Pascale’s roasted potato magic unfolds thusly: the potatoes are parboiled for five minutes first, drained, and returned to the saucepan. At this point — and this is the crucial step, so pay attention — you grab the lidded pan and shake it vigorously, which not only is fun, but also serves to make the surface of the potato pieces fuzzy from rubbing their hips one against the other.
And wouldn’t you know it, it is this very fuzz that fosters the formation of a splendid crust when you then bake the potatoes, while the parboiling step reduces the baking time and ensures that the flesh inside stays moist.
Pascale’s Perfect Roasted Potatoes
– 1.2 kilos (2 1/2 pounds) potatoes (waxy or floury — both types will work equally well)
– 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or duck fat
– sea salt
Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F).
If your potatoes are smooth-skinned, scrub them well and peel them in alternative stripes so that strips of skin remain. If, on the other hand, the skin of your potatoes is rugged and grainy, peel it off completely (no need to scrub) then rinse the potatoes well in cold water.
Cut the potatoes into even chunks, about the size of a bite. Place them in a saucepan large enough to accommodate them, cover with cold water, and add a teaspoon coarse salt. Set over high heat, cover, bring to a low boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.
As soon as the water boils, pour the fat into a rimmed baking sheet, and place the sheet in the oven, so the fat and baking sheet will heat up.
After the 5 minutes of boiling, drain the potatoes — they will not be cooked at that point — and return them to the saucepan. Place a lid on the saucepan. Holding the lid firmly shut with both hands (the saucepan will be hot, so wear oven mitts or use dish towels), shake the saucepan vigorously for a few seconds, until the surface of the potato chunks is fuzzy; this will help the formation of a crust.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven, pour the potatoes onto the sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, and stir well to coat with the fat.
Return to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes halfway through, until cooked through (when you insert the tip of a knife in one of the pieces, it should meet no resistance), crusty, and golden. If you want a little more color on them, you can switch to grill mode for the final few minutes.
* I normally plan to serve about 200 to 250 grams (7 to 9 ounces) of potato per person, but these are so good people tend to want a little more.
Adapted from Pascale Weeks’ pommes de terre rôties.