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Monday, May 25, 2009

Versatile Roasted Potatoes Improve Any Meal

Potatoes roasted with whole fresh sage leaves.

Roasted potatoes have three things going for them: they're always a hit, they're nutritious, and they're easy to prepare. Roasted potatoes are also versatile, in that they can be adapted to any meal from any cuisine.

More often than not, we simply cut the raw spuds into 1-inch pieces, maybe a little bigger. Then we coat them in a little olive oil, add salt and pepper, and put them on a baking sheet in a 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula halfway through the roasting. 

For a lighter meal, these roasted potatoes can serve as the main dish if you add a little something to liven them up: medallions of goat cheese, say, or a dipping sauce made with a teaspoon of adobo sauce mixed with quarter cup of mayonnaise (low-cal works well here) and a  little chopped scallion and cilantro. 

But the great thing about roasted potatoes is that you can make them complement whatever you're serving. 

With a strong main dish, you can do as ehealy suggested and coat them in a mustard sauce before roasting. This coating is very forgiving—when we made her version, we altered it by simply using the vinaigrette dressing we'd already made for a salad. 

The roasted potatoes on the plate above, clockwise from lower left: with sage leaves, mustard-sauce-coated, with herbs de Province, and plain with salt and pepper. An adobo-mayo-cilantro mix is a nice accompanying sauce.

Our friend Ruth Lively has devised a wonderful side dish: line an oiled baking dish with fresh sage leaves, then cover them with halved potatoes, set face down. Sprinkle the whole arrangement generously with salt and roast until the potatoes have turned golden brown and the sage leaves have crisped up.  

With an Indian dish, you can spice the spuds heavily with a fennel-chili dry rub borrowed from Monica Bhide's Roasted Cauliflower recipe. Toss a quarter cup of fennel seeds in a medium-hot dry skillet for one minute, add two whole dried red chiles for five seconds, cool, add a quarter to a half teaspoon of peppercorns of any color, and grind all the spices to a coarse powder in a coffee grinder. (The photo below shows what the potatoes look like preroasted.) 

For a French meal, the mustard potatoes will work nicely, or you can simply coat the raw cubed potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle them with herbs de Province. 

Experiment with whatever spices you have. Coat them heartily if you love spice, or use a lighter hand if you prefer more-delicate flavors. You and your guests will love them.


  1. What a great article on roasted potatoes! All the spices sound wonderful, especially the sage leaf.

  2. Have two raging sage plants so will definitely try the roasted sage potato dish. Bet a bed of sage would also be great with squash...or chicken.

  3. Yes, a bed of sage is good with earthy vegetables as well as game and poultry.
    We love sweet potatoes (oh so good for you) and often grill thick slices, but have never tried the sage-leaf roasting for some reason. We plan to try it, but if you do, let us know how it tastes. Be sure to oil the pan so the leaves get crisp and don't stick.