Fingerling potatoes are often the star on restaurant menus, especially at upscale places. The celebrity spud in my own kitchen, though, is the variety most of us grew up eating—russet potatoes. I love russets for their versatility. The higher starch content means they yield a lighter-than-air texture when making mashed potatoes, and with a little tweak in your technique, that extra starch also makes for the crispiest roasted potato I’ve ever cooked.
Making perfect roasted potatoes follows the same philosophy behind making excellent French fries—it’s a double cook method (chef’s call it the double-fry). In the case of French fries, they’re cooked in hot oil first at a lower temperature to penetrate the center of the potato, to ensure it’s cooked through. The second fry is done at a higher temperature to give them that crispy exterior. My recipe for roasted potatoes is the best of both worlds—fluffy on the inside, super crispy on the outside, and no deep-frying necessary.
I start by boiling the potatoes to par-cook them (chef shorthand for partially cooking them). Once the potatoes are tender, I drain them and toss them into a scorching hot, preheated cast-iron skillet with some olive oil. After testing this method with a few varieties, russet potatoes were the winner every time. A big bonus for my wallet, since they’re also the least expensive ones at the market.
Perfect Roasted Potatoes
3 russet baking potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste (I use fleur de sel)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 475ºF.
2. Cut each potato in half lengthwise, and then slice them into 1/2-thick “half moons”.
3. Add the potatoes to a deep pot and fill it with enough water to just cover the potatoes. Bring them to a boil over high heat, then cook until you can easily pierce them with a fork, about 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them.
4. Meanwhile, place a 12-inch cast-iron skillet on the center rack of the oven to preheat.
5. Place a strainer in the sink, and dump the potatoes in to drain them.
6. Remove the skillet from the oven. Add the oil, and swirl the pan to coat it. Add the potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Place the skillet back in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Give the potatoes a good stir, and cook for 15 more minutes. If you like really well done, crispy potatoes, give them one last stir and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot.
Mom and blogger Jennifer Perillo of In Jennie’s Kitchen has been in the food industry for 15 years, first in the restaurant business, and finally as a food writer, now serving as Consulting Food Editor at Working Mother magazine. Her forthcoming book is Homemade with Love: Simple Scratch Cooking from In Jennie’s Kitchen, available here.