If you’re like me, Thanksgiving is taking up a lot of space in the mental hard drive. Whatever culinary energy and creativity exists must be carefully guarded for holiday preparation, not squandered on a weekday meal.
That’s where roast potatoes come in. They require almost no work and use only one pan. Roast potatoes go well with a simple dish like Baked Lemon Tarragon Chicken, poached fish, or baked acorn squash. On a hectic night I’ve been known to get an already roasted chicken from a grocery (Costco or Whole Foods in my case), throw potato wedges into the oven, add a tossed salad and bingo – dinner in no time!
When it comes to roasting, Barbara Kafka is my guru. Her book “Roasting: A Simple Art” won an award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and it is easy to see why. According to Kafka there are three requirements for roasting all types of ingredients:
- high heat
- fat (oil, butter, meat fat, or a combination) and
- a pan that has sides not higher than 2 inches and that fits the items to be roasted so that they lie flat without much space between them, but with enough room so that they do not overlap. The pan contours are important because if it is too small and the ingredients are piled on top of one another or the sides are too high, the ingredients will steam instead of roast. On the other hand, if the pan is too big, the fat will burn on the empty spaces.
Potatoes are divided into 3 categories: floury, medium-waxy and waxy. Floury potatoes have the highest starch content and waxy have the lowest, with medium-waxy in between. There are numerous varieties in each category and some potatoes begin waxy or medium-waxy and get starchier as they age. (Corn also changes characteristics as it ages, losing sweetness and becoming more starchy.)
I used one of each type below, just to show you that they will all roast well. In general floury potatoes, such as russets (the middle one below), get softer in the middle when cooked, which is why they are they are typically used for baked potatoes. The waxier the potato, the firmer it will remain, even when fully cooked. The red potato on the left is waxy and the Yukon Gold on the right is medium-waxy. Which type you use is a matter of personal taste. Try them all and decide on one, or go with whichever one you find in the store.
Servings – 2 Cost – $2
- 2 large or 3-4 small-medium potatoes
- 2 ½ teaspoons of fat (oil or butter or combination)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Small oven-proof pan (pyrex, aluminum, copper, or stainless) Mine was rectangular, about 11″ x 7″. an 8″ x 8″ square or 8″ round pie pan should work too.
- Cutting board
- Measuring spoons
- Metal pancake turner
- Fork or tongs
- Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees Farenheit (260 degrees Celsius)
- Cut potatoes into wedges by cutting each in half, then cutting each half into thirds, length-wise.
- Put the oil in the pan. If you are using some butter, you can dot the wedges after you put them in.
- Add the potato wedges, coating each one with the fat on both sides and lining them up so that they do not overlap. Sprinkle the wedges with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Roast for the wedges for 15 minutes, then carefully turn over them using the metal pancake turner and the fork or tongs, trying not to rip the bottom skin off the wedges. Roast them for another 15 minutes and they are done. (Ovens do vary and the size of the wedges makes a difference so take the 30 minute total roasting time as a guide.) As you’ll see in the first picture below, in the first 15 minutes the tops do not look brown. But when you turn them over, you’ll see that the undersides are nice and crusty brown. After they are done, use care in removing them from the pan – don’t want ot lose any of the delicous, outer skin.