The Perfect Roast Potatoes
Despite all my fancy pants cooking, the one thing I get the most compliments for and the most questions asked about, are my roast potatoes. I’m even famed for them at work and most of my colleagues haven’t even tried them. I’m not sure I should be proud of the reason my roasties are famous though; my Aussie colleagues were all appalled by the the fact I use lard or duck fat to roast them. But that is the secret of a really good roast potato, along with using the right potatoes. So instead of having to verbally explain how to make roast potatoes again I thought I’d write a step-by-step guide to my perfect roasties. So Sam, and anyone else who has ever asked, this is how it do it. It’s actually going to be difficult to write it down because I cook them so often now I do it without thinking and without a recipe.
Roast potatoes are one of the first things I learnt how to cook when I left home, to make sure I could get my roast potato fix; which 13 years later means a lot of roast potato cooking! But I will do my best to write it down accurately, and since I learnt my technique largely from you Dad, feel free to make any suggestions if I get it wrong.
First things first pre-heat your oven to 200C
The first key to the perfect roast potato is the potato. I know it sounds strange but there are many different varieties of potato and they all have slightly different characteristics. In order to get the crispy crunch you need a potato that falls apart and turns floury when boiled. My favourite are King Edward’s, but they can be difficult to get hold of in Australia so the next best thing are the pink potatoes you get in all supermarkets, also known as Desiree.
To prepare the spuds peel them and cut them into large chunks. If the potatoes are small, you won’t need to chop them; if they are large they may divide into 2-4 pieces. Make sure the potato chunks aren’t too small as they will end up burning and be all crispy bit with no fluffy innards. If I have to give a size, I guess I’d say chunks about the size of a golf ball. Now I know you’re thinking how many potatoes should I cook? I don’t weigh spuds, I go by portion size. In our house a serve of potatoes is 5 per person but I appreciate your average Aussie does not share the love for the roast potato as I do, so when I’m cooking for others I allow 3-4 per person and secretly hope they don’t eat all of theirs (oh no, I’ve just given away my secret).
Once peeled and cut the potatoes should be par-boiled until they start to go floury but are not cooked all the way through. I usually allow 7 minutes boiling time. The potatoes are then drained and returned to the pan to dry out for a minute. I usually put them back on the stove top to steam, then put the lid on the pan and shake them around to increase their floury coating. At this point, if your potatoes are too small or you have cooked them for too long they will disintegrate to mash and you won’t be able to roast them.
While the potatoes are boiling heat the fat in the oven. This is the second most important part of the perfect roast potato. It has to be hot fat and it has to be FAT. None of the healthier oil options. I only ever use duck fat, goose fat, lard or when desperate beef dripping. For the above quantity of potatoes I used 30g of goose fat. 30g will roast up to about 20 pieces of potato successfully. Any less than 10 potatoes and it would probably be too much fat. Too much fat and the potatoes don’t crisp up. Too little fat and the potatoes don’t crisp up. They also won’t go crisp if the pan is overcrowded so with my large roasting tray I can do a maximum of about 25 potatoes.
The fat has to be sizzling when you add the par-boiled potatoes to the pan. Stir the potatoes immediately to coat them in the hot fat, as this will start the roasting process. Place the potatoes in the oven.
Stir the potatoes again after another 15 minutes then they should be ready to serve after about forty five minutes. When ready, the potatoes should be brown and crispy on the outside but not burnt. When you cut into them, the potatoes should be fluffy on the inside.