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Posted by Maxine Cleminson - - 0 comments

Roast potatoes are one of the best bits about a good roast dinner, when done well that is! They must be crispy, dark golden on the outside, with a definite crunch-factor, but white, light and fluffy on the inside! *Drool* They are an essential part of the classic English Roast Dinner and a must have for Christmas day, but with all the faffing about getting the Turkey cooked to perfection they are often a bit of an afterthought!

Last Christmas, my dear ol' Mum visited from England and the poor woman spent 3 solid days in the kitchen with me, preparing for the Christmas Dinner. In a 10 day trip this sucked, and I only realised afterwards that this very poor planning on my part turned her 'holiday' into a not very relaxing time. We don't see a lot of each other these days, living 5000 miles apart, so the last thing I should expect the poor woman to do, is spend time in the kitchen (unless it's with a glass of wine in hand and a mince pie in the other!).

So, this year she's visiting again but I am determined to have everything (well, everything that possibly can be) prepared in advance so we can enjoy our holiday together! It's the first week of December, and already in my freezer is a load of turkey stuffing balls (my Nan's recipe ... best ever), a half gallon of homemade stock for the gravy and my next step is the roast potatoes. For those of you, thinking I've gone barmy... Yes, you can prepare roast potatoes in advance (up to about a month!). Peeling and parboiling spuds is a time consuming and laborious task that adds to the long list of jobs needing to be done on Christmas day when you should be enjoying time with the family! Do this in advance and you will save time AND guarantee crispy, crunchy, fluffy golden roasties on the day!

You will need:

  • A very large saucepan (I use a big stock pot) half full with cold water
  • Lots of potatoes ... I prefer organic, russet potatoes, but read these articles (UK here and USA here) to help you choose the best types of potatoes for roasting available in your local supermarket
  • An unbleached cotton/food safe muslin square or drawstring bag (optional)
  • A baking tray or two
  • A colander
  • A couple of forks
  • Baking parchment or silicone baking tray liners
  • A large plastic freezer bag
  • Space in your freezer!
First of all, peel your potatoes and cut them into halves or quarters depending on how big they are (big potatoes, quartered, are better in my opinion, as there are more 'edges' to go crispy).  Chuck them into the largest saucepan or pot you have with lots of cold water.  Let them sit in the cold water for 5-10 minutes before changing the water for fresh.

Don't discard your peelings (as perhaps you would normally) as these are the bit of the potato with the most taste and the most goodness.  A tip suggested by celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal in his book In Search of Perfection, is to gather the peelings in a food-safe cotton muslin bag and add to the pot when parboiling the potatoes!  Even if you don't have a muslin bag, you can add the peelings to the pot anyway, and just discard at the end ... it's just a bit easier when they're kept together in a bag!  That way, the taste and goodness isn't lost!  The potatoes do taste a bit more potato-ey this way!

Bring the water to the boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft enough to poke a knife into, but not so soft they are falling apart.  This is perhaps a little longer than you would do normally, but as the potatoes are going to be frozen, it doesn't matter if the are a bit fragile!

Tip them into a colander in the sink and drain.  Let them sit in the colander until cold.  Air drying is really good for roast potatoes as it makes the edges very fluffy.  As the potatoes have been boiled for a bit longer than normal, don't shake them about to rough up the edges like you would do normally, as you might find they start to disintegrate.  Once they are cool, spread them out onto a lined baking sheet (you can use a silicone liner, or just a piece of baking parchment).  Then carefully scrape the surface of the potatoes with a fork creating a rough surface all over.  Do this gently.

Cover the potatoes with plastic wrap, foil or baking parchment, and place the whole tray into the freezer.  Freeze for a few hours or overnight until solid.  The you can tip the frozen potatoes into a labelled plastic freezer bag for storage in the freezer.  They will store well for 1-2 months like this.

When you need to cook the potatoes, you do not need to defrost them in advance... in fact, they cook best from frozen!  Simply pour a little oil (to a depth of a few mm)into your baking tray - I think vegetable or canola oil is better than olive oil for this, as it's lighter in taste and doesn't smoke so much at the higher temperatures required - and place in the oven to preheat.  You will need quite a hot oven, probably 400'F (200'C), although if your meat is roasting at a lower temperature, just increase the cooking time a little and turn up the heat for the last 20-30 minutes once the meat has been removed and is 'relaxing'.  Once the oil is hot, remove the tray (working quickly so the temperature doesn't drop too much) and carefully place your frozen potatoes onto the tray... be careful as they will cause the oil to spit so don't tip them all in, in one go!  Use a spoon to baste each potato in the hot oil, and return to the oven.  Cook for about an hour, turning halfway.

Serve hot & crispy from the oven... the perfect accompaniment to roast meat and vegetables for a special Christmas dinner!  Mmmmmm!

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