Best Ever Roast Potatoes

What I'm about to write might shock and/or upset you, but here it goes: I'm an ardent non-fan of mashed potatoes. I know, I know! Saying you don't like mashed potatoes -- one of those foods-loved-by-all, up there with pizza and ice cream -- is like saying you don't like sunshine, or kittens, or a good night's sleep. While I don't hate mashed potatoes (that would be you, tripe) its not a side I'd ever seek out, or order, or crave. My allegiance lies instead with Roast Potatoes, because as far as I'm concerned, its a crime to boil and mash up potatoes if you can instead toss them with lots of olive oil and herbs and roast them until they're superbly crispy and golden brown and glorious. It is very possibly side dish heresy to say this, but -- I'd much rather see a pile of roast potatoes on the Thanksgiving table than a heap of mashed potatoes. Who's with me?! 

So! Now that we've established that I'm on Team Roasted instead of Team Mashed, lets get to it -- today's recipe comes from one of my very favorite foodie sites, Serious Eats, more specifically their Food Lab, which aims to "unravel the mysteries of home cooking through science," or rather, develop the very best version of a dish taking into consideration the science behind the recipe. These are therefore not just any roast potatoes; these are top notch roast potatoes, A+ roast potatoes, roast potatoes living their Best Life. Here's the cliff notes version of what the Food Lab discovered (you can get the full story here): 

-Yukon Golds and Russets are the best for roasting (red skinned potatoes are to be avoided) and should be cut into larger pieces to allow for more surface area or rather maximum crispness;

-Cooking the potatoes in already boiling alkaline water (i.e water with some baking soda thrown in) before roasting helps the exteriors of the potatoes break down more, creating much more of the starchy slurry that leads to an extra-crisp exterior;

-Roasting the potatoes in a single layer at a high temperature (430 degrees Fahrenheit, 230 degrees Celsius) until nice and dark also results in maximum crispness, with a softer interior;

-Herb infused olive oil that the potatoes are roasted in, plus tossing the potatoes with extra herbs before serving makes these extra flavorful and rosemary-ish (rosemary + potatoes = soulmates).

The result? The very best potatoes I have ever made or eaten, with a crazy crisp exterior and creamy interior, extra herb-y and golden and glorious, perfect along side roast chicken or Thanksgiving turkey, yes, but just as marvelous eaten as are, from a cereal bowl, 
just you and a fork. I speak from experience. 

A couple of notes: I am not a huge fan of garlic, so I infused the oil with the cloves and then threw them away. If you like garlic, feel free to mince it finely and toss it with the potatoes at the end. Make sure all the potatoes roast in one even layer to ensure maximum crispiness. Lastly, my apologies for the slightly dark photos, but these were photographed on a rainy, cloudy day, which is actually just the sort of day one should be eating a big portion of super cozy comforting roast potatoes.

Looking for other Thanksgiving sides? I've got these green beans with shallots and pancetta, these mashed potatoes, this stuffing with sausage, apples, and apricots, these savory squash pancakes with sage brown butter, this butternut squash and caramelized onion galette, these cornbread muffins with maple butter, or these herb roasted carrots

BEST EVER ROAST POTATOES

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons (25 grams) salt
1/2 teaspoon (4g) baking soda
4 pounds (about 2kg) russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters (or sixths if very large)
6 tablespoons (about 85ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (a small handful) rosemary leaves, finely chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (see notes above)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, minced, plus more to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 degrees Celsius). Heat 3 quarts (12 cups) water in a large pot over high heat until boiling. Add 2 tablespoons salt and the baking soda, then and the potatoes and stir. Return the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until a knife meets little resistance when inserted into a potato chunk, about 10 minutes after returning to a boil.
Meanwhile, combine the olive oil with the rosemary, garlic, and a few grinds of black pepper in a small saucepan. Heat the olive oil mixture over medium heat. Cook, stirring and shaking the pan constantly, until garlic just begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Immediately strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer set in a large bowl. Set garlic/rosemary mixture aside and reserve separately.
When the potatoes are cooked, drain them carefully and let them rest in the pot  they were cooked in for about 30 seconds to allow excess moisture to evaporate. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl with the infused oil, season to taste with a little more salt and pepper, and toss to coat, shaking bowl roughly, until a thick layer of mashed potato–like paste has built up on the potato chunks.
Transfer the potatoes to a large lightly oiled baking sheet and separate them, spreading them out evenly. Transfer to the potatoes to the oven and roast, without moving, for 20 minutes. Using a spatula turn the potatoes over. Continue roasting until potatoes are deep brown and crisp all over, turning and shaking them a few times during cooking, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
 Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and add garlic/rosemary mixture and minced parsley. Toss to coat and season with more salt and pepper and serve immediately.















Pecan Chocolate Pretzel Pie

It's already mid-November and with all the traveling and wedding-ing and working I've been doing I've not gotten around to giving you even one Thanksgiving recipe, which feels inexcusable and irresponsible from an American food blogger like myself. I apologize. That being said, nothing makes up for missed recipes and lost time like pie, namely pecan pie, and especially a pecan pie that is made with not only pecans but also pretzels and chocolate (!!!)

I've said it here and here and I'll say it again: my very, very, favorite dessert, holding the number one spot for yours truly for 14 years running is pecan pie. It's a fiercely American dessert -- I've never seen it in any other country -- and makes up the Thanksgiving pie "trinity" along with apple pie and pumpkin pie. That being said, pecan pie wasn't a turkey day tradition in my family; after all, its a dessert from the South, and as East coasters we had always stuck to apple or pumpkin pie and the stray brownie pie or two for dessert on the last Thursday of November. When I was new to baking back in the day I (wisely) decided to give pecan pie a try one year, and, well, it was love at first bite, dessert nirvana, one of the best things I'd ever tasted. On that day, November 27, 2003 pecan pie knocked carrot cake off its sugar dusted gold medal Favorite Dessert Podium and we've been together ever since. 

But pecan pie isn't perfect (who is?!) I mean, it is for me, but I can see where issues would come up: it is very sweet, and quite gooey and caramel-y (characteristics typical of American desserts). If you've been raised in any country other than the States, it might take a few bites to get used to. Today's Pecan Chocolate Pretzel Pie addresses these potential hangs ups, though; the pie's usual sugary sweetness is both tempered and countered with a handful of salty pretzels and heap of bittersweet chocolate, resulting in a pie that is downright addictive, crunchy and fudge-y and sweet and salty and chocolate-y all at once. This is a pecan pie that makes all your pecan pie dreams come true, so good that you'll go easy on the turkey itself to leave room for a sizeable slice. Pumpkin pie who??

A couple of notes: For any of you in Rome who want to make pecan pie but can't find pecans: you can find them at the newly opened Isola delle Spezie in Via Marcantonio Bragadin 91(right near the Cipro subway stop and a convenient short walk from my apartment!) or some of the larger well-stocked Castroni stores. Castroni also sells both light and dark corn syrup. Note that the edges of the pie crust always brown faster than the filling cooks with pecan pie (and pumpkin too) so keep an eye on it; if it becomes brown and the filling isn't cooked, line the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to keep them from burning. I used a store bought pie crust to save time, but if you'd like to make your own, I've also used Smitten Kitchen's here with good results. Finally, I used mini chocolate chips here because that's all you can really find in Italian supermarkets, but feel free to use normal sized ones if you can find them where you are. 

Looking for other pecan recipes? I've got this Chocolate Pecan Pie and these Pecan Pie Bars. Looking for other Thanksgiving worthy desserts? I've got this Pumpkin Pie, this Pear and Chocolate Tart, this Pear and Chocolate Cake, this Brownie Pie, this Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake, these Apple Crisps, this All-American Apple Pie, and this Pumpkin Cheesecake with Praline Sauce.  

PECAN CHOCOLATE PRETZEL PIE

Ingredients:
1 unbaked pie crust
2 large eggs
1 cup (325 grams) light corn syrup
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (85 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (200 grams) pecans
3/4 cup (about 50 grams) mini pretzels
3/4 cup (130 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius). Fit the pie crust into the bottom and up the sides of a buttered 9-inch pie plate. Trim any extra pie crust off. Refrigerate the pie crust while you prepare the filling. 
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, butter, vanilla, sugar, and salt. Stir in the pecans, pretzels, and chocolate chips. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust. Bake for 30 minutes.
Cover the pie with foil and bake until the filling is puffed and the center is just set, 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature before serving. Serves 8-10.

Recipe adapted slightly from Women's Day Magazine, October 2017 issue.