When I was growing up, one of the most common side dishes we had, and perhaps the most popular, was roast potatoes. These potatoes roasted right in the pan with the meat or poultry, picking up great flavor from the drippings of the roast. They were crisp and caramelized on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, and absolutely delicious. And they went perfectly with the roast that flavored them.
Now, we usually make these potatoes whenever we have a roast, which is often, and we never tire of them. I thought for many years that just about all cooks made them.
I was greatly surprised to learn recently that many people have never even tasted these potatoes, which have been such a welcome and common presence at our table for so many years.
I think this is due in part to the demonization of fat, since these potatoes must be cooked and flavored with fat. Nevertheless, this side dish is so easy and so delicious that I would like to share my recipe, including a secret tip from my mother, with those who are interested in making them.
First, you need a roast. This can be any kind of beef, lamb, or pork roast. A turkey or a chicken also works. But ducks and geese give off too much fat for this method. A beef, lamb, or pork roast should have a nice fat cap. If the meat does not have a decent fat cap, you can cover it with butter, or beef tallow, or lard, or duck fat, or goose fat. The turkey or chicken must have the skin on, and should be also coated with butter or some kind good natural fat. The roast is cooked without a rack, placed fat side up in the case of meat, or breast side up in the case of poultry. You can place it on some vegetables, such as onion circles, which I often do, or directly on the pan. This recipe cannot work if a rack is used.
The potatoes I use are usually russet, though Yukon gold potatoes also work very well. I only use organic potatoes, as I try to avoid pesticides, and the flavor is much better.
The potatoes are peeled, and sliced into circles about one half inch thick. My mother’s secret, which I have also found in some very old cookbooks, is to place the peeled and sliced potatoes into a pan, cover them with water, add a little salt, and bring them to a rolling boil. They are then boiled for five minutes, no more, no less, then drained.
This secret might not sound like much, but it makes a huge difference.
A large roasting pan, not aluminum or non stick, is well greased with oil or butter, or lard, or any good animal fat.
The roast is placed in the center of the pan. No rack is used.
The potatoes are placed all around the roast, in the empty spaces. There is a great temptation to cram as many potato slices into the pan as possible, but the potatoes will be better if there is a little space between them, so they are not touching. I keep this space as small as possible.
The roast is cooked according to its recipe, and the potatoes are turned over once, when the roast has cooked for half the estimated cooking time.
The roast is basted with the drippings at least once, and preferably two or three times. This will add great flavor to the roast and the potatoes.
The potatoes are ready when the roast is, and should come out crusty but not hard or burned, and wonderfully soft inside, with an incredible caramelized flavor from the drippings and the spices used with the roast.
These potatoes are particularly wonderful with a prime rib beef roast, as there is a flavor that only prime rib has that gives them a special, wonderful taste. But they are also wonderful with other roasts.
This is a very old and traditional way to eat potatoes, and one I never tire of.
I cook many kinds of meat, in many ways. Often there are leftovers, which I would dutifully place in the appropriate containers and put in the refrigerator. I would look at them in the refrigerator, from time to time, and decide there was not enough left to make a meal. Then, after enough time expired, I would throw them out.
At least that used to be my pattern. Now I use them to make delicious meals. As usual, the inspiration came from our ancestors. They would often combine different kinds of meat in the same dish, often with many different vegetables. It occurred to me that this could solve my problem of not having enough left over of a particular meat to make a meal. So I started combining them into stews and curries.
If I have small amounts of leftover beef, chicken, lamb, pork, or other meat, I will combine them. Since the meat has already been cooked, there is no need for marinating or browning, and the stews and curries cook very quickly. The curries are quicker to cook than the stews, so I make them more often.
I use the same recipe to cook leftover meats. It always turns out delicious, is ready in no more than 30 minutes, and is full of great nutrition. Here is the recipe:
2 to 3 cups of leftover meat (such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, or any or all of the above), sliced or chopped into small, thin pieces
4 tablespoons organic butter, (or organic ghee, or organic coconut oil)
1 large organic onion, peeled and sliced
3 large cloves organic garlic, peeled and sliced
A piece of organic fresh ginger, about 1 inch long and 1 inch thick, chopped into tiny pieces
3 or more tablespoons of the organic curry powder of your choice, (I use the organic curry powder sold by Mountain Rose Herbs)
2 tablespoons organic flour of your choice, (which can include non-grain flours such as almond flour)
1 1/4 cups homemade broth of your choice
2 tablespoons pure fish sauce, (I use Red Boat Fish Sauce, as I love its taste, traditional way of being made, and it makes me feel good when I eat it)
- Heat the fat in a heavy frying pan, preferably cast iron, over medium heat, until the fat bubbles. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the curry powder and the flour, and mix with the vegetables in the pan.
- Add the broth and fish sauce, and stir until the mixture thickens, and starts to simmer. Add the meat and mix well. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, and cover the pan. Simmer covered for 25 minutes. Serve with the organic rice of your choice.
We are now right in the middle of barbecue season, and I have cooked a lot of Que, and eaten a lot of Que.
And I must say, the more Que I have, the more I look forward to the next barbeque.
So far, I have enjoyed barbecued grassfed beef, including ribeyes, tri-tips, bone in strip loins, boneless strip loins, center cut shoulder roasts, beef back ribs, short ribs, flat iron steaks, sirloin tip roasts, sirloin steaks, the occasional porterhouse or prime rib or tenderloin, and more, and enjoyed them all.
I have also barbecued and enjoyed grassfed bone in lamb legs, boneless lamb legs, lamb shoulder, lamb shoulder chops, lamb ribs, rack of lamb, and some lamb loin chops, and enjoyed all of them as well.
And that does not even count the pork ribs, port roasts, pork chops, chicken in many forms and the rare but truly wonderful grassfed bison, which I have also cooked and enjoyed.
I never use gas, or factory charcoal briquets, or big flaming fires that char the meat. Like most of our ancestors, I use moderate to low fires of lump charcoal and wood, or just wood, and cook in front of the fire, not directly over it. The meat never chars or burns, but picks up the incredible flavor of oak, or hickory, or cherry, a deep smoky flavor that makes the tender meat taste so good that it is like nothing else. No other method of cooking excites me like this one. No other food aroma makes me so hungry just to smell it. And no other food makes me feel so good when I eat it
Does the wood have some kind of unknown nutrient that enters the food through the smoke? No scientific evidence I know of, but sometimes I think it must be true. Why else would it taste so good, be so satisfying, and leave me feeling content and wonderful?
Or maybe the smell and taste of meat cooked with wood smoke speaks to something very old and primordial, a vague yet powerful ancestral memory of countless meals cooked with fire and smoke, the oldest way of cooking. Something below the conscious mind, yet very real.
All I know for sure is that there is something about cooking barbeque that I truly love, including making and controlling the fire, the smell of the wood and roasting meat, even the sounds of the fire. And there is something about barbequed real meat that tastes better to me and satisfies me more than any other food.
Well, enough writing about it. Time to do it again, this time a big thick strip loin cooked in front of an oak fire. I am getting hungry just thinking about it.