Friday, February 18, 2011

Roasted Potatoes for Special Occasions

We used to have an all-time favorite roasted potato recipe. It reigned supreme for nearly a decade, and almost never failed to impress. Poor recipe. It's still going to be our go-to roasted potato recipe for weeknights, but duck fat and cornmeal joined together to stage a coup that dethroned the rosemary potatoes as a special occasion dish.

The victorious recipe is courtesy of Nigella Lawson, and I swear to you that it just might change your life; it could make a potato lover out of a spud spurner. Why? Because usually you have to take your pick when it comes to a cooked potato's virtues, but in this case you get them all, including a fluffy, almost creamy interior, and a crispy, golden outside. 

The outer part of the potato is so crispy because the potatoes have been tossed with some cornmeal. It might sound strange, but thanks to the cornmeal, these potatoes become almost battered, and because they're cooked in plentiful amounts of duck fat, they're almost like French fries, too. The duck fat also lends the potatoes a certain richness, which really shines when paired with some diced onions or scallions. So that's why I say that these potatoes are like every yummy kind of potato all rolled in to one- they're like a baked potato combined with a roasted potato, mixed with a battered, fried, potato, with some hash browns thrown in.

Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes
(From Nigella Lawson)

We threw a handful of diced onions in to the pan during the last 15 or 20 minutes of cooking, which was delicious. We did that, though, because we didn't have any scallions at the time. So if you have scallions or chives, I would highly recommend tossing them with the cooked potatoes. Of course, you could use onions and scallions.

  • 6 lbs medium potatoes (I like red-skinned ones)

  • 2 tablespoons semolina

  • 2 cups goose fat (I used duck fat)

  • Optional: A handful of diced onions and/or sliced scallions or chives

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
    Peel the potatoes (if they have thick skins; if you use thin-skinned potatoes, I would leave the peel on), and cut each one into three by cutting off each end at a slant so that you are left with a wedge or triangle in the middle.

    Put the potatoes into salted cold water in a large pot, and bring to a boil, letting them cook for 4 minutes. Drain the potatoes into a colander and then tip back into the empty pot, sprinkling over the semolina. Shake the potatoes around to coat them well and, with the lid clamped on, give the pan a good rotation and the potatoes a proper bashing so that their edges disintegrate or fuzz and blur a little: this facilitates the crunch effect later.

    Meanwhile, empty the duck fat into a large roasting pan and heat in the oven until seriously hot. Then tip the semolina–coated potatoes carefully into the hot fat and roast in the oven for an hour or until they are darkly golden and crispy, turning them over halfway through cooking. If the oven's hot enough they probably won't need more than about 25 minutes a side; and it's better to let them sit in the oven (you can always pour off most of the fat and leave them in the pan) till the very last minute.


    Garrett said...

    Those look absurdly good. You know I have a weak spot for spuds; these would be my kryptonite. I'm very glad to know I can't cook and also don't have a kitchen, so I won't weigh 230 lbs. by next week. I just ate before reading this post and still my mouth watered at the sight of them. Excellent pictures, too. Glad to know you stuck with the duck fat idea. Delicious.

    Leah said...

    If I had served these to you, I think your head would have exploded, and then I'd have spent the rest of the night scrubbing the walls. I'm going to BD's today to drop off some duck fat; he'll be able to confirm that these potatoes are the most awesome thing EVER. I'll be sure to have some duck fat on hand the next time you're in town.

    Anonymous said...

    These sound and look heavenly. I am hosting a dinner party soon and these would be perfect. 2 questions: (possibly dumb, but I'm going to ask anyway) 1. Do you recommend serving these with any kind of meat, if I don't want to do duck? 2. If you do recommend it with other meat, how can I obtain duck fat without buying and cooking a whole duck?

    Leah said...

    That's not a stupid question! This: is probably the best site for buying things like duck fat.
    We ate the potatoes with steak (you should check out The Fresh Market--they have crazy porterhouses and great ribeyes), which I thought was awesome. They would also be good with pork chops, pork tenderloin, even chicken.