• Yield: Serves 4

  • Time: 15 minutes prep, 45 minutes cooking, 60 minutes total

New potatoes and fingerlings roasted in salt have an extraordinarily pure flavor and creamy interior. Place the dish of potatoes buried in salt on the table (on a trivet) with a serving spoon, allowing guests to dig the potatoes themselves; pass little bowls of unsalted butter or creme fraiche, cracked coriander seeds, and snipped fresh chives on the side for guest to dress them as they like. This is also a great way to dress simple boiled potatoes. Leftover cracked coriander makes a surprising, instant seasoning for all sorts of dishes.


  • Kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes such as Yellow Finns, Bintje or fingerlings (no larger than 2-inches in diameter

  • About 1 cup creme fraiche

  • 3 or 4 tablespoons cracked coriander seeds (see below)

  • 3 or 4 tablespoons snipped fresh chives (optional)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (optional)



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.

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.