This wasn't a planned post, I just happened to have my camera set up in the kitchen on Sunday already for the focaccia.
I debated whether to blog it at all. I figure that most people know how to cook roast potatoes already, so run the risk of patronising the few visitors I already have. On reflection however, due to some truly terrible roast potatoes served in restaurants recently I decided to anyway - it may be helpful to someone. Just give it a good ignoring if you know all this already.
Roast potatoes should (IMHO) have a well developed crispy exterior with a light fluffy (steamed) interior. To achieve this you need to parboil them first and then fry, before putting them in the oven.
Success of roast potatoes depends largely on the type of potato you use and what state they're in prior to cooking. Sometimes, however good your technique they're just not as good as normal. Always go for Maris Piper or King Edwards (or whatever is deemed best in your country), using potatoes sold for baking if neither are available.
Getting someone else to peel them for you makes the whole process much more pleasant (I normally end up peeling my own skin along with that of the potato when I try). If peeled in advance keep them submersed in cold water until required. When they're ready to be cooked cut them into chunks of roughly equal size: not too big, not too small.
Boil for 10 to 15 minutes, drain well an allow to dry slightly. Place a lid over the top of the pan (preferably a glass one so you can see what's going on) and give them a really good shake, enough so that the edges become fluffy (see below) but not so much that they break apart. If they turn to mash you've cooked them too long. If they don't fluffy they're not cooked enough.
Heat a large vitreous enamelled pan over a medium-high heat (either on a wok burner or across 2 hobs), containing enough sunflower oil to cover the bottom and rise to a height of a couple of millimetres (no higher - you don't want them to swim). You should be able to find a vitreous enamelled pan for around £10 (mine came from Morrisons 5 years ago). Using pans not designed to be used directly over heat (such as most non stick pans) will cause the coating to melt. When hot add each potato at a time (adding all at once will lower the temperature of the oil too much) and slide it around. If the oil doesn't sizzle the pan isn't hot enough.
Once all the potatoes have been added and are starting to brown begin to turn them over, ensuring they each get a good coating of oil. Add ground sea salt (to help crispiness and bring out flavour), herbs (we tend to use rosemary) and cloves of garlic (crushed/minced garlic will burn). Continue to fry for up to 10 minutes, such that all sides are starting to brown.
Cook in a 200oc oven for an hour or so (or until they are done), taking out and shaking/basting/turning every 20 minutes. If you find that a few stick don't worry, assuming there is enough oil just dislodge them and they may end up even crispier. Use kitchen tissue to remove excess oil prior to serving.
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