The year 2020 was a lot of things. Obviously it was the year that most of us stayed home, but it was also the year that we stayed home and ate potatoes. It’s not hard to decipher why Americans gravitated towards the versatile starch: Potatoes are inexpensive and abundant, and there are a million ways to enjoy them. I myself have spent much of this last year discovering new ways to make them, which has involved trying out some of the internet’s most popular variations.
Most recently, I became intrigued by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s beloved potato preparation on Serious Eats. The subreddit r/seriouseats is filled with satisfied home cooks exalting this recipe, calling it “outstanding,” “the perfect comfort food” and even “the GOAT.” The recipe has also received hundreds of five-star reviews on the Serious Eats website. After skimming it, I was instantly curious about Lopez-Alt’s technique of par-cooking the potatoes in a baking soda bath. He claims the baking soda alkalizes the water (similar to how bagels are prepared) and helps break down the outer flesh of the potato, resulting in extra-crispy exteriors when roasted. Would I really be able to tell the difference? I had to find out.
How to Make These Crispy Roast Potatoes
You’ll begin by peeling and cutting the potatoes into large 2- to 3-inch chunks. Lopez-Alt says Russets are preferred, but Yukons are okay, too. Combine the potato chunks with 2 quarts of water, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 2 tablespoons salt, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are mostly tender, about 10 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the rosemary-garlic oil by combining olive oil (or duck fat or beef tallow) with finely chopped rosemary and minced garlic. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the garlic barely turns golden, then strain, reserving the solids.
Once the potatoes are tender, drain them and let them steam out a bit, then transfer them to a large bowl. Roughly toss with the infused oil until the potatoes break down and the exteriors are mashed. This mash is what will turn into a crispy exterior as it roasts, so make sure to toss them vigorously enough.
Lay out the potatoes on a large baking sheet and roast in a 450°F oven until the bottom edges of the potatoes start to brown and crisp. Use a metal spatula to scrape under the potatoes and toss. Return to the oven, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are deep golden-brown all over. Remove from the oven and toss with the reserved garlic/rosemary solids and chopped parsley and serve.
My Honest Review of These Famous Crispy Potatoes
My potatoes never got quite as dark as the Serious Eats photo, and certainly not as crispy. I even made them a second time to see if I would get better results, but no dice. Both times I pulled them out of the oven and thought, “Did I do something wrong?”
I like the method of mashing the potato chunks a bit, I just honestly thought it would yield a more impressive outcome. They’re definitely at their crispiest when they’re hot and fresh from the oven, so I recommend serving them immediately. As soon as they cool down, they become soggy. Rewarming them in the oven helps a bit, but they’re still best served fresh.
With that said, the rosemary-garlic oil is a real winner here. It worked magic on the potatoes, lending them irresistible savory flavors and making them super fragrant. Using infused oil is absolutely a trick I’ll take with me in the future. It gave the potatoes life.
If You’re Making These Crispy Potatoes, a Few Tips
A fellow Redditor had the same problem I did, and many people responded with some great tips. After reading through them and relying on my own potato cooking knowledge, here’s what I’d do differently next time.
Have you tried these Crispy Roast Potatoes? Tell us what you thought in the comments!