Hi friends! I know it’s been quiet around here for a while. Apart from the fact that I’ve always posted at a (very) slow pace, I also had to take a break from blogging to work on an exciting project that needed my full attention. Next month, I’ll be teaching a series of three hands-on Italian cooking classes at the Italian Cultural and Community Center here in Houston, where Peter, my in-laws, and I are all members, and I am a volunteer. The radio silence here lately is due to the fact that I’ve been immersed in creating the menu for each class and now, I’m about to begin testing each recipe. This will be my very first venture into teaching cooking classes, and I’m so excited about it! Teaching cooking classes has been my sogno nel cassetto (“dream in a drawer”) for some time, and I was thrilled to be asked to create and lead this cooking class series for the ICCC. The ICCC even interviewed me for the current issue of their newsletter, La Voce Italiana to introduce me and the cooking class series to the members (so! fun!). The ICCC and I are calling the cooking classes Cucina Conversations (just like the feature here on my blog) because I want each class to be an opportunity for me to teach students traditional Italian recipes while also having lively conversations about Italian food, ingredients, and culture. After all, some of the best conversations happen in the kitchen while cooking. While creating the menus for my classes, I also spent some time updating my ever-growing list of recipes that I want to feature here on my blog. I realized that I haven’t posted any “basics” recipes in a long time, and they are some of my favorite recipes to share with you, so I’m going to remedy that starting today with this post for one of my favorite side dishes: roasted red potatoes.
I’ve been roasting potatoes for a long time. They’re one of the first things I taught myself how to make after Peter and I were married, when I discovered just how much I loved cooking from scratch. What I don’t love so much: peeling potatoes. It’s one of those tedious kitchen tasks that’s right up there with peeling garlic. Thankfully, peeling most varieties of potatoes is optional since potato skins are edible and nutritional powerhouses. All you have to do is give the potatoes a good wash and scrub and they’re ready to cook. The thin skin of baby potatoes is especially tender, and roasting them makes the skins chip-crisp.
I’ve always par-boiled potatoes before roasting them to give them a head start because most recipes will tell you that this step makes for crispier roasted potatoes with a tender interior. But truthfully, this is also a tedious kitchen task because boiling potatoes can sometimes water-log them if you don’t drain them thoroughly, which then results in potatoes that steam rather than crisp up in the oven. Enter America’s Test Kitchen. I own The New Family Cookbook which has become my go-to cookbook for learning proper cooking techniques and shortcuts, complete with thorough explanations. If you know America’s Test Kitchen (and who doesn’t), you know that they leave no stone unturned when it comes to perfecting recipes and cooking techniques. They too, wanted to skip the par-boiling step and discovered that covering the baking sheet of potatoes tightly with aluminum foil for the first twenty minutes of roasting allows the potatoes to steam in their own moisture, giving them the head start they need to cook from the inside-out. The potatoes then spend the last twenty minutes roasting uncovered to brown and caramelize into perfectly cooked morsels that are creamy and tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. Roasted red potatoes are a satisfying side dish that pair well with roasted, grilled, or fried meats (I love them with roast chicken). Leftovers (if there are any) reheat beautifully in a moderate oven. They won’t be as crispy as the day you make them, but are nevertheless still delicious. They’re especially wonderful repurposed into a frittata.
Roasted Red Potatoes
Adapted from The New Family Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen
Baking the tray of potatoes covered with aluminum foil for the first 20 minutes allows the potatoes to steam in their own moisture and partially cooks them evenly from the inside-out. Once the potatoes finish cooking uncovered, they will caramelize and crisp up on the outside and stay creamy and tender on the inside.
2 pounds (1 kg) baby red potatoes, washed, scrubbed, and patted dry
¼ cup (50 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Set the oven rack to the center position.
Remove any blemishes or tough spots from the potatoes and then cut them into roughly 1-inch (3 cm) pieces and transfer them to a baking sheet. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes and sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and rosemary. Use your hands to toss the potatoes so they are thoroughly and evenly coated. Spread the potato pieces into an even layer and then cover the baking sheet tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake, covered, for 20 minutes, then remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully remove and discard the aluminum foil. Return the potatoes to the oven and continue roasting for 15 minutes, or until browned. Use a spatula to flip the potato pieces over and roast for an additional 5-8 minutes, or until browned and sizzling, taking care that they do not burn. Remove from the oven and serve hot.