Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Potato Recidivism - This Time With Garlic & Rosemary

How could I possibly guess the recipe for Roasted Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary?

Several years ago my friend Andy came to visit me in New York.

Andy wasn't much of a cook. "Oh, you didn't need to cook for me!" she said when I served her a plate of melon in the summer. Another time she mentioned that she loved cucumbers. "Uh, I don't think I've ever seen you eat cucumber," I said. "That's because it's so much work," she said. 

So I didn't know what to expect when she told me that she was very disappointed that the restaurant she had made a special trip to visit had stopped selling her favorite dish. "And now I'll never get a chance to have it!" she added dramatically. 

Trying to be a good host, I asked her for more information about the dish. Perhaps I could come up with a plausible substitute. I wasn't too hopeful: Andy was from Southern California and enjoyed a wide range of Asian and Asian-fusion dishes that hadn't made their way to the East Coast yet. 

"It's roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary," she replied. I could make that, I told her. "How is that possible? You don't have the recipe," she said. Was there anything unusual about the spicing? Were there any secret ingredients? I asked her. "No, maybe some salt," she guessed.

Some people are a little hard to cook for. Maybe they're picky. Maybe they don't know what they like. Maybe their standards are unrealistically high. On the other hand are people who think you're a genius because you figure out the recipe of a dish whose name is the recipe. You must admit that you're no genius. You could, however, be a savant.

After that first time - successful! - of making Roasted Potatoes With Garlic & Rosemary, I made it many, many times. I once served it to friends from London who were visiting New York. "This must be your speciality," Jo said. I hadn't had a speciality before! How could I not pass this recipe on?

General notes: Do not underestimate the roasting time involved. Under-baked potatoes are a crime.  Prep time might run you about 10 minutes but roasting time is more like an hour and fifteen minutes or even more. You will need to mix your potatoes in the middle of cooking, possibly move the pan within the oven and test for doneness before you can declare the potatoes fully cooked.


Great potatoes, skins on,  in a medium dice
  • One head of garlic, cloves peeled and cut in half if large. Crushing them in the process is fine.
  • Olive oil, around 1/4 cup or more as needed. If you want to divide your prep work, you could store the peeled garlic cloves in the oil and store covered in the refrigerator for several hours. This will also flavor the oil nicely. 
  • Dried rosemary - several good shakes of the canister. You could use fresh rosemary, but if you do, use only a few needles or the taste will become overpowering.
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Garlic cloves in olive oil

  • Preheat your oven to 400 or so. My oven has about 5 different climatic zones. The lower right hand corner is about 200 degrees hotter than the upper left corner. If you're cooking another dish in the oven at the same time you can set the temperature to the other dish's, but be prepared to adjust roasting time accordingly and test the potatoes for doneness.
  • Wash your hands very thoroughly. You'll be using them as your mixing tool.
  • Dump all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and, using your hands, mix thoroughly. Transfer contents into a shallow baking dish or two (I use a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish) and roast in the pre-heated oven. After twenty-five minutes, remove the dish from the oven, stir the potatoes - with a big mixing spoon; your hands have retired as mixing tools - and spices, scraping the pan if necessary to release any potato crust (aka "the best part"). Return to oven.
  • While the potatoes are roasting, add a handful of kosher salt to your hands and give yourself a Softening Antioxidant Massage by rubbing your hands together briskly. Contemplate the well known health benefits of garlicrosemary and olive oil, which have now entered your body and begun their healing work. Close your eyes and imagine that you are at a pricey spa as you inhale the rosemary's piney scent. Feel the olive oil soften your skin and repair your ragged cuticles. Open your eyes, wash off the gunk and stir the potatoes again. Move the baking dish to a different location in the oven - to the bottom if it had been on the top shelf, to the top if it had been on the bottom. (Your hands really will be softer, by the way.)
  • When the potatoes have been in the oven for about an hour, try testing a potato cube to see if it's fully cooked. If so, remove and serve. If not, try testing again every 5 minutes. Do not serve under-baked potatoes!
And they reheat pretty well!

If any of the garlic cloves have gotten burned in the process, discard before serving or tip off your guests to avoid them. They can taste a bit bitter. But those cloves that have been thoroughly roasted but not burnt will have a marvelous creamy texture. One friend ate so many cloves of the garlic that he began doing a "Puff the Magic Dragon" routine and exhaling onto all the other guests. We discovered that he smelled like pure garlic, rather than garlic breath. And there were no vampires at the party! Coincidence? I'll leave it to you to decide.


  1. Ah, you shared the recipe! Readers, I assure you, they are to die for. Sally, do you think one-quarter of the potato content in the form of yams would be heresy? A little sweet potato goes a long way, I know. At best.

  2. Yams/sweet potatoes would be a fine addition. I often make a Thanksgiving version of this dish with yams mixed in. Feel free to experiment with all kinds of starchy tubers!

  3. Mmmm, garlicky oven fries. Rosemary is my golden standard, but sometimes I use sea salt/smoked paprika combo, which was a big hit with my friends in Tokyo, They couldn't guess where that smokey (duh, naturally) flavor came from.
    For sweet potato oven fries I use cumin powder...pretty sure cinnamon will work well with sweet potato (then, adding a pat of butter won't hurt at the end of cooking time).