of salt, pepper, and rosemary until they formed golden crusts. I'm happy to report that both of these preparations led to success, and potatoes began to find a tiny little place in my heart (or, more like a giant place in my stomach).

While those attempts were all well and good, a recent find has knocked all of the other potato recipes out of the park. The recipe I'm about to share with you is the absolute best way to prepare potatoes, hands down. Are you sure you're ready for this? I'm warning you, you'll never be the same.

In this recipe, baby potatoes are boiled, smashed to within an inch of their life, drizzled with olive oil, and then roasted. Boiled, then roasted. Genius! The result is a perfectly crispy potato with just a bit of a fluffy interior. Jeff and I prepared them for a dinner party a few weeks ago, and they were perfect.

Here they are, re-warmed in the oven for a mid-morning brunch, just as good as the first time.
Crispy, smashed, roasted. Mmmmmmmm. We may yet become friends, potatoes.

Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes
From The Best of Fine Cooking: Roasting Magazine, 2008-2009

Amanda's notes: I used a masher instead of towels to flatten the potatoes. The bottom of drinking a glass would probably do just fine as well. I didn't bother laying them on towels to cool; I smashed them directly on the foil- and parchment-lined pan that ended up going in the oven. In addition to lots of salt and pepper, Jeff sprinkled a bit of garlic powder and rosemary onto the potatoes before roasting. Although I didn't think of it at the time, sprinkling some chopped green onions on them before serving would also be delicious.

12 to 15 baby red or yellow potatoes (about 1-1/2 oz. each; 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter)
2-3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Boil the potatoes:
Put the potatoes in a large saucepan (preferably in one layer) and cover with at least an inch of water. Add 2 tsp. kosher salt to the water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook the potatoes until they are completely tender and can be easily pierced with a metal or wood skewer. Make sure they are cooked through but don't overcook. The total cooking time will be 30 to 35 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, set up a double layer of clean dishtowels on your countertop. As the potatoes finish cooking, remove them individually from the water, and let them drain and sit for just a minute or two on the dishtowels.

Flatten and cool the potatoes:
Fold another dishtowel into quarters, and using it as a cover, gently press down on one potato with the palm of your hand to flatten it to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Repeat with all the potatoes. Don't worry if some break apart a bit; you can still use them.

Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; put a sheet of parchment on top of the foil. Transfer the flattened potatoes carefully to the baking sheet and let them cool completely at room temperature.

Roast the potatoes:
Remove the pan of potatoes from the refrigerator, if prepared ahead. Heat the oven to 450°F. Alternatively, if you have a convection function, turn it on and set the temperature at 400°F. Sprinkle the potatoes with about 3/4 tsp. salt and pour the olive oil over them. Lift the potatoes gently to make sure some of the oil goes underneath them and that they are well coated on both sides. Roast the potatoes until they're crispy and deep brown around the edges, about 30 minutes if using a convection oven, 30 to 40 minutes if roasting conventionally, turning over once gently with a spatula or tongs halfway through cooking. Serve hot.


  1. Souds SO YUM! We should make these while you're here!

  2. I know you'll love them! Let's DO it!

  3. Nah, changed my mind.

    Just kidding!

  4. I'm wondering how to do this with sweet potatoes? Maybe just mash everything up after boiling, and then form flattened balls for the roasting stage? I've been looking for a new way to spice those up a bit. :) Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Ooooooh, I love sweet potatoes! I eat them all of the time, but I never thought about doing them this way. Great idea!

    Yeah, maybe making little "cakes" out of the mash would work. Or, maybe keeping them in big chunks after boiling, and smashing those up individually? Not sure how they would hold together, since they're definitely not as firm as real potatoes (I'm pretty sure they're only distantly related)...I smell an experiment! How exciting!

    Thank YOU for the inspiration! :) Let me know if you try it out.

  6. Best potatoes ever! Crisp and flavourful on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside.

  7. This does sound like a great way to enjoy potatoes!