Monday, 14 December 2015

Roast Potatoes

Golden and crunchy

The executive summary: take some evenly sized, dry, parboiled, Maris Pipers. Baste them in hot fat and roast for at least an hour.

I have a few rules, most of which you'll probably be familiar with. We are a post-Delia nation after all.
  • Use Maris Pipers. These are the least wet spuds available. If not MPs go for King Edwards. It's all about the starch. Lots of dry matter in the potato gives you a fluffy finish, little dry matter and you have a soapy texture. Do you like soap?
  • Make sure the potatoes are evenly sized.It's just obvious: same size = same cooking time
  • Parboil the potatoes. Heston does it almost to destruction but that's a world of pain. I usually dance around 12 minutes.
  • Dry the potatoes after boiling. Space them out on a clean tea towel and allow them to steam themselves dry. You can rough up the surface by gently shuffling them about too. You don't need to shake them furiously. I find this result in a pan full of spud-slush and many breakages.
  • Heat the roasting pan on the hob or in the oven if you have space. Either way, make sure your oil is very hot. Same principle as when making Yorkshire puddings. Using tongs, roll the pots in the oil, covering all sides. You don't need a swimming pool of oil but there should be a slick. Fat should flow when you tip the pan. If you don't have enough oil, the potatoes will develop leathery jackets.
  • Use goose fat. I'm not as fascist about this I once was. I've used sunflower oil with decent results. Beef fat tastes beefy, fine with a forerib, less so with chicken. Personally I think olive oil imparts the wrong flavour.
Flavouring the oil with shallots, thyme and marrowbone
  • Flavour the oil. Fry up some rough cut onion or shallots first and leave in. The allium can also be served up. Add offcuts of the meat joint or hunks of bone marrow if you have them. Ask you butcher to split some beef bones... although this may offend your vegetarian guests (mind, so would the dead geese). Woody herbs like thyme and rosemary are good too but watch for hot spitting oil when you place them in. Soft leafy herbs like basil will simply cinder and taint.
  • Give the potatoes space in the roasting pan. Too crowded and they will steam together like fat, white men in a sauna. No one wants that. Steam is the enemy of crisp.
  • Turn the potatoes half way through the cooking. This makes more golden, glassy sides.
  • Cook for at least an hour. Ignore recipes that pretend you can do it in less. I don't even think the temperature matters as much as the time. I tend to go for 90 minutes at 180°C. Much above 200°C and things can char to bitterness. You can always take them out early. If you want crisp pots quicker, try my 'crash potatoes'.
  • Roast pots will reheat without worry. A ten minute blast at 180-220°C - depending what else is in your oven. If your oven is small, do the pots first, then the main joint, then reheat the roasties while the meat is resting.
Further recipes and reading: Yorkshires.   Beef Rib.   A better way to roast beef.

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