Why It Works
- Searing the potatoes on the stovetop before transferring them to the oven to roast ensures even browning and makes it easier to control the rate of reduction of the cooking liquid.
- Roasting the potatoes with a combination of chicken stock, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice, along with a healthy amount of dried oregano, produces their characteristic tender texture and sunny aroma.
- Finishing the potatoes with an extra splash of lemon juice after they’ve come out of the oven gives the dish a flourish of bright acidity to balance the richness of the olive oil and sweetness of cooked citrus.
When it comes to roast potatoes, people often prize crispness as the ultimate goal; there’s a reason that Kenji’s crispy British-style roasted spuds is one of our most popular recipes. But there are plenty of other styles of oven-roasted potatoes that are worthy of attention, that place a premium on creamy tenderness rather than crunch. Patates lemonates, a classic Greek side of potatoes roasted with olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano, are a top contender in this category. A generous splash of stock or water added to the pan before it goes in the oven creates a braise-roast hybrid cooking environment that gives the spuds their characteristic fork-tender texture. Unlike many Western European potato dishes (I’m looking at you, France), patates lemonates take advantage of the flavor-absorbing qualities of potatoes to imbue them with a burst of citrus acidity rather than just fat and woodsy herbs. This brightness makes them the perfect foil to hearty roasted or grilled meats and seafood.
As is often the case with roast potatoes, patates lemonates are commonly prepared as an accompaniment to roast chicken, with pieces of potato arranged around a bird in a roasting pan so that they soak up poultry juices during cooking. But patates lemonates, which are also known as patates riganates (oregano) or patates sto fourno (oven-roasted), can also easily be prepared on their own.
The simplest approach is to combine large pieces of potato in a baking dish with chicken stock, olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano, and roast them in a hot oven until tender. I went through many rounds of testing tinkering with this method, experimenting with fully uncovered roasting, and then covering and uncovering the baking dish at different intervals to try to create the optimal balance between tenderness and surface browning on the potatoes. Achieving consistent results with this method using different ovens proved to be difficult, so I decided to turn to a non-traditional technique for patates lemonates that has served me well for another iteration of braise-roasted potatoes, French pommes de terre fondantes.
Starting the potatoes in a hot pan with olive oil on the stovetop allowed me to control surface browning, and better dial in the ratio of liquids in the recipe. Striking the right balance between chicken stock, olive oil, and lemon juice is key to this dish. Many recipes call for a 1:1:1 ratio, which I found produced overwhelmingly acidic results. The lemon should be assertive and punchy, but in a sunny, warm fashion. Also, unlike with fondant potatoes, chicken stock isn’t being used to give the dish a saucy finish. I wanted to use just enough that it could get the potatoes tender, and by the time they had reached that texture the stock would have been almost completely absorbed and evaporated, leaving just a slick of aromatic olive oil in the pan.
By getting a jump start on the cooking process on the stovetop, I was able to home in on the roasting time and rate of evaporation, and found that a 3:2:1 ratio of chicken stock to olive oil to lemon juice gave me the flavor I was after. To drive the brightness of the citrus home, I held back one tablespoon of lemon juice until the potatoes came out of the oven, and stirred it in before serving to achieve a happy medium between the warm sweetness of cooked lemon and bracing punch of fresh juice. This is a side dish that can easily upstage any main.
- 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 1/2 pounds (1.2kg) Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- Kosher salt
- 2 medium garlic cloves (10g), lightly crushed
- 3/4 cup (180ml) homemade chicken stock or low-sodium store-bought chicken broth, or water
- 1/4 cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 3 lemons, divided
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). In a 12-inch stainless steel straight-sided sauté pan or skillet, or cast iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil medium-high heat until shimmering. Add potatoes to skillet, with one cut side down, in a single layer and evenly spaced, and season with salt. Cook, without moving, until potatoes begin to brown around edges, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue to cook, rotating and swirling pan gently to promote even browning and prevent sticking, until potatoes are browned on bottom side, 2 to 3 minutes longer, adjusting heat as needed if some of the pieces brown too quickly.
Using a thin metal spatula, flip potatoes onto second flat side. Continue to cook until browned on second side, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add remaining olive oil, chicken stock (or water), 3 tablespoons (45ml) lemon juice, and oregano. Bring to a boil, swirling pan occasionally, and season with salt to taste.
Transfer skillet to oven and roast until potatoes are completely tender, offering little to no resistance when poked with a paring knife, and most of the stock has evaporated, 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from oven, add remaining 1 tablespoon (15ml) lemon juice, and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste, then serve.
12-inch stainless-steel sauté pan or skillet, or cast iron skillet
Make-Ahead and Storage
Patates lemonates can be made in advance and held at room temperature for up to 3 hours, or refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop or in a 275°F (135°C) oven before serving.