Why It Works
- Simmering in heavily salted water dries out the exteriors of the potatoes and thins the skins.
- Tossing with butter infused with herbs and alliums before roasting gives these potatoes deep herb flavor and crisp, buttery crusts.
I first encountered salt-crusted Colombian potatoes while having lunch with my wife’s uncle in Bogotá. Tiny new potatoes bursting with buttery flavor under a crisp, salty, crystallized crust. Their appearance was mesmerizing and their flavor intoxicating. I'm a salt fiend (and you've gotta be to enjoy a dish like this), but I'd never tasted anything quite like this before.
Back in the States, I’ve recreated these Colombian-style salt-crusted new potatoes a number of times. Here are the basics:
First, get your hands on some new potatoes. Next, put the potatoes in a pot, cover them with cold water, then add salt. And I'm talking a lot of salt—I use about a half cup for a batch of potatoes.
Once the salt is in, bring the water to a boil and let the potatoes cook steadily, giving them a stir every once in a while, until the pan runs completely dry. Once all that liquid is gone, let the potatoes rest for a few minutes. As they cool, you'll begin to see a hardened crystallized crust form on them.
Potatoes cooked in heavily salted water lose a good 15% of their initial weight. This is presumably due to osmosis, the tendency of a solvent (in this case the potatoes' internal moisture) to travel across a membrane from an area of lower solute concentration (inside the potato) to an area of higher solute concentration (outside the potato).
The result is a potato that has a more intense potato flavor and denser, creamier texture (as opposed to the fluffier texture of plain boiled potatoes). The skin of salt-boiled potatoes also ends up thinner and more delicate. Even if you plan on rinsing off all the salt, I'd still suggest boiling potatoes using this method if more intense flavor is your goal.
I wondered what would happen if I subsequently roasted these delicate-skinned, wrinkly spuds. I tossed them with a bit of butter, threw them into a cast iron skillet, then parked them in a 400°F (200°C) oven, tossing them every once in a while until they developed a golden appearance.
The result was the crispest whole-roasted new potatoes I'd ever tasted, with intensely potato-y centers.
I happened to have some extra herb butter lying around from testing out my Herb Butter-Roasted Spatchcock Turkey. It was flavored with sage, parsley, thyme, shallots, garlic, and chives—all flavors that would go pretty darn well with potatoes. It doesn't take a huge mental leap to see where this is going, does it?
I melted the herb butter in a little saucepan, tossed my salt-boiled and rinsed potatoes in it, then placed them on a rimmed baking sheet to roast.
I tossed them with more herb butter just as they came out of the oven to double up on that fresh herb flavor.
For years now, my Ultra-Crispy Roast Potatoes have been a staple on my fall and winter table, but they just may have found a competitor for that coveted spot on the Thanksgiving spread.
- 4 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- Freshly ground black pepper
Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add salt and stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a low boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has completely evaporated and potatoes are covered in a film of salt, about 45 minutes. Drain and rinse potatoes of excess salt.
While potatoes simmer, combine garlic, chives, parsley, sage, thyme, and shallot in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse, scraping down sides as necessary, until finely chopped and no large pieces remain. Scatter butter chunks on top. Pulse until homogeneous paste is formed. Season generously with salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Potatoes and herb butter can be made ahead to this stage for up to 5 days before continuing.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan with aluminum foil. (If potatoes do not all fit on one rack, use 2 baking sheets, rotating top to bottom halfway through cooking.) Heat herb butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until melted. Toss potatoes and half of melted herb butter in a large bowl to coat. Transfer to baking sheet and roast, shaking pan occasionally, until crisp all over, about 20 minutes. Re-melt remaining herb butter. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and toss with remaining herb butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper (you probably won't need any extra salt). Serve.