Why It Works
- Boiling the potatoes before frying ensures a crispy exterior and creamy center.
- Panfrying the flattened potatoes allows excess moisture to evaporate, leaving behind an extra-thick crisp crust.
As a non-closeted internet addict, I spend an inordinate amount of time on Reddit, where I occasionally like to post a food photo or two just to get a quick gauge of how popular a recipe might be on Serious Eats. If Reddit's 1,718 upvote responses to smashed potatoes fried in duck fat are any indication, my family (and hopefully yours) is gonna enjoy eating these pretty immensely on Thanksgiving.
For years, I've been serving Ultra-Crispy Roast Potatoes for all major holidays using a technique I first read about in The River Cottage Cookbook. The idea is simple: boil chunks of potatoes in salted water until they are tender, toss them in a large bowl with some fat using a fork to bash and roughen up their surfaces, then roast until crisp. The boiling and bashing steps are key, as they add surface area to the potato chunks, allowing them to roast up with a thick, ultra-crisp shell. They're crunchier than the best french fry, and packed with great roasted flavor.
Indeed, the only potatoes I've had better are the ones that April Bloomfield used to serve at the Spotted Pig as a side dish to her roast suckling pig. For those potatoes, she utilized the same concept—par-boiling and roughing-up—but instead of roasting, followed it up with a deep-fry in duck fat. The results are gloriously golden brown, crisp nuggets with fluffy, potato-y centers. The crisp nooks and crannies around the edges capture that wonderful duck aroma, giving them an almost meaty bite. There are few things in the world that go better together than potatoes and duck fat.
The one issue with April's recipe is that the potatoes stay in large, irregular chunks that require a ton of fat in a deep pot to deep-fry properly. To get around that problem, I took a cue from my Colombian wife and her native country's patacónes; crispy plantain disks that are par-cooked, smashed flat, then fried again. You'll see them as tostones in other parts of Central and South America.
Rather than starting with chunks of larger potatoes, I use whole new potatoes boiled until soft (any variety will do, though red-skinned varieties will end up creamier in the center, while yellow or white-skinned varieties will end up fluffier). After I smash them under a frying pan, their skins burst and their flesh spreads around, giving the finished disks some awesomely frayed edges for crisping.
Once flattened like this, they can be fried off in a shallow layer of duck fat (or fine, vegetable oil if you'd like). The key is a slow, gently fry, which gives plenty of time for excess moisture to escape the outer layer of the potatoes, leaving behind an extra-thick crisp crust around them.
Pan-frying does limit the number of potatoes you can cook at a time, but the good news is that you can cook them in advance—even refrigerate them overnight—then re-crisp them in a hot oven just before serving. They'll end up just as crisp-on-the-outside creamy-in-the-middle as fresh-fried. It makes last minute prep before the big meal a snap.
Make far more than you think you'll need because these will be disappearing from the kitchen long before you even get them to the table.
Click Play to Learn How to Make Crispy Smashed Potatoes
4 pounds small red or Yukon gold potatoes
1 cup vegetable oil (see note)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup sliced chives, parsley, or tarragon (optional)
Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Season heavily with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until potatoes are completely tender, about 10 minutes after a boil is achieved (poke a potato with a sharp knife or cake tester to test for doneness). Drain in a colander set in the sink and let rest for 10 minutes to dry and cool slightly.
Working one potato at a time, place potato on cutting board and smash firmly with the bottom of a heavy skillet to a thickness of about 1/2-inch thick. Transfer to a large plate or tray as you work.
Heat 1/2 cup oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add as many potatoes as will fit in a single layer. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until bottom side is deep golden brown, about 6 minutes. Carefully flip with a thin metal spatula and cook until second side is golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to drain.
Continue cooking potatoes in batches, adding more oil or fat as necessary, until all potatoes are cooked. Potatoes can then be left aside until ready to serve.
To serve, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Spread potatoes over to large rimmed baking sheets. Transfer to oven and cook until heated through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, add herbs (if using), toss to distribute, transfer to a serving platter, and serve.
Make Ahead and Storage
Potatoes can be fully cooked a day ahead. Refrigerate overnight and re-crisp in the oven.
Duck fat will make for even tastier, crispier potatoes.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 15g||19%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||6%|
|Total Carbohydrate 39g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||14%|
|Total Sugars 2g|
|Vitamin C 17mg||87%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|