It’s October. Hopefully your landlord has turned your heat on. Perhaps you’ve dug out your Dutch oven and your cast iron after a summer too hot to cook most things. Soon, the temperature outside will consistently drop, and you will be left to do one thing: make a perfect roast chicken (for which you only really need three ingredients), and make some roast potatoes to go along with that chicken.
Potatoes are a convenient vessel for whatever you want them to be, but they’re also curiously easy to fuck up if handled poorly. How many of us have suffered through gummy mashed potatoes, or an undercooked roasted potato, or a steak fry that tastes too much like a raw potato for our personal comfort? There’s one secret I’ve found to keep your potatoes from suffering this fate, and it’s remarkably simple: you have to shake the potatoes in their roasting vessel.
Let me explain.
Shaking your potatoes will make your parboiled babies look hideously ugly and roughened up, but it’s this roughening that allows for maximum crispiness after roasting — it maximizes the surface area on the potatoes when they go into the oven.
Here’s how we’re going to make crispy potatoes.
The first thing you’re going to do is peel your potatoes, and cut them into chunks. In choosing your potatoes, you have options. You will achieve the crispest roast potatoes if you use a russet. They become little pale golden brown nuggets on the outside, while the inside becomes fluffy. Yukon Gold potatoes have more sugar and less starch, so they’re more flavorful and roast more darkly, but they aren’t nearly as crisp, if this matters to you. On the inside, they stay creamy and flavorful. These will be your two best bets, depending on what you’re looking for.
When you chunk the potatoes, I recommend either quartering your potatoes if they’re on the smaller side, or cutting them into chunks of about two inches. When you boil your water for your potatoes, dissolve a half teaspoon of baking soda into your cold water (always start with cold water, add in your potatoes once the water comes up to a boil. Add in a lot of salt to season the potatoes too!). The alkaline water will help your potatoes achieve extra cripsiness when roasted.