Headlong into Potato Season
October 28, 2008
Like it or not, we are plunging headlong into potato season. Even though potato season involves unmentionables like pasty skin, runny noses and bone-chilling winds, I still find myself in the “like it” category when it comes to tubers. I love all shapes and sizes (really, no two are exactly alike, no?), all colors and all preparations I’ve tried to date: mashed (especially my step-dad’s famous recipe, but since that’s also a secret recipe (no doubt because I’d balk at the amount of butter thrown into the mix) these will do in a pinch), baked (wrapped in crinkled foil and shut away in the oven for a good, long time), roasted (with just a slick of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and, if I’m feeling crazy, a sprig or two of rosemary), fried (duh), even boiled.
For all that, though, I’d never tried salt roasting. It’s a technique that I’ve wondered at for some time. It seemed novel and somehow scientific and it was on my to-do list. After hand picking 20 or so fingerlings from the market a couple weeks ago, I decided to give it a try.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
The process couldn’t be easier. First, flood a baking tray with the better part of a box of rock salt. Next, nestle the clean, but dry, fingerlings into the salt. Shower some salt over the top, until the taters look like they’re nearly covered by windswept snowdrifts. Then, slip the tray into a very hot oven and let the potatoes roast in their briny crust for a good bit—long enough to tend to your meal’s main course and other sides, for sure. Once they’ve roasted, excavate the fingerlings and brush away any salt crystals clinging to the potatoes. Finally, cloak the potatoes with a salted, herbed olive oil until they glisten.
The results—delicate, papery skins; buttery flesh; deep, pure potato-ness—have me even more excited for potato season (something I hardly thought was possible). And I’m equally excited to broaden my salt-roasting horizons. I’ve set my sights on some fish recipes and more vegetables and maybe even a big hunk of beef. A girl’s gotta find a silver lining for the bleak months that stretch ahead, right?
Rock Salt-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
1 (4-pound) box coarse food-grade rock salt
3 pounds small potatoes (about 24)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place 1/2-inch layer of rock salt in bottom of a shallow roasting pan. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on top of salt; pour remaining rock salt around and over potatoes. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes. Rub excess salt from potatoes. Combine thyme, oil, and pepper in a bowl. Add potatoes; toss gently to coat.