The heart of this very simple recipe, adapted from the “roasted roots” formula in A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones, is a somewhat wacky technique: bashing partially cooked potatoes with a whisk before adding them to an oiled, salted, and peppered roasting pan that’s been preheated. This creates scraggy grooves all over the potatoes, so they can better absorb the oil and crisp up to a texture not unlike curly fries (but with more potato per capita). Scale the recipe up or down—you’re eyeballing the oil, salt, and pepper anyway. Add spices to the potatoes while they’re roasting for a more distinct character, or mix in herbs or roasted garlic at the end. To make ahead, peel the potatoes and store them soaked in water for up to 24 hours in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom of a deep, 12-by-8-inch roasting pan (preferably cast iron) with neutral oil, so that the surface is lightly covered. Season this oil with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Put the dish in the oven so the oil gets hot, and keep it there until the potatoes are ready to be added to it, 20–25 minutes, while you continue with the other steps.
- Keep a bowl of water next to you. Peel the potatoes, then cut them in half or quarters (each piece should be no bigger than a golf ball). Every time you peel and cut a potato, put it in the water so it does not oxidize. When finished, drain the peeled and cut potatoes in a colander. Place the potatoes into a large pot, cover them with room-temperature water, add a few generous pinches of salt, set the heat to high, and wait for the water to come to a simmer. (You’ll see white foam come to the surface and the water will look like it’s vibrating slightly; that’s when you should reduce the heat.) Once the potatoes are simmering, reduce the burner to the lowest heat and set a timer for 10–12 minutes. The potatoes are ready for the next step when a fork can pierce their outsides but their insides remain impenetrable.
- Carefully drain the potatoes in a colander. While the potatoes are warm, take a whisk and “stir” the potatoes so the outsides get scraggy. The scraggier the better—be as aggressive as you need, giving individual pieces attention if they seem like they are smoother than the rest. (Troubleshooting tip: If your potatoes don’t seem to be responding, it’s because they have not been blanched enough. Pour a kettle or saucepan of boiling water over them so that the potatoes heat up and are softer on the outsides.)
- Remove the pan from the oven. Discard the bay leaf. Very carefully, piece by piece if needed, place the potatoes in the pan so that each piece touches the bottom. You should hear a sizzle. Turn the potatoes over so they are more fully coated in the hot oil. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper again and add any other spices or aromatics, such as paprika, rosemary, or za’atar. Place the pan in the oven for 70 minutes, turning the potatoes after 40 minutes. Check on the oven periodically—the potatoes are done when they are golden and crispy; if that’s the case before 70 minutes have passed, take them out.
- Serve the potatoes as a side or on their own with any condiment or sauce you’d like.
Nikkitha Bakshani is a London-based writer. Her work has been published in Food52, Eater, The Baffler, and more. She is currently working on a novel.