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
Cooking Light

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.

24 Responses to “Headlong into Potato Season”

  1. ronnissweettooth Says:

    I love potatoes in all shapes and all manners of cooking. Quick question: What do you do with all that salt when you’re done?

  2. Gorgeous tates! Never tried salt-roasting before, but if it makes the potatoes look like that, I’m going to have to give it a try.

  3. Annie Says:

    That looks really good. We’ve done salt-roasted chicken before. Quite a lot of work. But the flavor is worth it.

  4. Michael Says:

    The way I’m used to salt-roasting, you get the salt up to temperature first and then you pour the hot salt over the food and stick it back in the oven.

  5. Janet Ching Says:

    Lovely ics, I like your method, never thought of using on potatoes. Next time when I find this French Young Small potatoes, I must try.

  6. ronnissweettooth: I discarded it. It seemed a little wasteful, but it’s really an ingredient (albeit one that’s not eaten). And rock salt is inexpensive, so it didn’t feel extravagant.

    js: Thank you!

    Annie: Thanks! A whole chicken? Or parts? I can only imagine the vessel (and amount of salt) necessary for a whole bird.

    Michael: That’s interesting. I assume that would affect the overall cooking time. The couple recipes I looked at called for the method I used. I wonder if your method would help to create a better sear/crust on the outside of the roasted food?

    Janet Ching: Thanks! I hope you try.

  7. The only time I salt-roasted potatoes was when I was made black truffle potatoes – a bit too fancy for everyday! I don’t know why I never went back and tried a simpler version… but I will now!

  8. Nicole Says:

    The potatoes look amazing but using that much salt seems a little wasteful. Is there any way to save the salt and use it again?

  9. Nicole Says:

    Woops! Just realized my question was already answered. Nevermind!

  10. bakingforthecure Says:

    I never heard of salt roasting potatoes until today. Your potatoes looks divine! This is certainly a technique that i`m going to try in the very near future! thanks!

  11. eggsonsunday Says:

    I’ve always wondered about this method too – glad to see some pictures and hear it turned out deliciously! I’m definitely going to be giving this a try…maybe with the purple fingerlings I picked up at the market last weekend. Yummy! -Amy

  12. Whitney Says:

    I just bought some fingerlings at GreenCity (last one that it outside!) this morning and I might have to give this a try. I am not sure if I am ready for full on winter yet 😦

  13. chefsquire Says:

    I’ve never commented here, but I love your blog. I have about a dozen or so of your recipes bookmarked.

    Next time you can save the salt and reuse it again (salt roasted beets are one of my favorites). It is also a great method for shrimp (leave the shells on) or fish. I’d don’t save the salt when used with seafood.

  14. Hillary Says:

    I’ve never tried salt roasting anything before, sounds intriguing!

  15. Melissa Says:

    I had never heard of salt roasting either. Interesting. And your potatoes look excellent, so the photos are an endorsement of their own to the technique. I’m curious to try.

  16. varshadevnani Says:

    That looks yummo!

  17. jehingr Says:

    We salt roast chicken, beef, fish, beets, and potatoes. Yummy all.

    Here in Michigan, after we cook with the salt, we simply dump it out on the sidewalk to the garage to help clear the ice.

    Yummy and useful – you can’t beat that combination.

  18. Kari Says:

    A couple of people now have converted to WordPress. Was the transition hard?

    As always, beautiful pictures and writing.

  19. andie Says:

    That looks interesting! I’d have never thought of that. I’ll have to give that a whirl this weekend!

  20. Robin: Ohmygosh, I missed that entry (the hubbub of the New Year, I guess). I went back and look and they look unbelievable.

    Nicole: Not sure what kind of climate you’re in, but see jehingr’s great suggestion down thread.

    bakingforthecure: I hope you try it!

    Amy: Let’s hear it for purple food! : )

    Whitney: I am beyond jealous that your Wednesday morning involved the Green City Market! Enjoy your spuds.

    chefsquire: Thank you!

    Hillary: It was fun — I recommend.

    Melissa: Pictures can be awfully persuasive, no?

    varshadevnani: Thanks!

    jehingr: Brilliant! And I love the beet idea too.

    Kari: Actually, I’ve always been on WordPress. I just switched to a new theme. That said, I’m very happy with WP.

    andie: Go for it! Let us know how it goes!

  21. Melissa Says:

    I did these on Wednesday. They came out perfectly, crispy skin and soft insides.

    Then I ruined the flavor with too much thyme. Ack!

  22. Melissa: Oh no! Try, try, try again? Sounds like you at least had one taste tater before the onslaught of thyme. Or at least I hope so. : )

  23. Rita Says:

    Hi Kristin

    I just found your blog today, by the usual jumping-from-link-to-link thing….Anyway, I love it, but was very intrigued by this salt technique, maily because I tried it before and it didn’t work. What I did was boil the potatoes and then sit them in rock salt for at least 2 hrs, butthey didn’t get seasoned. Did your get enough salt on them that you didn’t have to add any more?

  24. Rita: Mine were plenty seasoned. I wonder if that’s because I roasted them in the salt, rather than cooking them beforehand?

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