21 November 2011

Eats: balsamic roasted potatoes

Happy holiday week, you guys! If you’re lucky like Mr. P, you may be getting the whole week off. I KNOW! I, on the other hand, have to turn in my dissertation today. A day early, because of other people on my committee also going on holiday. So, you know. Not a holiday around here for everyone.

If I wasn’t still working on that massive document, and the upcoming defense, I might have my life together a bit more and would have thought to feature something super seasonal today, like the sugar-free pumpkin cheesecake I usually make for the holidays, or the pumpkin bread I’m trying to make this year because what defending student has time to make a cheesecake? But of course, DISSERTATION DEFENSE trumps seasonal cooking. So instead I’ve dug through my stockpile of recipes to feature on this here blahhhg, and I came up with a dish that you just might want to have at Thanksgiving dinner!

Why just might? I guess it depends on your Thanksgiving dinner style. Me? Well, I was raised on very Southern holiday fare – sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, pecan pie, and a suite of vegetables that included lima beans, turnip greens, and squash casserole. And I still appreciate every single thing my Grandma cooks – but I also like baked sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus, and gourmet cranberry sauce. Now that my cousin the professional caterer (no really) usually manages our family’s Thanksgiving meal, we have a delicious mix of both styles.

So this recipe would fit in the latter category of Thanksgiving food: balsamic roasted potatoes. Sure, traditional mashed potatoes and gravy are delicious. But so are these! I think they’re even more flavorful, actually. Plus they’re a bit lighter (if you’re counting calories), and they require a lot less upper-body strength to prepare.

You start with these guys: red potatoes. As many as you want!

I think for this dish, I only used about half of these (the other half probably went into the ill-fated crockpot mashed potatoes). Mr. P and I can each eat about two smallish potatoes’ worth as a side dish at a regular meal; for a Thanksgiving dinner with a bazillion other things to try, however, I think one potato per person would be plenty.

Anyway, give them a rinse and a good scrub, but don’t worry about the peels. Peeling potatoes is for chumps. Chumps, I say!

You might also notice that they’re all roughly the same size. Yes, that is intentional, and yes, I stand in the produce section and dig through the potatoes to find ones that are approximately equal shape and size. See, if I get potatoes that are similar, then I can cut them all the same way, which makes for uniformly chopped potatoes:

And despite what you may think about my obsessive-compulsive tendencies, it’s not just form over function: aside from looking gorgeous all chopped up, this ensures that they’ll cook evenly! Worth it.

Then you’ll want to transfer the potatoes in a container that’s good for marinating. I prefer a shallower dish to a bowl, if possible, so most of the potatoes are actually in the marinade.

The marinade, of course, is the balsamic vinegar. If you have your special occasion fancypants on, you can get the really pricey, really tasty authentic stuff from Modena that they drizzle on ice cream and all that jazz. But we at Casa P are a bit more lowbrow, so we use cheap and probably watered-down Kroger brand. Italians, avert your eyes.

Drizzle that all over the potatoes – or if you are like me, do it in layers to make sure everything gets covered – and then drizzle some olive oil, too. Then add the seasoning (again, in layers if you’re so inclined). I use salt, pepper, parsley, rosemary, and garlic powder – though sometimes I use minced garlic instead. Don’t worry too much about measurements unless you’re averse to any one of those flavors. Just, you know. Season until they look tasty!

Then you can pop them in the fridge to marinate until it’s time to roast them, tossing occasionally (if you think of it) to re-coat all the potatoes. In this case, I pulled out half to roast one night, and the other half to roast the following night. While the potatoes do start to look icky after a few days in the vinegar, I still think it’s better to leave them in the marinade than to roast everything and re-heat the leftovers.

So when it’s time to roast, spread the potatoes out on a greased baking sheet. Or better yet, use greased aluminum foil covering a baking sheet, because even with the olive oil in the potatoes, they STILL stick like crazy. Be generous with the nonstick spray! Then pop them in an oven for about 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees F, flipping once if you remember like I never do.

And when they’re done...

Good grief. It is kind of hard for mashed potatoes to compete with that, you know? A bit crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside. Roasted potatoes, you may very well be my favorite sort of potato.

We had these with some roasted asparagus and a chicken puff pastry thing that I will never ever feature here because it was totally RAW on the inside and I finally decided to finish it in the MICROWAVE and then it was CHEWY and AWFUL and I THREW IT AWAY and may have even cried in frustration. But the potatoes were awesome!

I’m a firm believer that you don’t really need a recipe for this sort of thing – just season as you like it, roast until they’re done – but if you really want a recipe to follow, here’s the one that inspired me to make these. The roasting time is similar, but the seasonings are a bit different (no onion or nutmeg on mine).

Even if you don’t give them a try this Thanksgiving, make these soon – they’re a wonderful side dish for the cooler weather. Enjoy!


Tina said...

Yay! IT's finished! IT is almost over... oh, happy day!
This is my second comment. Blogger gave me an error message on the first one and promptly made it disappear... rather than try to reconstruct it because it really was so cleverly crafted and humorous and the effort is just too taxing, I'll just repeat the bottom line - I am so thankful everyday, but esp. this week, for you - you inspire me. <3 U and C U soon!

Christal said...

My comments are hiding, too. I'll put them on one location: YES! You're ALMOST DONE!!!!!! HOORAY, you ROCK!

And, I love love love your defense announcement!!!!!!!!! How very exciting! And sad for me for missing Your Special Day! :-)