Why slow down? If you’re like me, at the outset of a holiday, you’re brimming with ideas: dry-brined, braise-roasted and deep-fried turkeys! homemade stuffing from homemade bread! individual miniature pies for every person at the table. As the holiday gets closer — not unlike the progression of this week for me — real life begins to creep in. There are day jobs, flu-like symptoms, traffic jams and extremely dull things like dentist appointments doing everything in their power to interrupt. There are only so many hours in the day, and days left in which one can cook. There are only so many hours of those hours in which one can cook that they actually want to.
Less a sign of a failed career as a domestic diva, this is a healthy and balanced outlook. How are you going to enjoy a dinner party if you spend the whole of it in tizzy in the kitchen? How are you going to catch up with your family that traveled on planes and trains, through inclement weather and unfathomable traffic to spend time with you if you’re too exhausted by the time you sit down to do anything but reach for a Negroni? Does cranberry gelee with gingerbread creme really meet greater acclaim than back-of-the-can pumpkin pie? What ever happened to simple roasted potatoes?
In November 2003, Gourmet Magazine published a recipe for Parsley-Leaf Potatoes that have rarely gotten half the spotlight they deserve. No purple majesty, tri-colored miniature or even Yukon gold potatoes are enlisted to make these potatoes, just the Russets that most of this country simply calls “potatoes.” You’re not going to need extra virgin olive oil or goose fat, single-origin sea salt, shallots, minced herbs, lemon, mustard or self-enclosed packets of soft roasted garlic. There isn’t even any freshly ground black pepper. There is only salt and parsley leaves that are pressed flat against cut potato halves that roast in the puddle of melted butter for the better part of an hour until they are flipped over into a serving dish, the leaves and potato edges now crisp, golden and ready for a magazine cover. (Um, yours will be. I used my oldest, crustiest pan and mine look like, aptly, they’re ready for … this blog. Here’s someone who made them look prettier.)
Best of all, they’re so easy to make, with ingredients that I know you’ll already have around next week, that you can save your energies for crispy onions. Or pie. Or for changing out of your filthy apron and into your coziest sweater, because your work here is done and it’s time to join the fun.
I used Russets, but you of course can you any roasted potato (red or yukon gold) you prefer. When using Russets, the smaller, the better, for maximum creaminess when roasted. As the potatoes roast, the butter in the pan browns and then goes a shade dark — it might smell worrisome, but it will taste wonderful. If you’d prefer, however, you can replace half the butter with olive oil, which will reduce the darkening of the roasted sides. This recipe, uh, uses a lot of butter, possibly more than you need. I’ve gotten away with using just 2/3 of it (4 tablespoons), but I don’t usually bother limiting it. It seems the excess stays in the pan, and the potatoes have just enough to be buttery but not drenched.
Serves 8 to 12
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
8 small-medium baking potatoes (about 4 pounds), scrubbed
16 fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Place roasting pan in oven with butter; once butter has melted, just a minute or two later, remove pan from oven. Halve each potato lengthwise. Place one parsley leaf in the center of each cut half, then sprinkle cut sides generously with salt. Arrange face-down in pan with melted butter; try not to nudge them around or the leaves will move (as mine did) off-center. Roast potatoes for 35 to 45 minutes (depending on size) until tender. There’s no need to turn the potatoes over unless they get so dark underneath (this can happen with a thinner roasting pan or oven than runs hotter) that they risk overcooking before becoming fully tender; if so, just flip the potatoes for the remaining roasting time.