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The Food Lab Holiday Special: Crispy Fingerling Potatoes with Garlic-Parmesan Butter
It's time for another round of The Food Lab. Got a suggestion for an upcoming topic? Email Kenji here, and he'll do his best to answer your queries in a future post. Become a fan of The Food Lab on Facebook or follow it on Twitter for play-by-plays on future kitchen tests and recipe experiments.
Another holiday, another recipe for ultra-crispy potatoes. Aside from stuffing, is any other side dish so well-loved? Is there anyone* who can resist a crisp, golden brown tater with a thick crust and a fluffy, steaming center? Have you ever, in the history of all holiday banquets, not run out of roast potatoes? Is it even possible to make too many or have too many recipes? If you answered "no" to all of these questions, today may well be your lucky day.
* Ten points to the smart aleck who cried out "Gollum!"
We already know the secrets of extra-crunchy potatoes, right? I mean, from our Ultra-Crispy Roast Potatoes, we know that par-boiling helps. This softens up surface starches and causes them to expand, making them easier to rough up a bit, thereby increasing surface area. More surface area = more crunch.
From the Crispy Smashed Fried Potatoes, we know that frying them at a relatively low temperature is also important. This helps that crisped up layer of dehydrated gelatinized starch build to monster thicknesses.
And finally, from our Duck Fat-Fried Fingerling Potatoes, we have learned of the passionate, unassailable, forever-to-the-end-of-time love that potatoes and duck fat have for one another. As one particularly astute commenter put it, "Duck fat is the magic carpet that flavor rides in on." Every potato I've met agrees.
These days, I use all three of these techniques pretty much anytime I want crisp potatoes-that-aren't-deep-fried for a dinner. I start the potatoes by putting them in a pot of cold salted water (starting them cold helps them cook more evenly from edge to center, minimizing the temperature gradient), bring them to a simmer, cook until tender, then cut them into whatever shape I want, and finish them by either sautéeing or roasting them in duck fat. How can you improve on this method?
How about we introduce a bit of extra flavor to the mix? Fresh off of testing a few recipes for garlic knots for my book,* I happened to have a few extra batches' worth of garlic-parmesan butter hanging out around my apartment (these are the types of friends who never overstay their welcome), and after a bit of tough mental math, I came to the inevitable conclusion that delicious plus delicious should equal extra delicious.
* No, it's not out yet, and no, I can't tell you when...
My calculations were off. But not by much.
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.