So, remember last week when I told you about my asinine decision to renovate my living room and kitchen? And remember how I said I, “Would have updated pictures by this week,” [because, surely, it wouldn’t take that long]? Well, I’m a total liar, and I suck at renovating. There. The truth is out. One thing I do not suck at, however, is cooking. My Crispy Baby Potatoes with Garlic and Fresh Herbs are proof of that.
I’m not even going to post pics of the “progress” of my project, or lack thereof, rather. To do so would just cause me more humiliation than I’m already battling at the moment. Suffice it to say: when you redo your downstairs living areas- you should ensure that the color of the blinds you had are the same white you’re planning to paint the trim with. Newsflash: they’re probably not. Purchase painter’s tape that isn’t manufactured by incompetent 3-year-olds, as well. That would’ve been helpful to know ahead of time. Oh! Cover your hair unless you want to scrape Pure White Sherwin Williams out of your hair for the next week. That’s important too.
I am almost done, though. When I finally finish, I will have spent almost a month trimming out five windows, painting four walls and one ceiling. I will have consumed copious amounts of adult beverages and eaten six servings of these crispy potatoes. Seriously. I have made these things more times in the last month than is normal. Guess how much shame I feel? Yep, roughly the same amount as the pride I feel in being a great DIY’er= zero.
But, potatoes- my crispy potatoes- stroke my ego. They tell me, “You know what, Marta? Yeah, you’re horrid at this renovation stuff; but you know what? You’re amazing at cooking me, you’re cute, and doggone it! People like you.” Yes, Crispy potatoes! People do like me! I like me!
How does one go about creating the “crisp” in a crispy potato? *Remember when Dan Quayle told that kid that “potato” was spelled “potatoe”? Totally dated myself, I know.* The key to a crisp skin on your potatoes- no matter their form- is par-cooking. Whether you’re par-frying, or par-boiling; to “par” anything is to pre-cook it. The former produces crispy french fries, whereas our whole, crispy baby potatoes, are accomplished using the latter method.
What makes these potatoes extra amazing, besides their crispy shell, of course, is the addition of garlic and herbs, as well as a liberal sprinkling of kosher salt. It always amazes me; how such a simple dish can taste so extraordinary with a few special touches. My favorite herbs to use when making this accompaniment are parsley, thyme, rosemary and sage. These herbs must be fresh for this dish and are the classic mix to pair with potatoes and garlic. All they require are a rough chop- meaning: you don’t need to be precise in your cutting, and uniformity is not a priority. You do want slightly fine pieces of the herbs so as not to bite into a big, ol’ leaf of rosemary, or something. Finely mince the garlic separately because we’re going to flash fry (fry quickly) them in the oil following the potatoes.
The humble potato. I can’t imagine my life without potatoes- and I’m not being dramatic. The potato has gotten the Soldier and I through some pretty lean times in our lives. Potatoes are cheap, filling, and surprisingly enough, very nutritious. With their roots (no pun intended) traced back to Peru and the mountains of Bolivia, these tubers have been feeding generations of people. With over 400 varieties of potatoes available, you can eat a potato every day and never eat the same one twice. We’re going to be using what are know as “Baby” or “Gourmet” potatoes for this recipe. Typically, you would simply boil or roast baby potatoes, but since when have I ever been typical?
The first step in getting that crispy potato skin is to boil the potatoes in salted water. The addition of salt to the cooking liquid flavors the potatoes as they boil. Par-boiling cooks the potatoes at, relatively, the same time- something we’d never be able to accomplish (completely) with frying alone. Hence, the reason for boiling first. If we were to just chuck the potatoes into our hot oil, we’d end up with fried potatoes that are raw on the inside. That would make you feel like I do every time I walk into my living room.
Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes, then, using a knife, pierce the largest one you find. The knife should slide in and out with just a brief snap of resistance as it pierces the skin. If the potato offers more resistance than that, continue cooking for 5 minutes more before retesting.
Next, drain your boiled potatoes in a colander. Allow the heat to evaporate the remaining water on their surface. Transfer the potatoes to a sheet pan lined with paper towels to absorb the rest of the water. The key to the crispy skin is making sure there’s no moisture on the skins when you begin frying. That’s also the key to not starting a grease fire. Meanwhile, heat a 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a skillet or frying pan. We use vegetable oil, or peanut oil, because they can be heated to a higher temperature than other fats. Their smoke point, or temperature at which they’ll begin breaking down and burning, is much higher than fats like olive oil or butter.
You know your oil is hot enough when you see these ripples on the side of your pan where the oil begins. It will look like rivulets of oil and the surface will start shimmering. If you see smoke coming off of your oil, it’s too hot and can be quite dangerous. Remove it from the stove, VERY carefully, and allow it to cool down for 15 minutes. If there is no smoke, and you have ridges like the ones above, continue on.
Carefully add half of the potatoes to the pan. Frying in batches ensures that your oil’s temperature never drops so low that it begins steaming the potatoes instead of frying them. Maintaining the proper temperature when frying is key to achieving that crisp skin. Fry the potatoes for 5-6 minutes, or until the skins have wrinkled. This is the only time you should be excited to see wrinkles. Use a slotted spoon or a spider to remove them from the oil and drain them on paper towels to soak up the excess oil. If you fried them correctly, there shouldn’t be too much oil on their surfaces. Finish the other half of the potatoes the same way.
After all of the potatoes have been fried, remove the pan from the stove and allow it to cool down for 5 minutes. Don’t drain the oil, just pull it off of the heat. Whenever you fry garlic, you must be mindful to avoid burning it. High heat and garlic are fickle lovers- too much heat causes the garlic to go from beautifully toasted and pungent, to miserably acrid and burnt. Removing the pan from the heat allows the oil to cool while still providing enough heat to toast the garlic. Even still, you’ll have to be vigilant not to let the garlic cook for too long. Add the garlic to the oil and stir it carefully (you don’t want to splash any oil onto your hot stove) to sauté it.
Once the garlic has begun to turn a golden brown remove it from the oil using a slotted spoon or a fine mesh sieve. Immediately toss it, along with your chopped herbs and a generous pinch of kosher salt, into your potatoes.
Perfection! Unlike alabaster blinds against pure white trim. Enjoy these Crispy Potatoes while I hand paint rogue splotches of paint and figure out how to paint faux wood blinds. Pin it for later and share it with your friends too!
Crispy Baby Potatoes with Garlic and Fresh Herbs
Yield 4 servings
Par-boiling these potatoes provides the crispy skin we all crave.
gallon of water (for boiling)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2lbs baby potatoes
1/2 cup vegetable (or peanut) oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh parsley
3 leaves fresh sage
Kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- In 6qt stockpot, bring the water to a boil with the potatoes and 1 tbsp kosher salt. Boil the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, or until a knife inserted is met with no resistance.
- Meanwhile, remove the leaves of the thyme and rosemary from their stems. Roughly chop all of the herbs together. Mince the garlic separately and set each aside.
- Once the potatoes are done, drain them in a colander. Transfer to a paper-towel lined sheet pan to absorb the remaining water.
- While the potatoes are draining, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan (or skillet) over medium-high heat.
- Begin frying the potatoes in batches. Fry for 5-6 minutes, or until the skin is wrinkled. Remove the potatoes from the oil using a slotted spoon or spider. Drain on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Continue frying the potatoes in batches until all are cooked.
- Remove the frying pan from the heat and allow to cool down for 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté quickly. As soon as the garlic begins to turn a golden yellow, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon or a fine mesh sieve. Quickly toss it, along with the herbs and a generous pinch of salt, in with the potatoes. Add fresh pepper, if desired.
- Serve immediately.
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