Side dishes can make a good meal great. They are the supporting actors to a well-prepared piece of meat, which, if performing well, can hog the spotlight. But paying attention to what best supports the star can turn a meal from B-grade to award winning.
It’s that time of year when side dishes become more than an after thought. Thanksgiving and Christmas provide a great excuse to focus on all parts of the meal. If you’ve already started thinking about your festive menus, I highly recommend including a plate of Smashed Lemon Potatoes.
Roast potatoes are always a winner. On Christmas Day, the first things on my plate are a pile of roast potatoes and as much pork crackling as I can take without offending anyone. I like crispy things out of the oven. This version of roast potatoes by celebrated food writer Ruth Reichl ensures maximum crispiness, a soft, creamy centre and a twist of lemon to keep things interesting.
Baby potatoes are first par-boiled in a bath of chicken stock, garlic and lemon zest. This softens them up ready to be flattened by a rolling pin or base of a saucepan, exposing more surface area to the heat of the oven. The lemon zest makes the journey from the stock to the oven with the potatoes, and releases its oils while also crisping up.
When you pull the tray out of the oven, you have a golden landscape of potatoes, with valleys and hills that provide different and flavoursome textures. The roasted lemon zest camouflages itself amongst the potatoes, and provides a surprise burst of citrus when it reaches the eaters mouth. A sprinkle of sea salt and a generous grating of parmesan adds another layer of flavour to the transformed potatoes.
Serving them alongside a roast, or a juicy piece of steak, would be ideal. When I made them this week I couldn’t resist scooping a rather generous serve into a bowl and topping it with a parsley, capers and lemon oil, which provided a pleasingly bright contrast to the creaminess of the potatoes. That was a winning lunch.
These potatoes may steal the show at your festive feast, so it’s probably best to make a double batch.
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Smashed Lemon Potatoes
- 900g (2 pounds) baby potatoes
- 3 cups chicken stock
- Zest of 1 lemon (in thick strips)
- 2 cloves garlic
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Parmesan, for grating
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F.
Put the potatoes in a wide-based saucepan, add chicken stock, lemon zest and garlic (the stock may not cover the potatoes fully, that’s OK). Bring to the boil, cover and cook for 8 minutes.
Drain potatoes, picking out the lemon zest and saving it for later.
Oil an oven tray generously. Gently flatten each potato. I found the best method was to flatten them on a chopping board using the base of a small saucepan, but you could use the side of a chef’s knife or a rolling pin. Flattening them on the oven tray is possible, but the oil makes the surface slippery and the potatoes tend to dart around the tray when you try to flatten them.
With the smashed potatoes on the oven tray, drizzle them with olive oil and lay the reserved lemon zest in between the potatoes. Roast for 40 minutes, until the potatoes are crisp, golden and irresistible.
Sprinkle with sea salt and finely grate parmesan over the top.
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