I had the first stew of the season this weekend and it sure hit the spot. What's better than a soft, slow cooked carrot pulled from a dutch oven full of pot roast? Not much, especially after raking some leaves in a cold drizzle. One of those better things are twice-cooked new potatoes. No, I didn't say twice-baked—these are good, but can be too much work, especially when I'd just assume eat the mashed potatoes on their own. I'm getting off the point. Twice-cooked potatoes are something else entirely, think of it as a squat, plump little french fry—you cook the potatoes till they are done (light and fluffy on the inside), then give them a bit of a squeeze (so there are two flat sides to get good and crisp), and fry them till the exterior is golden-brown and crispy. The end result is fluffy and light on the inside, golden-brown and crisp on the outside and a cool alternative to our usual side of baked or mashed.
New potatoes are just younger and smaller versions of any variety of potato. As the potatoes are being dug this fall, there are a slew of these small, thin skinned potatoes available at the farmer's market (the final Saturday market will be held on Sunday at the Harvest Festival in Lloyd Square Park). Since the skin is so thin and these are so small, don't bother with peeling.
This technique works well with any small potato and if you really want to crisp them up, go for the deep-fryer. I hate to deep-fry at home (the couch smells like McDonald's for weeks and I hate to deal with the oil), but for those of you who fire up a deep-fryer for turkey next month, this would be a prime opportunity to make some shatteringly crisp twice-cooked potatoes while the turkey is resting.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the potatoes with a few tablespoons of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Put them onto a sheet tray and roast till tender, about 30-40 minutes (this depends on the size). Pull from the oven and allow to cool. This step could also be accomplished by boiling these potatoes (skip the oil and pepper, but add salt to the water), this should take 15-20 minutes. Boiling is faster, but that extra moisture will lead to a less crispy end result.
Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, use the bottom of a heavy glass cup to squish the potatoes—you are looking for a flat top and bottom and bulbous, slightly blown out sides—the goal is not to smash these, just squish a bit. Those blown out cracks will become especially crisp. If you are trying to save time, you can do these first two steps a day or two in advance—just refrigerate after squishing (a cold potato won't squish, it just crumbles).
While squishing, heat enough oil in a fry pan to submerge the bottom half of the potato, about 1 cup for a 10-inch pan. Over medium-high heat, fry the potatoes, in batches (if you crowd the pan, they won't brown well) till golden on one side, flip and repeat. Drain onto paper towels and season with salt, pepper and some fresh herbs—I like parsley and rosemary.
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