lunch, vegetables

Roast Potatoes & sauce Gribiche

January 29, 2010

Roast Potato Recipe

There is, in my opinion, only one way to roast a potato, and that is this one.

I can make such a statement without sounding like an arrogant berk simply because this particular method of roasting potatoes is far from something I have conjured up in that odd British brain of mine. Instead it is something that almost everyone growing up in England (who has an interest in cooking) has learned to prepare. Variations exist, of course they do, and they are often hotly debated – the same way people get all heated over the most “authentic” bouliabaise or cassoulet.

Arguments erupt over potato choice. Fat choice. Cooking temperature. Cooking method. Roasting pan type and even basting method. I have probably cooked this style of potato close to 200 times, using all the variables above, and settled on one method – and almost regimental method at that.

Traditionally in England spuds like this would get served alongside a nice roast joint (piece of meat) on Sunday. Tradition had it that families got together for a big Sunday meal that normally involved some kind of roast meat or game. Apparently this tradition is slowly dying out across the pond, but I left England long enough ago to still have had the privilege of these dinners weekly. What I remember is every family doing it. If you were a kid playing over a mates house you still got your Sunday dinner, just with your friends family. People always got together, shared some food, and had a lazy couple of hours. I don’t like to think of this tradition fading out.

But back to the spuds. Personally I think this potatoes are easily special enough to make them into their own course. In fact, I will go as far to say that it is a complete bloody waste to serve these with a roast, especially if some twerp is going to pour gravy all over them. Oh no, these should be savored, enjoyed all by themselves. The only thing I would add is an interesting, complex and slightly acidic sauce to go with them. The potatoes are rich and work well when you have something to cut that richness and add more depth and flavor complexity to each bite.

Enter stage right, sauce Gribiche. This is a classic French sauce of a bunch of acidic components, herbs, shallots, egg and olive oil. It has a slight tartness, much like a decent French vinaigrette, and enough components to it to make each bite very complex but not overwhelming. There are a lot of different recipes floating around for this one. I think every French cookbook I own has at least one recipe for Gribiche in it. A lot are a rich sauce base, where the egg is fully emulsified into the sauce base, giving a lot of richness and body. Personally I prefer the far more modern approach taken by Thomas Keller in his excellent French Laundry cookbook. He finely dices the shallot, capers, cornichon, hard boiled egg white and yolk, and mixes these into the base of olive oil, dijon and vinegar. To this gets added some finely chopped herbs – tarragon, chives and parsley to be precise. The sauce has texture, body and a lightness that goes fantastically well with rich food.

Roast potato recipe

My rather peculiar sense of humor also makes me love serving something extremely British with something extremely French – letting the old rivals battle it out on the plate. This time however, no one looses, it’s a win-win.

I mentioned a rather pedantic method to yielding the perfect roast spud. It is a rather simple set of steps that for me always yields the perfect roast potato. Nothing complicated, but care and attention to detail really make all the difference. Oh, and duck fat.

Perfect Roast Potatoes – the WRIGHTFOOD pedantic method:

1) Preheat that oven of yours.

Roast potato recipe

Four Hundred and Fifty Fahrenheit is the magic number here. Don’t bother about convection if you have it. Not at the start anyhow. Let the oven get up to temperature before you even think about putting in anything potato related. Oh, and you can also put that roasting pan of yours in to heat up along with the oven too.

2) Roasting Pan Choice

Roast Potato Recipe

Your roasting pan choice is absolutely critical in the successful browning of your potatoes. The perfect roasting pan needs to be thick. George Bush thick. Heavy is a good thing too – lots of thermal mass. My personal preference is actually to use either a cast iron or carbon steel (pictured above) skillet. If you are going to cook a larger batch of these, you can happily use a larger saute pan, or a really good, really thick roasting pan.

The heavier the pan the more heat it can absorb, the more even the heating and the better browning you will get.

Oh, and if you are worried that your cast iron pan isn’t seasoned that well, fear not – this is the perfect recipe to season it very well indeed!

3) Potato choice and cut

Roast Potato Recipe

Go for something waxy. No need to get all fancy pants unless you want to. I do my roasties with Yukon Gold’s. Feel free to use a more heirloom variety if you wish.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into randomly shaped pieces. Whilst the shape can be random, the size shouldn’t be. Aim to get your chunks of potato roughly the same size – they will all then cook to the same doneness (is that a word?)

Put them into a pan of cold water.

4) Par Boil and toss

Roast Potato Recipe

This is where the magic starts to happen folks. With the spuds in cold water, bring them up to the boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes, or until they are almost cooked through.


Now comes the fun bit. Put them back into the saucepan, and hold the lid on tight. Gently roll the pan around a few times. This genius step fluffs up the edges of the potatoes which in turns makes them far more fluffy when roasted. The fluffy edge catches more fat, making them light, crispy, and very textural.

Be careful not to over-toss. You don’t want them falling into pieces. You really want to make sure that you don’t over-boil them too, otherwise again, you have pieces… lots of tiny pieces. And that, as my three year old son would say, is “bad news”.

5) Fat choice

Roast Potato Recipe

is it wrong that I have 4 tubs of duck fat in the freezer? No? Good.

Duck or goose fat is king here. Lard is a close second. Beef dripping (if you areΒ  roasting a nice piece of beef) is acceptable too. You are going to use a fair amount of it, just to let you know. Before you go running around screaming of high fat content, duck, goose and lard actually have less saturated fat than butter, and are considered healthier for you.

See, I told you, lard is health food…

Now, vegetarians out there.. you can roast your potatoes in olive oil if you want. You can. They won’t be anywhere near as good, but you could.

6. Preheat the fat

Take the roasting pan out of the oven, and set it over a low flame on your cooktop. Add a couple of tablespoons of fat to your pan, so that you get decent coverage over the whole bottom of the pan. Get this fat nice and hot.

7. Add the potatoes, and toss

Add the potatoes to the pan. Gently toss them with a spoon to get a decent coverage of fat. Don’t crowd the pan. If you get too many in the pan, they will never brown properly. Use two pans if you have to, or one larger one.

As soon as they are coated, back in the oven they go.

8. Do nothing for 20 minutes

This part is easy πŸ™‚ just let them roast, and do their thing.

9. Gently toss, and add more fat if needed

Take them out of the oven, and again set over a low flame. Toss the potatoes gently in the fat again. They should be starting to brown up nicely. If the pan looks dry of fat, add another tablespoon.

10. Do nothing for another 20 minutes

Let them roast some more. After this 20 minutes, toss again and check the color. They should be close to done.

11. EAT

Roast Potato Recipe

The best bit. If they look crisp and brown, but not burnt – they are done. Keep the fact that they are done quiet. Don’t tell anyone. Scoff as many as possible before guests arrive.

Sauce Gribiche

This sexy little number comes straight out of the French Laundry cookbook. Normally I wouldn’t reprint a recipe from a such a tome, just out of respect, however you can quite easily find this recipe via a quick google search – thanks to google books. So here goes.

This sauce is fantastic with anything that is rich and fatty – pork belly, leg of lamb – heck it might even work with some great black cod or salmon.

1 heaped tablespoon minced shallot

1 1/2 teaspoon finely minced capers

1 1/2 teaspoon finely minced cornichon

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (use some good stuff)

1 heaped tablespoon of finely chopped hard boiled egg white

1 tablespoon of finely chopped hard boiled egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon finely minced tarragon

1 teaspoon finely minced flat leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon finely minced chives

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Personally I like to mix the wet and add the dry in. I also like to make this a few hours before required, just to let the flavors develop a bit.

Serve alongside the roast potatoes, or with the potatoes sitting on top of a pool of the gribiche.

roast potato recipe

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  • Sandy January 29, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    MMMmmm duck fat, that just sounds sooo unhealthy but oh so delicious!! This post is making me hungry!!

  • Kate @ Savour Fare January 30, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Hmm, I sadly do NOT have 4 tubs of duck fat in my freezer but I do have a bowl of chicken fat in my refrigerator (and chicken fat, while not duck fat, is darn fine on roasted potatoes, as the street markets of Paris have taught me) and I think this will be part of my weekend. Definitely.

  • Helen January 30, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Any time there’s duck fat and/or potatoes, there’s a smile on my face!
    Wonderful post Matt – I could smell the potatoes through the screen!

  • Dandy January 30, 2010 at 1:32 am

    My husband adores duck fat! I love the tip on rolling the potatoes around, I’ve never heard of that!

  • Neel | Learn Food Photography January 30, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Absolutely gorgeous photography. Especially the first one.

    Also like the photograph next to #11. I am a big fan of top views or photographs taken from top. I like couple of things in that photograph:
    β€’ Top view of the photograph
    β€’ Like the placement; kinda is weighed towards right side.
    β€’ Love the use of your famous white table as a background.

    I have tried to find that kind of bench or a similar one. Where did you get that bench from? Local store?

    Thanks for sharing.


  • Fran January 30, 2010 at 3:29 am

    This looks heavenly! I have a couple of lamb shanks waiting to be roasted in the fridge, dying to be slow roasted tomorrow and it looks like I just found a great side dish! Your shots of the potatoes look awesome, but the Sauce Gribiche makes it for me. Ok, time to go to sleep so I can wake up, work and come home to make these potatoes!

    Thanks for the ideas.

  • Carla January 30, 2010 at 4:29 am

    OMG! This sounds like the southern part of the USA-Sunday afternoon dinner,cast iron skillets (We have many!) and lard or beef roast fat with potatoes??? Seriously, no duck fat here in NC that I know of. However the “Sauce Gribiche” sounds magnificent! Will have to try your method of roasted potatoes and the gribiche sauce-it sounds divine.

  • Dana January 30, 2010 at 5:35 am

    Ah man. I finally thought there was going to be a vegetarian post here and then, duck fat. But wow, do I appreciate this method. I could eat potatoes every meal every day and be very happy and this sounds like the ultimate. How have I never made that sauce? I’d love it over asparagus.

  • matt January 30, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Thanks for the comments!

    Sandy – duck fat is healthier than butter πŸ™‚
    Kate – chicken fat totally works!
    Helen – thanks!
    Dandy – the rolling part is the magic bit. makes a big difference
    Neel – they are old boards from my deck remodel last year. I got the contractor to save a few, then I nailed them together and painted them white
    Fran – Glad you like! Slow roasted lamb shanks sounds perfect to me!
    Carla – lard or beef fat works too!
    Dana – like I said, you can use olive oil! I actually have quite a bit of vegetarian recipes on my blog and actually 2 meals a day are vegetarian for me!

  • Sabine January 30, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Great idea! I still have some duck fat in the fridge, so this is what I will make this weekend. I didn’t know it can be frozen, thanks for the tip.

  • Bruce January 31, 2010 at 3:34 am

    Thanks for the nod to vegetarians, even if it was snarky…

  • noelle {simmer down!} January 31, 2010 at 4:17 am

    “George Bush thick”… love it! πŸ™‚

    And I’m jealous of the 4 tubs of duck fat. I have confit on my agenda and the only sources of duck fat I have found are absurdly expensive!

  • Jaime Sue January 31, 2010 at 6:25 am

    Oh, I have to try this soon! Thanks for the veggie tip – will have to experiment with the gribiche sans egg. There’s a place in Long Beach called Open Sesame that has roasted potatoes covered in some yummy lemon juice & herbs. I’d love to achieve something similar at home. Any tips on selection of a carbon steel skillet?

  • zenchef January 31, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Sauce gribiche is one of my absolute favorite thing. And well, you already know my love for potatoes fried in duck fat. I can’t believe you combined the two in one killer side-dish!

    The old rivals can battle it out on the plate all they want. That dish deserves a Nobel peace prize. Well done, Matt!

  • Alex February 1, 2010 at 10:54 am

    It is all about the duck (or goose) fat here and I’m with 90% of the way but I have to take a stand on the potato choice, Matt. For me, it’s got to be a floury spud. Something fluffy whose rough edges absorb the fat and crisp up whilst the insides take on a near ethereally light texture – like a perfectly cooked chip. Great post and awesome pics, as ever

  • cathy February 1, 2010 at 11:22 am

    thank for the clear instructions! i like how detailed your recipe is – leaves less guesswork for me, someone who has never roasted potatoes before… but now i can’t wait to try!

  • Amuse-bouche for Two February 1, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    These look just how we always hope they’ll look, but never do. The secret, you have given, we’ll invest in a thicker pan…cast iron! That’s the ticket. It’s the only thing our kitchen is lacking.

  • Neel | Learn Food Photography February 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Matt, Thank you for your response. I will have to run to Menards or Lowes and get some boards myself.

    Thanks for the tip.

  • my spatula February 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    by far, one of THE most entertaining, informative, & humorous posts i’ve read in the LONG-EST time. you are a breath of fresh air, mister. bring on the spuds and the duck fat!

  • Ed Schenk February 6, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Very comprehensive. I couldn’t dispute anything said. The duck fat really puts it over the top. I only get to use it as a by product of roasting duck, which unfortunately, I don’t do very often.

  • redmenace February 7, 2010 at 2:44 am

    I’m always in the market for a perfect roasted spud. Thank you for this fantastic set of instructions!

  • The Wind Attack February 9, 2010 at 5:17 am

    I’ve never roasted potatoes like that, but it sounds fantastic. I will be trying this recipe soon indeed. Thanks for sharing.

  • STEVE February 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Thanks for the great recipe. My wife and I made these last weekend, and it was delicious. We’ve always made roasted potatoes, but never with duck fat… this opened up a whole new world for us. We added parsnips right in with the potatoes and it added some nice flavors to the dish. There’s a picture or two on my blog:

  • John November 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you very much! these were the best potatoes ever. I did the boil in a 1/2 water 1/2 beef stock.