It’s February. It’s cold. It’s rainy. And it’s also really, really rainy. (I thought I would use this introductory paragraph to state the obvious.) What is the antidote to this relentless dreariness? A sunny Greek vacation in a whitewashed cottage overlooking the azure sea and your own private infinity pool? No! It’s potatoes.
I would say something about how potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, but once again, I’d be stating the obvious. But I bet you didn’t know that potatoes are rich in vitamin C and therefore play a key role in preventing scurvy, scourge of the high seas. So if you are ever kidnapped by pirates, see if you can grab a few potatoes as they force you out the door at cutlass-point. Now that’s news you can use.
My husband, who is British and no stranger to meals with potatoes, holds in his heart a place of special reverence for roasted potatoes. I agree with him. They are irresistible, with their fluffy insides and beguilingly golden, crisp outsides. Sadly, I don’t have the gift for making perfect, English-style roasted taters. When I roast potatoes, I usually cut them into squarish chunks, douse them with olive oil, salt, lemon pepper and Parmesan, then roast them in a pan for — well, I never actually set the timer. I just sense when they’re done using ESP — Extra Spuds Perception.
But I am always game for trying new techniques, so when I came across a recipe for Greek lemon potatoes, I knew I had a contender. This delicious side dish has all my favorite things: Mediterranean spices (basically oregano, rosemary and garlic with a bit of lemon pepper), lemon juice (because I love lemon in practically every context) and potatoes (ditto). I discovered that there are in fact many ways to prepare Greek lemon potatoes.
The most straightforward version involves cooking a pan of potato wedges in a bath of chicken broth, lemon juice and spices, braising the potatoes in the oven until they absorb all the liquid and then turn brown and crispy on the outside. Several recipe-writers noted that this method may result in potatoes that are unevenly brown or even burnt in spots. To avoid this, they recommended a two-step process: First braise the potatoes, and then remove them from the liquid and roast them until the golden hue of the setting Greek sun.
I know the two-step process makes things more complicated. Usually, if there’s any step I can skip, I skip it with such enthusiasm that I nearly trip over myself on the way to the next step. However, I am willing to make an exception if the extra step results in truly superior roasted potatoes. Let’s get this experiment underway!
First, peel five or six medium-ish Yukon gold potatoes. (If, like me, all you have on hand are Russet potatoes, I can attest to their equal suitability.) Cut them into quarters, lengthwise, to make wedges. Put them in a baking dish and cover them with 1½ cups chicken broth, ½ cup olive oil, ¹/3 cup lemon juice and ½ teaspoon salt or salt to taste, keeping in mind that there’s sodium in the chicken broth. Add 1 tablespoon each of chopped fresh oregano and chopped fresh rosemary along with four or five peeled and minced or crushed garlic cloves and ½ teaspoon lemon pepper. Use dry herbs if you don’t have fresh. If you don’t have fresh garlic, you could substitute 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, but I include a warning that garlic powder can sometimes impart a bitter taste to dishes.
Put the potatoes into an oven that’s been preheated to 400 degrees. Roast potatoes for 30 minutes then take them out, turn the potatoes over for even browning, and roast another 30 minutes or until most (though not all) of the liquid is absorbed. Remove the potatoes from the oven and transfer to a baking sheet. (The sheet should have a low lip to contain extra liquid.) Spoon some of the liquid from the first roasting pan over the potatoes but don’t drench them. Roast them for another 30 minutes then turn the potatoes over, add another few spoonfuls of sauce, and roast them for another 30 minutes or until satisfyingly golden and crisp on the outside. Check one once or twice during the last 15 minutes to make sure they come out just how you like them.
I prefer roasted potatoes with dark brown edges and a caramel-like chewiness, but you might favor a lighter hue. Serve with a final drizzle of sauce on top and a sprinkle of fresh oregano.
There, now there’s your sunny Greek vacation. Of course, you could probably fly to Greece in the time it takes to make these potatoes but think of all the money you’ll save on sunscreen.
Twice-Roasted Lemon Potatoes
5-6 medium potatoes (Yukon gold or Russet), peeled
11/2 cups chicken broth (with sodium)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
5 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried rosemary
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
½ teaspoon salt or salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut peeled potatoes into quarters or thick wedges. Place in deep baking dish with chicken broth, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and spices. Braise in hot oven for 30 minutes then turn potatoes over and braise for another 30 minutes, or until most of liquid is absorbed. Transfer potatoes to baking sheet, drizzle with a little sauce, and roast for another hour, turning potatoes over after the first 30 minutes and drizzling with more sauce. Check once or twice during the last 15 minutes to ensure they don’t burn. They are ready when they’re a deep golden color and crispy on the outside. Serve with a final drizzle of sauce and a sprinkling of fresh oregano. Serve as a side dish with roasted meats or make a meal with a few dolmas or spanakopita. Serves six.