Perfect Every Time

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Lisa Parsley
Sunday, March 31, 2013

The plates and flatware used for our Easter lunch are in the dishwasher, and I’m sitting here basking in a self-satisfied glow, full of ham and good thoughts. Everyone is fed and happy which makes me happy. This year, I tried out a couple of new ideas, and generally when I mess around with a recipe or procedure that turns out really well (and is tested on an audience), instead of soliciting “feedback”, I find myself unabashedly fishing for compliments.

“So…the ham wasn’t too salty, was it?”

“I hope you like the balsamic glaze on the Brussels sprouts; I’ve never tried it before…”

Yes, I am a needy thing.

Our menu was fairly simple, a ham glazed with a mixture of brown sugar, soy sauce, a dash of fish sauce and mirin (a Japanese cooking sake). It turned out savory and yummy. We also had the aforementioned brussels sprouts drizzled with thickened balsamic, my new absolute favorite vegetable. I suspect you can look for “An Ode to the Sprout” post coming soon. I also made what I am now calling Perfect Roast Potatoes.

For the record, I in no way, shape or form claim to be a perfect cook. Most days, I think I can put together a solidly good plate of food, but my constant goal is for someone to take a bite and tell me it is the best thing that they have ever eaten. That happens with these roast potatoes.

I believe the credit for the recipe goes to America’s Test Kitchen who, in their nerdy scientific foodie way, can analyze a recipe and have the wherewithal to cook 87 chickens in a row until they get the perfect one. I, like most home cooks, do one chicken at a time and learn from my mistakes. It takes a long time to perfect a recipe. ATK also has the advantage of having a fleet of taste testers. My fleet is a tad smaller than theirs, but I like to think our palate is equally as refined.

So anyway, back to the potatoes. For years, I have roasted potatoes by cutting them into quarters, drizzling them with olive oil and salt and then baking until crispy and/or tender. It generally was hit or miss—by the time they were cooked through, often the outside became dried out, tough and leathery instead of crispy. Edible, but nothing to write home about.

I finally have learned secret for PERFECT roasted potatoes. The trick is to par boil them and then after draining and putting the lid of the pot back on, shaking the pot to rough up the potatoes. This creates a rough surface with all kinds of bumps and crags that will go crispy in the oven. Yes, it’s a bit of an extra step, but absolutely worth it.

So, while this recipe is a tad late for your Easter dinner (sorry!), save it for the next time you make roast beef or chicken. You won’t be disappointed.

Did you make a special meal for Easter? Have any tips to share for our next family gathering?

Perfect Roast Potatoes

4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 ½ inch pieces

3 Tbsp olive oil

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the oil on a rimmed cookie sheet and place in the oven to preheat.

  2. Meanwhile, place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.

  3. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, and then return them to the pan. Cover the pan and shake vigorously, roughing up the potatoes. Remove the lid to release any remaining steam—you want the potatoes to dry out a bit.

  4. After a couple of minutes, carefully remove the preheated cookie sheet from the oven and place the potatoes on the pan. Again, be careful—don’t dump the potatoes out as the oil may spatter.

  5. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper to your taste and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the potatoes and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. (I usually do a final ten minutes to get them a bit extra crispy.) Serve with the Sunday roast of your choice.

Last updated: 9:25 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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