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Salt Roasted Potatoes

Have you ever really tasted a potato? Have you ever had a potato that was so flavorful that it didn’t need butter or sour cream or any of the other goodies for which we use potatoes as a mere vehicle?

My husband, Pitts, recently went to Vermont. He was going to a sculling camp called Craftsbury and was fortunate enough to spend a few days with family who live Williston, VT. The Yandells of Williston live in as picturesque a setting as I have ever seen, and I have sadly only seen it in photos (for now). The cold of the winters seems to be reimbursed by nature with the greenest, most verdant, and fictionally pastoral setting of summer and early fall. They brought Pitts in to the fold and he was able to see the farms and the skies from the ground and the ground and the water from the skies (his cousin Rocky is a pilot). And he brought home souvenirs. For the kids he brought beautiful pumpkins. Ford has slept with his little pumpkin like it is a teddy bear for going on 7 nights now. And to me he brought a giant bag of potatoes, bags full of several varieties of garlic from the garden of his cousin Hope, and a gallon of maple syrup from the Isham family farm. The Isham farm is down the street from the Yandells and rest assured I will be swimming in syrup for a while. They have been producing maple syrup for 5 generations and it is exceptional. And, yes, we got t-shirts.

It just occurred to me that if I didn’t run a food blog getting a bag of potatoes for my souvenir would be like getting an iron for my anniversary, but this was a real treat.

But the potatoes…oh, the potatoes. Fresh from the ground, they were still covered with dark, dark dirt. Robin Yandell, who personally grew these gorgeous red potatoes (as well as the pumpkins) claims that they are not a rare variety and were, in fact, cultivated using shoots growing from plain red potatoes she bought at a local market. She suspects it is just the rich Vermont soil. I don’t know. These potatoes were wonderful. Pitts doesn’t really like potatoes all that much. He declared these potatoes to be the best he had ever eaten. High praise, indeed.

The method could not be more simple.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place 1-1/2 cups of coarse sea salt in an oven-proof pan that has a cover. Wash the potatoes and dry them with towels. Place the potatoes in a bowl and lightly cover them with olive oil. Place the potatoes, one by one, into the bed of salt, leaving room between them. Season them with another teaspoon or two of salt. Put the cover on the pan and roast them in the oven for 45 minutes. The potatoes are done when a knife slips into the potato with no resistance. Allow the potatoes to cool a bit and then remove them from the salt, brushing off the excess salt.

We ate these with a roasted chicken and the pan sauce from the chicken was really delicious with the potatoes. I used Tutta Toscana Extra Virgin Olive Oil to coat the potatoes before roasting them. Shockingly, they have a nice but minimally salty flavor. Mostly, they just taste like incredibly flavorful potatoes. The bed of salt allows them to cook evenly and to perfection.

I don’t know a lot about sea salt. I do know that practically every salt I found at the store was from the Mediterranean generally, or France, or South America. I want to try salt from the Maine Sea Salt Company, and I am going to order some. But in the meantime, know that all of the store varieties work just fine, and since most of it goes down the drain after you take out the potatoes, I wouldn’t buy the most expensive brands for this purpose. I have made this with both fine and coarse salt and they were both fantastic. So get what interests you.

Note: I also cooked another batch at 400 to match the cooking temperature of another dish. My feeling is that the 450 batch was better but both were great.

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14 comments to Salt Roasted Potatoes

  • This is the perfect way to make small red potatoes; thank you for a great, clear, beautifully illustrated recipe. Made the potatoes yesterday, and then have also done this now with beets from farmer’s markets.

  • Well, we love this recipe! Last night I made them and also added fresh from the garden carrots, leaving a bit of the green stem on for looks. We had turkey breast stuffed and rolled with sausage and red bell pepper and the platter of potatoes and carrots. It was a fantastic meal and all cooked at the same time in the oven: too easy!

  • Kelly

    I like the idea about the sidewalk. But, all readers should rest assured that salt kills grass DEAD…for a long long time so don’t use it in your yard unless you have done your homework. Val, I can’t wait to see what art projects you come up with.

  • Val

    Kel, We made these again last night. SERIOUSLY yummy. I had the same thought about saving the salt or doing something else with it. I’ve heard of a couple of kid’s art projects that use salt, I’ll find the recipes and send them along. Also, you can use salt as a weed preventative but only in areas where you aren’t concerned with changing the soil makeup. That said, if you have some pesky weeds in the cracks of a sidewalk or path salt is a great way to keep them under control!

  • Kelly

    I won’t laugh at you. I had the same thought, myself. It is one of the reasons I suggested using less expensive salt for this purpose.

    When I made this, the salt became a little dirty. Whatever moisture left the potatoes was left in the salt and there were residual brown spots on the salt. So it probably wouldn’t be suitable for re-use. However, one of my favorite cleaning tips for the sink is using salt and baking soda to clean drains with the help of boiling water. And, I have read in several places that merely pouring a solution of water and salt (not much water and a lot of dissolved salt…so it is cloudy) will clean your drain and prevent the build-up of grease. So, when I disposed of my salt, I mixed it with a little water and poured it down the drain and let it sit for a while before rinsing it all away. It made me feel a little bit better about having to get rid of it.

    Thank you for mentioning this Judy. I truly had the same desire to somehow re-use the sea salt when I made it. I think there are probably a million other household uses for salt that might fit the bill…just don’t throw it in the grass.

  • Judy P

    I am so frugal that people laugh at me but couldn’t you save the salt in a jar to be used for the same purpose another time?

  • val

    YUM! And look at you on thekitchn.com

  • Kelly

    Janna, I am usually guilty of overloading my potatoes with butter and cheese and bacon, you name it. It was really refreshing to find a method (and such a simple one, at that) that really celebrated the simple goodness of the humble potato. I’m hooked.

    Have fun in Vermont. You will surely be there at a lovely time.

  • Kelly

    I love that Elsa. What a great memory.

  • I’m headed to Vermont in a couple of weeks and you’ve convinced me to pick up a bag of potatoes from the Farmer’s Market in Burlington. I can’t wait to try this method out.

  • Elsa Rector

    Kelly, these potatoes remind me of when we used to vacation in Maine. On our way out of Damarascota, we would stop at the stand of a potato farmer. On this particular morning that we were leaving, he has not picked for his stand yet. He went out into is field and picked us a large bag of baby potatoes. With great apology for their smallness, he charged us only 25 cents per pound. Needless to say, we did not complain at all, forgave him profusely, and went home with a treasure…quite pleased!

  • Donna

    My mom has made potatoes this way….she has done it with the finger-like potatoes and the blue/purple ones….and ALWAYS with a roasted chicken!

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