How to make crisp roasted potatoes

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Dear Lynne,

Crisp roasted potatoes are my husband's great love (after me). Mine are never crisp enough. Please tell me: What's the secret? Many thanks.

-Peggy in Michigan

Dear Peggy,

Two secrets bring success -- spacing and some tasty olive oil.

If food is piled closely together in the roasting pan, it steams instead of browning and crisping. Crisp potatoes demand ample space. The potatoes should barely touch. Use a bigger pan (or two), making sure it is shallow so the heat can surround the potato chunks, and try this recipe. The key to success here is taking the potato into a state of golden crunch by roasting it at high heat, with a light film of olive oil.

Although the process requires attention, it can be done hours ahead. Just hold them at room temperature and reheat when needed in a 400ºF oven.

-Lynne

Crisp Oven-Roasted Potatoes

Serves 6 to 8, and halves easily

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds medium-sized, red-skinned potatoes, not peeled 
  • 6 to 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, and/or a 3-inch branch of fresh rosemary 
  • 3 thin slices pancetta or bacon, chopped (optional) 

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Scrub the potatoes (do not peel). Place them in a 6-quart pot, cover with cold water and bring to a fierce bubble. Cook about 8 minutes, or until barely tender. Drain them in a colander. Rinse with cold water to cool them down. Then quarter the potatoes. Do not peel them.

2. Use a shallow roasting pan large enough to hold the potatoes so they barely touch. Spread the potatoes in the pan and sprinkle them with 5 tablespoons of the olive oil, some salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast 40 minutes, turning often, or until they begin to color.

3. Sprinkle with the rest of the olive oil, the pancetta or bacon, and herbs. Turn potatoes frequently as you roast them for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until they are very crisp and cooked to a deep golden brown.

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