Rosemary Potatoes: Little spuds, big taste

by Terry B on March 12, 2008

A mix of fingerling and petite new potatoes adds more than just visual interest to Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary; each variety has a distinctive flavor as well. Recipe below.

Recent oven-braising adventures aside, I’m pretty much a stovetop kind of guy. Give me a pan and a flame, and the kitchen is open for business. So I’m just as surprised as you are that roasting the potatoes above led to making an entire dinner in the oven. And I’m not talking a one-pot wonder here—I roasted three separate dishes. Also being a keep-it-simple kind of guy, I can’t for the life of me say why I don’t do this more often. Everything was brainlessly easy, and dinner was delicious—better than it had any right to be, given the simplicity.

So how did I get started with the potatoes that snowballed into a stovetop-free dinner? I blame Daylight Savings Time. This twice-a-year ritual of moving our clocks backward or forward an hour has overstayed its welcome, as far as I’m concerned. And the Wall Street Journal recently reported on a study that shows that, even though Congress extended Daylight Savings Time by three weeks in 2005 expressly to conserve energy, it actually wastes energy.

It certainly wastes mine. My life is one long sleep deprivation experiment to begin with, so losing an hour of sleep is the last thing I need. My plan for Sunday had been to get over my fear of pie crust and bake something for Alanna’s Pi Day Event over at Kitchen Parade.

When I woke up even an hour earlier than way too early Sunday morning, my first thought was that baking a pie was not going to happen. My second thought was, “Great. Now what do I do for my post?”

The age-old question of “What’s for dinner?” that home cooks stare down every day gets ramped up considerably for food bloggers. You can’t just trot out one of your old reliables you’ve made a thousand times—it has to be something new. Preferably something photogenic and preferably something you’re not only happy to eat, but you’re okay with admitting you cooked.

Staring bleakly at the computer screen Sunday morning, I was cruising food blogs and checking the latest comments on my own, gearing up for a possibly long search for a food idea that would fit those criteria. Inspiration came quickly and unexpectedly, in the form of eight simple words tucked inside a comment on my pâté post, by Kelly-Jane over at Cooking The Books: “I only use duck fat for roasting potatoes.”

Even inspiration does not handle Daylight Savings time well. My first thought was basic—feral, even: “Want potatoes.” Gradually, almost reluctantly, another thought formed: “Hey! I have duck fat!” [I'd frozen some left over from last week's pâté adventure.] You could almost hear static and the grinding of gears in my head as those two thoughts came together and synapses finally fired and I realized I’d found the basis for my post.

Once I got going, though, I started thinking where else I could take it. One thought was roasting a mix of vegetables: potatoes, carrots and big chunks of onions, perhaps. But remembering the amazing duck fat fries we’d recently had at Hot Doug’s, I came back to just potatoes. And as I started researching roasted potatoes, two elements kept coming up in recipe after recipe: rosemary and garlic. The rosemary sounded like a great idea, but as much as I love garlic, I didn’t want it overpowering whatever the duck fat was going to bring to the party.

Regarding the duck fat, by the way, if you don’t have it or are less than interested in tracking some down, you can substitute olive oil—see the Kitchen Notes. You can also substitute red or Yukon Gold potatoes for the mix of fingerling and baby potatoes. Again with the Kitchen Notes.

Now back to “What’s for dinner?” Once I’d decided on the potatoes and was on my way to the store, I settled on roasted chicken thighs for the main course and maybe a salad. Then I saw the fresh asparagus. Beautiful, slender, little spears. I could quickly steam them at the last minute. Orrrrr… I could roast them too. Perfect. I mapped out the oven real estate in my head [there was even room for Marion to roast a couple of beets for a later use] and decided on a temperature that would work with everything and went to work.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Rosemary
Makes 4 side servings

1-1/2 pounds fingerling and baby potatoes [see Kitchen Notes]
2 tablespoons duck fat, room temperature [or olive oil---see Kitchen Notes]
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles [or 1 teaspoon dried], roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Rinse potatoes and pat dry. Place in glass baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle duck fat or oil over potatoes and toss with wooden spoon to coat. Season potatoes with salt and pepper [use a generous hand] and sprinkle rosemary over mixture; stir to coat potatoes.

Transfer baking dish to oven and roast potatoes for about 1/2 hour, stirring once halfway through. Potatoes are done when a sharp knife easily pierces larger potatoes. Transfer to serving bowl and serve immediately.

Kitchen Notes

Potatoes. I used Gemstone potatoes, a pre-packaged mix of fingerlings and baby potatoes from Melissa’s, along with some petite red potatoes. A whole range of, um, small potatoes are available these days—mix and match as you choose. You can also use medium-sized red potatoes or Yukon Golds. Don’t peel them—just scrub and quarter them and proceed as above.

Duck fat or olive oil? I kind of feel like someone recently converted to a new religion—way too fervent and overzealous. But the duck fat added amazing depth to the flavor—no ducky or gamey or even meaty taste. Just, well, depth. It also gave the potato skins a nice crispness, while the insides stayed tender and moist. That said, olive oil will produce delicious results too.

Variations on a theme. Try adding the garlic that I left out here. Chop one to three cloves and toss them with the other ingredients. You may need to reduce the heat to avoid burning it. Another great taste with potatoes—roasted, boiled, mashed or whatever—is fresh dill. Roast the potatoes with oil, salt and pepper, then toss with fresh chopped dill before serving. The smell when the dill hits the hot potatoes will be intoxicating. So will the taste.

Timing the meal. I started the chicken first, figuring it would need about 45 minutes to cook. I added the potatoes 15 minutes later. The asparagus, tossed with olive oil and a little lemon juice, then sprinkled with salt and lemon zest and arranged in a single layer on a baking sheet, went in 15 minutes after the potatoes. Be sure to snap off the tough ends of the asparagus spears before cooking. Just bend them near their bases until the tough parts snap off.

Also this week in Blue Kitchen, 3/12/2008

In praise of snail mail. Vintage postcards, a smart ad campaign and our second president remind me of the simple pleasures of letter writing, at WTF? Random food for thought.

Old school jazz, saved by newfangled technology. In which YouTube and a humble bit of aftermarket technology bring an out-of-print Duke Ellington album back to life, at What’s on the kitchen boombox?

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginny March 12, 2008 at 4:17 am

Looks great! I had the same problem- day light savings time zapped my inspiration! I like what you came up with! Would have never thought to add duck fat!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) March 12, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Trader Joe’s often carries those bags of mixed fingerlings and, though my doctor would prefer that I not touch them, in fact I cannot pass them by! I’d have to give the duck fat a miss, but olive oil sounds great. And some fresh herbs from the garden would make this irresistible in the summer, alongside fish cooked on the grill.

Peter March 12, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Excellent. I love a nice roast potato. Perhaps serve an aioli with the potatoes.. then people can choose how much garlic they want. And you get to keep the beautiful taste of fresh garlic and won’t risk it burning. mmm

Another ingredient I’ve recently discovered and have since become addicted to for roast chicken is verjuice. Maggie Beer’s (an Australian author) cookbook introduced it to me and it really is quite special what it brings to a roast chicken. My chicken roasts have never tasted so good. And all that it requires is a splash of it just before letting the chicken rest for 15 minutes.

Patricia Scarpin March 12, 2008 at 1:30 pm

You leaving garlic out? I can hardly believe it, Terry. :)

The potatoes look delicious.

Donald March 12, 2008 at 1:52 pm

I love the idea of the duck fat, but did you have to render it yourself? Where do you find this elusive goodness?

Alanna March 12, 2008 at 1:55 pm

I have it on good authority that potatoes, duck fat and “smoke” (or in my case, a stove-top smoker) create something quite amazing when getting together. It’s on my list!

Pie? Boo hoo! But no problem, you’ve got a year to get over that fear. February 29th may only come every four years but Pi Day, well, it’s an annual affair! :-)

Erin March 12, 2008 at 2:02 pm

I wish I had a virtual fork to take a really big bite of those potatoes right this second.

Terry B March 12, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Ginny—It always takes me a couple of days to get my rhythm back. I love the savory crepes you came up with after climbing out of your own Daylight Savings Time fog!

Lydia—Potatoes get an undeserved bad rap nutritionally. Besides being one of the ultimate comfort foods, they also contain serious health benefits, including being a source for antioxidants.

Peter—Verjuice, eh? Something tells me I may have to explore this—sounds like it might add a nice brightness to chicken. It apparently also works well in salads.

Patricia—I know, I know. To me, pretty much everything is better with garlic. Or champagne.

Donald—You can buy frozen duck fat a number of places, including some grocery stores. And I found a half dozen varieties at Amazon! But rendering your own means you get to eat duck. I got the duck fat I used for these potatoes when Marion roasted a duck for last week’s pâté adventure.

Alanna—I really was geared up for trying a pie. Dang. Like you said, though, I’ve got a whole year now. And yes, potatoes + duck fat + smoke totally equals amazing.

Erin—Thanks! reading food blogs often leaves me with that same feeling.

Carolyn March 12, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Yumm! Reminds me of a just-read article on exploding potatoes.

Jennifer Hess March 12, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Duck fat and potatoes are a truly perfect combination. Bravo!

Warda March 12, 2008 at 5:47 pm

Daylight savings time also ruined my Sunday. Thankfully I had some leftover roasted chicken and green olives tagine. Didn’t have to cook that day ;)
I would have added some garlic to the veggies,too. But still, sounds delicious!

Toni March 12, 2008 at 6:20 pm

While I generally build most things on garlic and onions, I can completely understand leaving it out of this one. Who can resist those fingerling potatoes? The colors and size just begs to be popped into my mouth! And rosemary and potatoes were made for each other – on the grill or in the oven.

My mom used to use chicken fat. I’ve never actually made anything with duck fat, but it just HAS to be good!

Donald March 12, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Terry, thanks. I did check out Amazon and put some in my wishlist. I think, I am going to roast the duck this time though. It sounds better that way.

Terry B March 12, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Carolyn—A nice article on reducing stress. Geared to working moms, of course, but full of good information. I find that getting into the kitchen and getting dinner going often helps me relax.

Jennifer—Thanks!

Warda—Or maybe using some of your roasted garlic oil to infuse the potatoes with garlic flavor without risking burned garlic.

Toni—Rosemary is one of my go to herbs for so many uses!

Donald—The duck fat from roasting duck may or may not be any better. but any day you get to eat duck is a good day.

Anticiplate March 12, 2008 at 11:18 pm

I love purple peruvian potatoes! They put other potatoes to shame:)

Kevin March 12, 2008 at 11:38 pm

I have been wanting to try cooking duck for a while now. This is another tasty sounding reason to get around to it.

Mary Coleman March 13, 2008 at 12:36 am

Major swooning session going on here! Looks and sounds divine, Terry!

Helmut March 13, 2008 at 9:42 am

Abolish day light savings time. It takes me weeks to get back to relatively normal!

Terry B March 13, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Anticiplate—Makes sense. That’s where potatoes started. And interestingly, they started as much smaller tubers ["It's not a toobah!"] than the football-sized bakers we now find. More like the fingerlings we now prize and pay a premium for.

Thanks, Mary! The curry dishes you have posted now sound pretty swoonworthy too.

Helmut—Apparently Benjamin Franklin first came up with the idea. One of the few dumb ideas I think he had.

Mike of Mike's Table March 14, 2008 at 11:38 am

Sounds delicious! Also, your previous post got stuck in my head as well…I’ve had exotic hot dogs stuck in my head all week and I found myself drawn to duck, which I finally made (and oh how excitedly I bottled up that liquid gold!). I’ve always heard about duck fat and potatoes but never tried it myself–now I can and am glad to hear it came out so well!

And also, down with DST–I’ve been late and screwed up all week long. :o

Terry B March 14, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Mike—I’m so glad you made duck! What did your wife think?

Susan from Food Blogga March 16, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Rosemary roasted potatoes are classic. Always perfect and always satisfying, just as yours must have tasted.

Dolce March 17, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Roasted vegetables are probably my favorite vegetables. Easy and tasty!

sarah March 18, 2008 at 3:39 am

Hopefully in a few weeks, we’ll see something Moroccan or Southeast Asian or African! http://thedeliciouslife.blogspot.com/2008/03/ethnic-paris-cookbook-winner-and.html

Terry B March 18, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Susan and Dolce—I don’t know why I don’t do more of roasting vegetables. And I’ve picked a great time to figure that out, as we head into spring and warm weather, right?

Sarah—I’m sure you shall! Everybody, the gracious Sarah just gave away an exciting sounding cookbook, The Ethnic Paris Cookbook over at her highly entertaining blog, The Delicious Life. And I won it! Stay tuned for something delicious.

Mimi March 23, 2008 at 8:43 pm

So beautiful! My kind of food…

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