Last night, I watched as my husband and two daughters took turns rock-paper-scissoring their way to winning the last handful of these savory and crunchy pan-fried rosemary potatoes. My husband won and, only slightly begrudgingly, divided his spoils amongst the three of them. It was then that I asked myself, given how earth-shatteringly easy to make they are, why I don’t just make them more often.
The magic’s in the fresh rosemary, of course. Its fragrant oil enhances and lifts even the blandest and most lackluster of ingredients. Plain potatoes, like plain pasta after all, rarely elicit any real enthusiasm. They CANNOT carry the show alone. The mere mention of potatoes on the dinner menu can elicit an almost suspicious “what kind of potato dish?” (Well, that’s what happens with my 10 year-old anyway, who needs a precise description of the day’s menu in order to determine the extent of her good disposition.)
Still, there’s no need to drown our starchy, tuberous friend in butter, cheese or sour cream. We can make the taste buds jump with just two sprigs of rosemary, two garlic cloves, salt, pepper and a little grapeseed oil for pan frying (as I find olive oil too heavy for the task).
Best of all, you’ll have rosemary’s bewitching scent wafting through the entire house. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to get me in a good mood – even after 14 straight days of rain.
I’ve seen some recipes call for soaking the cut potato pieces in cold water for 15 minutes or so before draining, drying and then frying them. I assumed that the soaking removed some of the excess starch in the potatoes, somehow contributing to additional crunchiness. Clearly I tried it, and found that it just made their exterior harder, not necessarily crunchier. In any event, I did not like the texture. And, it cut out an extra step, which is also a plus. Feel free to try it yourself and share your experience. I’m always interested in hearing stories by fellow kitchen travelers.
making pan-fried rosemary potatoes
Peel 3 pounds of potatoes (about three large potatoes) and cut into ¾ inch rough ‘cubish’ shapes.
Be sure to remove any round, knotty, black sections, as you see in the picture above.
Rinse the pieces under water in a calendar and allow them to drain for a few minutes. On a flat surface, place a dish towel and then rest the drained potatoes on top. Pick up all four corners of the dish towel and gently massage the little bundle in an effort to absorb any moisture that might be left over on the potatoes. (Too much moisture will cause the potatoes to moisture-cook and you can kiss that enticing crunchy exterior goodbye.)
As you can see from the picture, each potato piece looks very dry. Also, remove the skin from 2 garlic cloves and smash them with the flat side of a wide kitchen knife.
On a medium high flame, heat just enough oil to cover a 10-inch nonstick frying pan by a 1/4 of an inch or so. In this case, I am using an olive oil and grapeseed oil combination for frying. It’s an expensive oil to use for frying, but it beats using straight-up industrial oils like canola. From what I’ve read online, the hazards associated with canola oil is due to how it’s processed – high heat, pressure, a chemical extraction-process, it’s just not worth it. Plus, most of the canola oil comes from seeds that have been genetically modified to take toxic properties out of the rapeseed from which it originally comes. Anyway…
When the oil is very hot but not smoking, add the potatoes, distributing them evenly around the pan. Cook for two minutes without stirring. Doing this will allow the down-facing potato side to seal completely and to begin to brown, like this:
Shake the pan and toss the potatoes to brown on another side. Add 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Lower the flame to medium-high and continue cooking for 20ish minutes, stirring frequently. Soon you will be able to easily pierce the potato cubes with a knife and the potato pieces start to turn a golden color.
Drain the potatoes on paper towels and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.