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.
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?