What would any Christmas dinner be without the potatoes? Crispy on the outside and fluffiness on the inside, they are the perfect accompaniment to any festive feast. With the potential for a multitude of opposing textures and flavours ranging from the rich and salty to the subtle and fluffy; roast potatoes are an absolute must-have at any Christmas table. No festive feast should be served without them!
Our guide below can help you turn your festive feast into something fantastical What’s more, cooking the perfect roast potato doesn’t have to be a nightmare before Christmas. We’ll help you make the prep run smoothly so you have time to pull a few crackers!
CHOOSING THE PERFECT POTATO
Michelangelo didn’t carve the David out of cement – he chose marble. Your roast potato masterpiece should be no different; choose the absolute best potatoes before you even think about the cooking process. Our advice is to start with a floury, starchy potato. You might be surprised to hear that ¾ of a typical potato is water. The rest of made up of something called “Dry Matter,” primarily starch.
Floury potatoes, such as Desirée, Anya, King Edward and Maris Piper have a higher amount of dry matter. The waxy charlotte and marfona have less. Choosing the right variety will make a big difference to the taste of your final product – aim for a variety with a high level of dry matter, this will maximise the flavour and help you obtain that incredible ‘fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside’ texture balance.
All these are available at major supermarkets with the exception of Anya’s which are only available at Sainsbury’s.
You’ve got a wide range of different fats to choose from Goose, Lard, Olive oil, and Vegetable Oil – so you’re never stuck for choice. For us however, there is absolutely no substitute for beef dripping – no other fat possesses such a nostalgic, profoundly meaty taste with such a perfect salty balance. It’s especially recommended if you are cooking roast beef instead of the more traditional turkey – as it will serve to further compliment the meat – and if you do need to be convinced even more so, expert butcher Pat Whelan recommends it over all other fat.
Seeing the upsurge of interest in heritage foods and traditional ingredients, Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers was inspired to create his own Beef Dripping. With the very best of beef available to him – and with more than a little guidance from his mother – he soon perfected a product that he was proud to share with his customers. (http://www.jameswhelanbutchers.com/info/resources/beef-dripping-great-taste-2015-supreme-champion/)
Whatever fat you choose, make sure to give your potatoes lots of sharp edges as this is where the fat collects most and the crispiness is maximised.
The cooking process is two-fold and specifics vary amongst chefs; the traditional method is to cook through your potatoes by boiling; they are done when they easily slip off a knife. Masterchef winner Steven Edwards has a new approach you can try, giving his salted potatoes a blast in the microwave for 10 minutes.
Either way, the final stage is to roast them in the oven. Times vary according to the type of kitchen equipment you have but the average time is around 45 minutes at 200 degrees. Give them a generous sprinkle of sea salt and put them in the pre-heated oven.
This is the secret to making your roast potatoes truly special (and it’s the part most people forget about). After 10 minutes, remove the potatoes from the oven and shake them rigorously – the more you shake the crispier they will become, as the edges will split and chip – perfect for soaking up all those wonderful juices. It may be preferable to transfer them into a colander temporarily for shaking, as the colander will chip them easier. Return to the oven and keep coming back to check in on progress and turn if necessary.
After about 45 minutes you should have some golden brown, crispy and delicious roast potatoes that will have everyone around the table talking! Or not because they are too busy eating them!