Yesterday found me knee-deep in holiday planning, making a list, checking it twice, that sort of thing. So in an effort to not toss a freezer’s worth of food before our holiday vacay, I defrosted a two-pound flank steak from Costco and looked around for an accompaniment.
Hiding behind the boxed mac & cheese I found a half full bag of red potatoes, left over from our faux Thanksgiving the week before. I knew I didn’t want mashed potatoes, love them though I do, since I’m (pretending to be) on a diet. As I stared uselessly into space, I caught a glimpse of a recipe for roasted potatoes by Melissa Clark that I’d clipped from the New York Times a few weeks ago. I love reading Melissa’s column and have her book In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite on my Christmas wish list (Sir Gonzo, pay attention, please!).
Also, the recipe called for a cast-iron skillet and little else to muss up the kitchen, which was further proof of her genius.
As my husband heated up the charcoal grill for the steak, he asked how long I needed for the potatoes. “Only 30 minutes once they’re prepped!” I called out from the kitchen, with confidence, nonetheless.
But oh, how wrong I was.
Experienced chefs will tell you to always read your recipes. Twice. Which I did. Twice. And each time I read the instructions this way: roast the potatoes for 15 minutes at 325° F, then crank up the heat to 450°F and roast for 15 minutes more. However, what the instructions actually said was this: roast for an HOUR and 15 minutes at 325°F. An hour and 15 minutes! Or 75 minutes, to be exact.
Former computer dork that I am, I read only the numbers in the instructions and not the actual words. Now what? In the spirit of Melissa’s try anything joie de vivre, I yanked out my copy of Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton and decided to combine Susie’s quick roast method with Melissa’s recipe.
Because, in the end, if I wanted my steak, potatoes and gin and tonic to be served simultaneously, I really didn’t have much choice.
Turned out, the potatoes were fabulous. Perhaps not as crunchy as Melissa would have liked, but her addition of a smashed up cinnamon stick and the garlic really made the dish unique. Plus, I got to use my baby 8” cast-iron skillet to break up the cinnamon stick (place it in a plastic baggie first; you can also use a mallet or hammer for this step), which was fun. Melissa’s recipe called for unpeeled garlic, making the dish easy breezy to get into the (now 450°F) oven, but I think I might try peeling them next time.
Then again, why mess with perfection?
Spiced Garlic Roasted Potatoes
1 ½ pounds red potatoes, chopped into 1-inch cubes (don’t bother peeling them)
6 unpeeled garlic cloves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small cinnamon stick, smashed to bits
2-3 teaspoons kosher salt, to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Combine all ingredients in a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
3. Roast for 35-45 minutes, until the potatoes are tender on the inside with some browning for crunch on the outside. Stir once or twice as they roast.
4. Season with salt, if needed, and serve.
Adapted from a recipe by Melissa Clark.