Uncovering the Real England: Roasted Potatoes

(Written February 2010) Regularly a part of an English dinner, roasted potatoes are crackly and perfectly browned on the outside and soft on the inside. I make roasted vegetables at home. I collect a variety of hardy root vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips. Then I cube them into my big 60’s barely-yellow mixing bowl, drizzle enough olive oil on to cover them, add salt and pepper – and maybe a little fresh chopped rosemary – and roast them in a 400+ degree oven. After fifteen minutes, I flip them so they roast evenly. They are OK, but they never come out with that great English crunch covering.

Last night I was keeping Anne company in the kitchen while she was making dinner. Steak and kidney pie (steak and mushroom for me), roasted potatoes and parsnips, carrots, green beans, and gravy. We were just waiting on the roasted potatoes. I hadn’t seen the beginning of the process, so I asked Anne exactly what she had done. Anne explained that she had peeled the potatoes, cut them in half, and parboiled them for five minutes. Then she put them in the roasting pan with fat. I hovered to watch the roasting process, looking for the secret of why mine weren’t English. After several minutes in the oven, Anne checked on them. She pulled the pan out, tilted it to one side, and spooned fat from the gully at the bottom of the pan over the potatoes.

Stateside Problem #1: I never use that much oil.

We had a brief chat about the difficulty of really getting them roasted properly because there is usually something else in the oven that can’t take the temperature that proper roasted vegetables need. (My thought: make pot roast in the crock pot and roast veggies in the oven – that would work.) I glanced at the counter and saw an open empty can. Anne followed my eyes. “Ahhh, and that is supposed to be the very best for roasted veg. Goose fat.” A whole can of goose fat was crisping up those spuds in the oven.

Stateside Problem #2: No cans of goose fat at my grocery store.

I had an extra helping of Anne’s English roasted potatoes last night, knowing I won’t – and probably shouldn’t – replicate them at home.

(State-side, Thanksgiving is all about the food.  In London, Willy Wonka Chocolate and baguettes were not the main buzz of this Thanksgiving... Happy Day After Thanksgiving.)