Spud Sunday: The Art Of The Roastie

An apology is in order.

I have been guilty of taking the roastie for granted. A potato classic, known to feature regularly on my plate but yet scarcely mentioned on The Daily Spud… Oh for shame.

Nothing else for it but to make amends with a little Christmas roastie special, for it is fair to say that Christmas dinner in Ireland could not legally be defined as Christmas dinner without a great big pile of roast potatoes. So, with the assistance of the experts that reside on my kitchen bookshelf, may I present herewith my 12 step roastie program.

Crispy Roast Potatoes

Toasty roasties

(1) Type of spud: Perhaps I should start by stating the obvious, which is to say that some types of spud are predisposed to roastie greatness and some, well, just aren’t. What you want are those floury types – records, kerr’s pinks, golden wonder – roosters work too – and in the US, russets or yukon golds. Keep new potatoes or waxy varieties for steaming, salad or gratins, that’s what they’re good at.

(2) Priming your spuds: While it is generally advised not to store potatoes in the fridge (because, at low temperatures, the potato starch will start converting to sugars), Shirley Corriher notes in Cookwise that, if you keep spuds in the fridge for a day or two before they meet a hot oven, those newly converted sugars will promote future roastie browning.

(3) Roastie size: Let’s face it, when it comes to roasties, it’s the crispy bits we’re after, so you’ll want to keep the size of each roasted piece fairly small, giving a higher crust to spud ratio (I like Nigel Slater’s description in Tender of roastie size as about 2 bites worth). If your spuds are large to begin with and must be chopped, then all the better – you will end up with more edges, and crispy edges are a good thing.

(4) Preparing in advance, do’s and dont’s: If possible, don’t peel your spuds until just before you need to roast them and, once you’ve peeled them and cut them down to size, do rinse them well to wash off any surface starch. If you need to prepare your spuds in advance, don’t leave the peeled potatoes soaking in water, because your roasties will end up soggy. Darina Allen, in Forgotten Skills of Cooking, suggests that, if you do need to prepare your potatoes in advance, that you toss the prepared spuds in your fat of choice, cover and refrigerate.

(5) To precook or not to precook, that is the question: Ultimately, it is a matter of personal preference as to whether you partially cook your potatoes before roasting or not. Most often, I roast from raw because of the extreme lack of effort involved and also because the potatoes tend to absorb less fat that way. However, roasties that have been partially cooked have more flavour and crunch potential: flavour, because cooking in well salted water will help to get some flavour into the interior of the spud and crunch, because the outside of the potato has more cracks and fissures in which to trap fat and become crunchable. Once the potatoes have been precooked enough to soften their outer layers, it’s easy to roughen up the surface and hence promote crunch potential.

(6) Make use of those potato peels: I love Heston Blumenthal’s approach in In Search of Perfection: Reinventing Kitchen Classics, where he places the potato peelings (which have relatively more flavour) in muslin and adds them to the water used to precook the spuds. It makes for roasties that actually taste of potato.

(7) Type of fat: Duck fat and goose fat are much favoured, as are beef drippings, though you can, of course, use olive oil – all different flavours, all tasty. And whether you’re roasting raw or parboiled potatoes, make sure that the potatoes are as dry as possible before they hit the oil or fat in the roasting tin, otherwise those crunchy bits might just end up sticking.

(8) Other flavourings: The possibilities are endless. Mix herbs or spices with the fat used to coat the spuds or toss the spuds with some seasoned flour. I like Delia Smith’s suggestion in How to Cook, Book 1 of adding some saffron threads to the olive oil, adding both flavour and colour.

(9) The heat: Hot oven please, and it’s a good idea to preheat the roasting tin and oil or fat as well as the oven itself.

(10) While cooking: There’s no need to turn the the spuds much while they’re cooking, just once or twice will do it.

(11) Don’t keep ‘em waiting: Roasties do lose crispness fairly quickly, so try not to wait too long before you tuck in. If you do need to keep them warm for a while, Nigel Slater suggests that it’s best to keep them uncovered in a cooling oven.

(12) Leftovers: Er, what leftovers? Darina Allen does remind us that, in the unlikely event of there being leftover roasties, that they can always form the basis of a roastie salad: chop into small chunks, toss in some vinaigrette and away you go. They may no longer be crisp, but they will still taste good.

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Polenta Roasties

I was discussing the topic for today’s installment of Spud Sunday over the phone with MGH when her sister chimed in with one word – polenta. In the past, I have used polenta as a crunchy coating for veggie sausages and roast parsnips, so why not roasties indeed. Thanks for the suggestion, Naomi, as you can see, I ran with it.

Polenta Roast Potatoes

The Summary:

  • Makes roasties for around 4 people & takes approx. 30 min to prep + 45 min to roast
You’ll need:
  • 900g potatoes, preferably a floury variety
  • 4 tblsp olive oil
  • 4 tblsp cornmeal / polenta
  • 0.5 tsp finely chopped rosemary needles
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
You’ll also need:
  • A sturdy roasting tin (mine is about 24cm x 30cm) and a small piece of muslin (enough to hold the potato peelings) and string.
The Steps:
  • If you are super organised and feel inclined to try it, put can your potatoes, unpeeled, in the fridge for a day or two before roasting. It will cause some of the starch to turn to sugars and encourage browning.
  • When ready to roast, preheat your oven to 200C. Add the oil to your roasting tin and place in the oven to preheat also.
  • Peel your potatoes, keep the skins and wrap them in a piece of muslin and tie together in a little bundle with some string.
  • Cut the potatoes into roughly even-sized chunks (for large potatoes, quarter them, for smaller potatoes, halve them unless very small) and rinse the potatoes under running water for a minute or two to wash off surface starch.
  • Bring about 1.5l of water to the boil in a saucepan, add about 2 tsp salt, the potatoes and the wrapped-up potato skins. Allow the water to come back to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the polenta, rosemary, about 0.25 tsp salt and a couple of twists of freshly ground black pepper.
  • When the potatoes have finished simmering, remove from the heat, drain very well and discard the potato skins.
  • Return the potatoes to the pot, cover, place over a very low heat and, holding with both hands and using a tea-towel to protect yourself from any steam, shake the pot back and forth for up to a minute or so, so that the potatoes both dry out and the edges are roughened up. Remove from the heat.
  • Remove the roasting tin from the oven and spoon the heated oil over the potatoes, tossing to mix, then roll each potato in the polenta to coat and place on the roasting tin.
  • Cook for 45 minutes to an hour or until nicely crisp, then eat.
The Variations:
  • For plain roasties, just leave out the coating of polenta, or keep the polenta and add to it by sprinkling some grated parmesan over the roasties about 5 minutes before the end of cooking time.
R☆51
Comments
  • I need lessons like this, my roasties are terrible although my husband’s are pretty good so I leave them to him. Interesting that thing about not keeping them in the fridge. Mine sprout eyes and shoots after about 30 seconds if I keep them anywhere else, even the dark cellar.

  • I’m in charge of potatoes and veggies this Christmas at our house! They’ll be a la Daily Spud this year!

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Daily Spud, Daily Spud. Daily Spud said: @trjh never fear, I have remedied the lack of roasties on dailyspud.com :) http://bit.ly/77h6GN [...]

  • These are great steps to know. I’ve made some roasties before and they didn’t turn out as well as i had hoped. Now when I make them for Christmas I can follow you 12 steps.

  • Oh my, this recipe indeeds looks yummy, and so versatile too. I love the cornmeal addition. I think I might make mine with annato flavored oil instead of saffron, but oh that sounds good too!

  • Roasties! Gotta love that name. The polenta crust is such a good idea…for all of the aforementioned uses. Only the brightest tater of the bunch would think of that.

  • I like this polenta crusted idea and plan to try it myself.

  • What a great idea to use polenta!
    I’ve never before heard of boiling the skins along with the potatoes – what is the reason for this?

  • Good woman, I can barely type for my overexercised salivary glands! such permutations combinations and concoctions! I’d never normally admit to this, but only last night I was thinking about roastie tips for Xmas, specifically if DS had an angle! Sychronicity!

    Consider me signed up to the Daily Spud Anonymous 12 step programme: Hi my name is Keith and I’ve been without roasties for too long now…

    I wonder what the Romantics would have made of your mastery of the humble spud, given how knots in trees seemed to terrify them…

  • Sarah, Maison Cupcake: If these steps help to improve the average quality of roasties, then I’m happy (and thanks for the stumble btw). As for storage, spuds do like somewhere cool and dark, but, ideally, not so cold as a fridge (they’ll get progressively sweeter with the development of sugars). Also, it’s better if you don’t keep them in a sealed plastic bag (which will trap natural moisture rather than allowing it to leave). Another tip I’ve read is not to store potatoes near onions – they’ll release hormones which will cause both to spoil quicker.

    Jane: oh the pressure :) Here’s hoping your Daily Spud Christmas works out a treat!

    jenn: good luck, hope your Christmas roasties turn out well!

    OysterCulture: brilliant – you have just given me a great idea for using the annato that you brought me when you were here…

    Duo Dishes: It is a great name, isn’t it! And I am, of course, very flattered by your compliment :)

    Ciaochowlinda: thanks for stopping by and hope you like it – I am very fond of polenta when it come to crunchy coatings

    sarah: thanks for dropping in – the reason for boiling the skins along with the potatoes is so that the potatoes absorb some of their flavour, as there is relatively more flavour in the skins – it’s definitely worth a try

    Keith: hello my good man, how are you? (apart from salivating excessively that is!); hope you get on well with the 12-step program – the first hurdle is always admitting that you have a problem, so, by my reckoning, you are well on your way to recovery :) As to your last question, I fear that if I had lived in an earlier time, I might have been done for potato witchery!

  • I love the idea of a polenta crust! My daughter would love the crispy texture, can’t wait to make these roasties for her!

  • what a great idea to encrust in polenta…! love it!

  • I think you have to have grown up with these to make them well. Mine always fall below expectations, but I will print this post and make amends. GREG

  • This is the most interesting roast potato recipe I’ve ever seen! They look magnificent, Spud! I’ve never heard of coating the potatoes in polenta before roasting, but what a great idea. I’m sure the crunch is incredible! And, I’ve only just learned about pre-cooking the potatoes before roasting – though I have yet to try it. Next time for sure … because you’ve got me craving these in a major way!

    As for the Irish Christmas dinner … you do roast potatoes instead of mashed?! For some reason we seem to favor the mashed here in the US.

  • Natasha: hope you all enjoy the crispiness :)

    incrediblycrunchyflavor: thanks for dropping in and the polenta certainly does help with the crunch factor!

    SippitySup: perhaps you’re right, but I have every faith in your ability to do justice to the roast spud

    Diva: oh yes, the roastie is king spud when it comes to Christmas dinner here – that’s not to say that we don’t have other kinds of potato present on the table, this is Ireland after all :)

  • True enough, Spud, true enough! :)

  • Waw,…these roasted cornmeal potatoes look incedibly delcious!! They look georgous as well!

    Congrtas on your prevous post about your published bit of your writing piece!! Well done!

  • These look fantastic!! I have a ton of extra potatoes from our farm share and I’m definitely going to give the polenta coated ones a try.

  • Diva: yep, I predict that I will be dining on not less that 2 different kinds of spud on Christmas day myself…

    Sophie: Thank you! The cornmeal coating really does look well on the plate :)

    Maggie: ah, yes, roasties would be a great way to use those extra potatoes – enjoy!

  • [...] and Heston Blumenthal; with the potato varities Desiree, King Edward and Maris Piper.  The Daily Spud also had a great post recently on the various things you can try when preparing your roasties, [...]

  • Yum–I make roasted potatoes all the time, mostly just for a snack. Sometimes I peel them, sometimes I don’t. Cut them in cubes, wedges, rounds, half rounds. I never knew they had a real name, though! Roasties:) I like it; makes them sound homey and good. Which they are, even when they were nameless.

    I like the 12-step program. The first step is admitting that you love roasties:)

  • Hey Jenni, ’tis an excellent name indeed. And I think that everyone needs to take that first step in the roasties program, the world would be a happier place for it :)

  • Spud, I think we should do a joint potato post – Ireland and Russia united by the unique and encompassing passion for a humble potato!:) I’d provide a perspective about my far-away but never forgotten motherland;)

  • Oh do let’s do something Katrina – I’d certainly love to get the Russian perspective on the spud. Will be in touch…

  • I just made these last night..They are wonderful w/ the polenta!Thanks~

  • You’re welcome Monique, so glad you liked them and thanks for popping by to let me know!

  • Oh my goodness, roasties with polenta, great idea for a sunday dinner. I love roasties, we usually make them for breakfast with refried beans and eggs, lovely!! Great blog!!

  • Thanks Sweetlife! Roasties are usually a dinner thing for me, but with refried beans and eggs I could certainly be persuaded to have them for breakfast :)

  • These sound great! where can i get polenta/cornmeal?

  • Hi Aidan, I’d imagine that the bigger supermarkets would carry it or, if not, health food shops or any kind of Italian deli type place. I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten it in the Nourish health food shops in Dublin and also in the Asia market on Drury Street. Hope that helps!

  • Great, cheers! I’ll defo be trying them soon

  • Good stuff Aidan. Hope yourself & Jane enjoy them!

  • [...] bread sauce, brussels sprouts, roasted carrots, parsnips and onions and, of course, my signature roasties. Heaving platefuls finally served and consumed by the troops with cranberry sauce, redcurrant jelly [...]

  • [...] that, it is a pesto that is made for use with potatoes. I would quite happily eat gobs of this with roast spuds, oven baked chips or fried potato cakes, mix it with mashed potato, stir it through a plate of [...]

  • [...] I may have spouted on at some length on the topic of roast potatoes last year, my 12-step roastie program didn’t really address the question of how our most popular potato varieties stack up when it [...]

  • [...] Roasties: I’ve had a lot to say on the subject of roast potatoes both here and here but, for me, one simple, stand-out way of making a big flavour difference is roasting [...]

  • [...] think, having published my 12-step roastie program two years ago, followed by last year’s investigation of the best spud for the roastie job, [...]

  • can i oil and put potatoes in fridge after part cooking?

  • Hi Ken (and apologies for the delay in replying!) – the short answer to your question is yes, though I’d be inclined not to leave them there for an extended period – a few hours should be ok (and can be a help if you’re trying to get lots of other things prepared at the same time)

  • [...] had a lot to say on the subject over the past few years: there’s my comprehensive 12-step roastie program, my deliberations on the best choice of potato for your Christmas roasties (that, in my opinion, [...]

  • @clarekleinedler there will be roasties – Christmas ain’t Christmas without ‘em :) http://t.co/1etWFVhp

  • [...] garden herbs is infused with parsley, thyme, sage and lemon – a worthy candidate for making roasties, [...]

  • […] that I have explored this particular topic in some detail in my 12-step roastie program, experimented with different types of roasting potatoes, and covered the curious case of the frozen […]

  • The twelve ways of Roasties?

    Happy New year,
    Brian.

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