So Good You’ll Wish They Were the Main Course
Roasting is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables. The hot oven evaporates moisture, making the vegetables tender and caramelizing their natural sugars. Roasted veggies are great on their own, and they’re a natural alongside a dish like chicken or pork roast.
Here at Kitchen Riffs, we’re no stranger to their deliciousness. In recent months we’ve made Roast Sweet Potatoes, Roast Cauliflower, Roast Belgian Endive, Roast Asparagus, and Roast Eggplant. Heck, we’ve even done a Roast Strawberry Salad.
But nothing is better than Roast Potatoes. And with the cooler weather we’ve been having, we’re now enjoying the kind of hearty meals at which roast potatoes are particularly welcome. So it’s time to discuss how easy, fast, and off-the-charts-flavorful this dish can be.
Recipe: Roast Potatoes
Roasting potatoes (and most other vegetables) is simple: Just toss cut-up veggies with olive oil, salt, and pepper before popping them into the oven. You can add herbs or garlic if you want to kick up their flavor. Or if you’re preparing roast meat, just add the potatoes to the roasting pan for the last 30 or 40 minutes, and let them baste in the juices.
You can roast potatoes (or any vegetable, for that matter) at oven temperatures ranging from 300 to 500 degrees F. I prefer 400 - 425 for potatoes. They take longer to cook at lower temperatures, and at higher temperatures they have a tendency to char somewhat (which I sometimes regard as a good thing, although it’s not always something I want).
You can use any type of potatoes for roasting — including the baking varieties (russet) or the waxy boiling types (red skinned, Yukon golds). And you can peel or not as you choose. I usually leave the skin on baking potatoes, but peel the waxy ones. You can also cut the potatoes into almost any shape you like — from a large steakhouse “fry” shape to big chunks.
I usually figure one baking potato or 2 small-to-medium boiling potatoes per serving. But people usually want seconds on this dish, so adjust accordingly. If you’re going by weight, figure a good half pound per person (to make sure you have enough for multiple helpings). The recipe below serves 4 — barely.
Depending on how hot your oven is and how large you cut the potato pieces, roasting can take from 30 to 50 minutes.
Don’t count on having leftovers. But if you do, they’ll store well in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few days.
- 2 pounds of potatoes, scrubbed, peeled or not (baking or boiling variety)
- 2 to 4 tablespoons pure olive oil (just enough to coat each piece lightly; see Notes)
- optional garlic, dried thyme, or other herb/spice (see Notes for discussion)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (or any temperature from 300 to 500; but roasting time will vary; see Notes).
- Scrub potatoes and peel if desired. Cut into your preferred size and shape. I usually cut the potatoes into quarters or eighths (depending on size). But you can cut them into ½-inch rounds or dice, split the potatoes lengthwise and cut into half-moons, cut them into wedges, or even cut them into the shape of French fries. See Notes.
- Put potato pieces in a large bowl with olive oil and salt, pepper, and optional herb to taste. Toss until the potato pieces are coated.
- Spread the potato pieces on a large rimmed baking sheet or in a casserole baking dish. You want the pieces to be in one layer, and not touching (to promote even cooking). Use a baking sheet/dish that’s just large enough to hold the potatoes in one layer.
- Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes, then stir or toss to turn over. Continue roasting until they are tender throughout, but not mushy. At 400 degrees, this usually takes 30 to 44 minutes for potato chunks (depending on size), so I start checking at 30 minutes. Stir pieces once or twice during roasting to promote even cooking.
- If you want a bit more char on your potatoes (at this temperature you won’t get much), run the baking pan under the broiler for a few minutes until you achieve the result you desire.
- Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve.
- I use “pure” olive oil (the cheap stuff) because the aroma of extra virgin dissipates during the long roasting time — so IMO you’re wasting money if you use this.
- You can use more or less olive oil than called for in Step 3, depending on what flavor you want. If you want a really low-fat dish, you can get by without using any olive oil, although the potatoes will be somewhat dry, and also less flavorful. If you go the “no olive oil” route, spray the cooking sheet/dish with baking spray to reduce sticking.
- If you’re roasting meat, this dish (or any roast vegetable) is an ideal accompaniment, because it will cook at any temperature you’re likely to use for cooking the meat. As noted above, if you add the potatoes for the last 35 minutes or so of the meat’s cooking time, they’ll baste in the rendering fat and taste delicious.
- But oven temperature affects how quickly potatoes roast. At 500 degrees, it could take as little as 30 minutes. At 300 degrees, they may need close to an hour. So start testing at the 30-minute mark (or maybe the 25-minute mark if you’re roasting at 500 degrees), and keep testing every 5 to 10 minutes until you determine they’re done.
- The other main factor that will affect roasting time is the size of your potato pieces. Smaller ones will roast faster, large ones slower. If you cut potatoes into ½ inch dice, they may cook in as little as 20 to 25 minutes.
- Spreading out the potato pieces so they don’t touch promotes even and rapid roasting. If you pile them into a casserole, they will still be good. But they definitely won’t char (which you might not want anyway) and their surface texture won’t be quite as crisp.
- Garlic goes well with roast potatoes. If you’d like to add it, peel and mince 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, and toss with the oil in Step 3.
- Likewise herbs (I like dried thyme) or spices (I favor cayenne pepper, ground cumin, and/or ground coriander). Use about 1 teaspoon (half that much if you want only a hint of flavor) and toss with the oil in Step 3.
- Or try any herb or spice that you’re fond of. If it sounds good to you, it probably will be.
- Potatoes are a favorite for most of us, but roasting them isn’t as popular in the US as in some other parts of the world (they’re indispensable in Great Britain as part of many people’s traditional Sunday Roast Dinner).
Better Than French Fries?
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs and I were having a nice dinner of roast potatoes and chicken. But the bird must have been feeling neglected as we piled second helpings of potatoes onto our plates.
“These are so good,” said Mrs K R. “Roasting is the best way to prepare potatoes. I could make a meal out of these alone.”
“Looks like you’re pretty well on your way to doing that,” I observed as she forked another mouthful of spuds. “But do you think they’re better than French fries? After all, a lot of people consider a crisp, thinly cut French fry to be the gold standard of potato preparation.”
Mrs K R pondered the question. She took another bite of potato. “It’s close,” she finally admitted, “darn close. And I certainly wouldn’t want to do without fries. But given a choice? I think I’d pick these.”
Better than French fries? Yeah, I think so too.
But give them a try and decide for yourself!
You may also be interested in reading about:
Roast Sweet Potatoes
Roast Belgian Endive
Roast Strawberry Salad
Spicy Potatoes with Ginger and Garlic
Easy Tandoori Chicken
Barbecued Pork Steaks