Why It Works
- Parboil new potatoes in acidic water and toss them in oil afterward until their exteriors are coated in bashed-up potato bits help build up a layer of starch and maximize crispiness.
- Adding herbs, garlic, and lemon zest after cooking allows the heat of the potatoes to warm, but not dull, the aromatics.
Do you enjoy being lied to? I certainly don't. Yet nearly every time I eat roasted potatoes, I feel like I've been betrayed. They come to the table all nicely browned and craggy, but they inevitably have soft, papery skins that don't offer any real contrast with the creamy flesh below. It's like, Hey potatoes! What'd I ever do to you? Why do you gotta lie to me like that?
[**grumblegrumble** stupid lying potatoes **grr**]
What's even worse are the recipes that promise crispness, but produce potatoes that are crisp for all of eight seconds after they come out of the oven, only to soften on their way to the table.
When I say crispy potatoes, I want potatoes crunchier than the best of french fries; a thick, craggy, crunchy crust that stays crunchy even after they've made their way through a couple circuits around the table.
Luckily, the process isn't as hard as it sounds. I outlined it once using chunky russet potatoes. This year, we're going with creamy new potatoes and adding a lemon and herb blend to the mix.
New potatoes offer some challenges that russet potatoes don't. Namely, they're less starchy, which makes it even harder to build up a significant crust.
There are two ways in which crusts can go badly wrong. Papery crusts that soften quickly occur when the crusty layer isn't thick enough. Tossing raw potatoes in oil and throwing them in the oven is a surefire way to get yourself papery crusts.
Leathery or tough crusts, on the other hand, are caused when the crust layer becomes too dry. As moisture leaves the potatoes, cell walls get packed closer and closer together, turning the crust dense and tough.
So how do you avoid these two problems? Let's take a look.
Problem 1: Papery Crust
Solution: Parboil the potatoes in acidic water.
Papery crusts occur when the layer of gelatinized starches that crisp up on the exterior of the potato isn't thick enough. As the potato comes out of the oven and sits, steam from its core penetrates the crust, softening it from the inside out.
Parboiling the potatoes will help build up this layer of starch, while adding just a touch of vinegar to the water will allow the starch to gelatinize while keeping the potatoes relatively firm and intact.* This gives you potatoes that are crisp on the outside, but still hold their shape with a creamy, not gluey, core.
*Pectin, the glue that holds vegetable cells together, doesn't break down very readily in acidic environments. It's a trick I learned while researching french fries.
Want to get those potatoes even crispier? After parboiling them, I toss the potatoes in the pot with oil, bashing them around a bit until their exteriors are coated in a film of bashed-up potato bits. With new potatoes, this step is particularly important—it allows you to crisp up not just the cut surfaces, but the skins as well.
Problem 2: Leathery Crust
Solution: Use plenty of fat.
You may have heard in the past that frying foods at high temperatures will limit the amount of fat they absorb. This is a long-perpetuated myth with little basis in reality. In fact, the opposite is actually the case. The reason why food fried at high temperatures tastes so good is because those high temperatures drive out more moisture, which gets replaced by oil. That oil not only adds flavor to the food, but also keeps the crust from collapsing on itself and becoming dense.
So, as a general rule of thumb, the crispier your food, the more oil it's absorbed. Hey, I never said these potatoes were healthy per se.
While we aren't deep frying these potatoes, we still want them to have plenty of access to oil as they cook so that as moisture leaves the crust, there's something there to take its place. Not only do I toss the potatoes with oil before roasting, but I make sure that the sheet pans I roast them on are well-oiled as well.
Starting the potatoes cut-side-down and blasting them with high heat helps ensure even browning all around.
You can keep things simple and go with just salt and pepper if you'd like, but for some added flavor, I like to toss some shallots in with the potatoes just before they're done. They brown and crisp in the oven rapidly, so make sure to keep an eye on them.
The goal is "artfully charred," not burnt.
Finally, I toss the cooked potatoes with some extra-virgin olive oil, chopped herbs, lemon zest, and garlic as soon as they come out of the oven.
The residual heat of the potatoes will volatilize the aromatics in the herbs and lemon zest. If your nose doesn't thank you at that point, then you need to sit it down and have a serious talk with it about its manners, or lack thereof.
November 06, 2013
4 1/2 pounds red or yellow new potatoes, scrubbed clean, sliced in half
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil (see notes)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons sliced chives
2 teaspoons zest from 1 lemon
3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Adjust oven racks to lower and upper position and preheat oven to 500°F (260°C). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil and place in oven. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Add 2 tablespoons salt and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until exteriors are tender, about 5 minutes. Potatoes should show a slight resistance when poked with a paring knife or a cake tester. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons oil to bowl with potatoes. Season with pepper and more salt to taste then toss until exteriors are slightly bashed up and coated in a thin layer of potato/oil paste. Spread remaining canola oil evenly over surfaces of hot foil-lined baking sheets, then divide potatoes evenly between them, using a thin spatula to arrange them cut-side down and using oven mitts or kitchen towels to maneuver the hot pans.
Transfer baking sheets to the oven and roast until the bottoms of the potatoes are crisp and golden brown and can be easily lifted from the foil, about 30 minutes total, swapping top the trays top for bottom and rotating them once halfway through roasting. Using a thin metal spatula, loosen all of the potatoes from the pan and toss. Return to oven and continue roasting until pale golden brown all over, about 15 minutes longer. Add shallots to pans and toss to coat in oil. Return to oven and roast until potatoes and shallots are deep golden brown, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven and transfer to a large bowl.
Add parsley, chives, lemon zest, garlic, and olive oil to potatoes and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Duck fat, turkey fat, or chicken fat can be used in place of the canola oil.
This Recipe Appears In
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 8 to 10|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 10g||13%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||5%|
|Total Carbohydrate 45g||16%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||18%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 22mg||112%|
|*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.|