In British households the roast potato is king at Christmas. No other cooking method can live up to the shining glory of a great roast spud.
I had a bit of trouble wrapping my head around the whole mashed potato at Thanksgiving thing, because in many other respects Thanksgiving dinner looks like the British Christmas dinner. Why were people eschewing the roastie?! I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But it’s okay. You can have your T-Day mash if I can have my Chrimbo roast potato.
If you can’t tell already, I’ve been thinking a LOT about this recently. Christmas is a-coming and Dan and I have been charged with planning two Christmas dinners, which we’re mightily excited about. You could say I’ve got my game face on when it comes to serving up really good roasties.
So, what makes a great roast potato? To me it must be fluffy on the inside and wonderfully crisp on the outside.
There are a few secrets I’ve discovered to really perfect roast potatoes:
> par-boil your potatoes for just a couple of minutes so they’re nice and fluffy before you begin.
> give them a vigorous shake as you drain them which will help the fluffiness, as will dusting them with a teaspoon or two of flour.
> make sure your oil or fat of choice is really, really hot before you pop the tats in the pan.
Taking inspiration from my friend Tyler, I’ve decided that cooking said tats in goose or duck fat adds a luxurious twist that is wholly appropriate for something like Christmas dinner. You don’t need it for great roasties, obviously, but it adds a blooming lovely depth of flavour. Lu-xu-ry.
I got more help on technique from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Angela Nilsen.
If all this seems like far too much fuss for a potato then you, my dear, have never had an outstanding roast potato. It’s a thing to truly be revered and adored. The things food dreams are made of.
Will you be having them with your Christmas dinner this year? Tell me your secrets to perfect spuds!
Perfect Roast Potatoes
- 1 kg/ 2.2lbs potatoes (I recommend these UK varieties: Maris Piper, Cara, Kind Edward – and these American: Russet or Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into fairly small even-sized pieces
- 100g/ 3.5oz duck or goose fat, or 100ml/3½fl oz olive oil (Clancey’s in Linden Hills is a great resource in Minneapolis)
- 2 tsp flour
- Sea salt, to serve
- Place an empty roasting tin in your oven and heat it to 200C/400F.
- Put your potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a rolling boil. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and leave the potatoes for 2 minutes. While they are par-boiling, add your fat of choice to the roasting pan in the oven to get nice and hot.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander, shaking them around enough to fluff them up a bit and give them a rough texture. Add the flour and shake to cover evenly and thinly.
- Carefully place the potatoes in the roasting pan – the hot fat will sizzle intensely so watch out! – and turn them over so all sides are covered in fat. Spread them in a single layer, making sure they have plenty of room.
- Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and turn over. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes, then turn them over again, each time making sure they are well coated with fat/oil. Put them back in the oven for another 10-20 mins, or however long it takes for them to get really golden brown and crisp. The colouring might not be even, but that’s fine. Some darker sides and some lighter are ideal.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt and serve straight away. Serves four, as part of a meal.
Note: If your potatoes seem too oily when you remove them from the oven, feel free to put them on a paper towel for a couple of minutes to soak up some moisture.