Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Spread a 1/2 inch-thick layer of kosher salt in a large, 2- or 3-inch deep ovenproof pan or dish.
Nestle the potatoes in the salt, spaced about 1/2 inch apart.
Cover completely with salt.
Bake until tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. To test for doneness, dig out one of the potatoes and press; it should split open easily.
Let the dish cool 5 minutes before serving.
Place little bowls of unsalted butter, crème fraïche, cracked coriander seeds and snipped chives on a platter or tray to make them easy to pass.
Cracked, Toasted Coriander Seed:
Scatter the coriander seed in a small heavy skillet. Toast over moderately low heat, shaking the pan frequently until you just get a whiff of their fragrance.
Transfer to a mortar and crush the seeds coarsely with a pestle. Or, place a sheet of paper towel on the work surface and pour the seeds onto it. Use the side of a chef's knife or the flat bottom of a heavy glass to press down on the spices to crush them. Carefully lift the sides of the towel and tilt the crushed spices into a small bowl. Alternatively, coarsely grind them in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder for a less rustic effect.
From The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider (William Morrow, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2006). Copyright 2006 by Sally Schneider.
A former chef, Sally Schneider has won numerous awards—including four James Beard awards—for her books and magazine writing. She is creator of the lifestyle blog Improvised Life, a featured blogger on The Atlantic Monthly's Food Blog, and author of The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook. She has served as a contributing editor to both Saveur and Food & Wine, and her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Saveur, Food & Wine, SELF and Connoisseur.