With two big feast days looming Easter and Passover I thought I’d offer up a simple but delicious side dish. I’m talking about the lemony roasted potatoes that are one of the dependable delights on the menu at a Greek restaurant. They’re crispy on the outside, but tangy and creamy on the inside ... and surprisingly easy to make.
The key is to start by only partially cooking the potatoes five minutes, then pull them off the heat. Then drain them and, while they’re still hot, toss them with lemon juice and salt. The potatoes will soak up the flavourings like a sponge. The next step is the one that creates the crispy crust: Coat them with oil and roast them in an oven. The final touch? Toss the potatoes with fresh chopped herbs right before you serve them. I prefer parsley and oregano, but they’d be great with rosemary or basil, too.
What are the best kinds of spuds for this dish? The top of the list is occupied by boiling potatoes and all-purpose potatoes because they hold their shape when roasted. Yukon Golds are my particular favourite. Russet potatoes aka baking potatoes, the most famous being the Idaho would fall apart.
If you manage not to eat them all in one sitting, you’ll love these guys all over again as leftovers. That’s because they happen to make terrific hash browns. Just saute some chopped onion in oil or butter in a skillet over medium-low heat until it’s caramelized, add the potatoes, then mush them down with a potato masher or fork until they form a big pancake. Brown it slowly on both sides and you’re done. That lemony edge makes these hash browns a particularly toothsome variation on the standard version.
Greek Style Roasted Lemon Potatoes
Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (20 minutes active)
2 pounds Yukon Gold or other all-purpose or boiling potatoes
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling the pan
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch pieces. In a medium saucepan combine the potatoes with salted cold water to cover by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes for 5 minutes. While they are simmering, in a large bowl whisk together the lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt until the salt is dissolved and then whisk in 1 tablespoon of the oil.
Drain the potatoes well, and while they are still hot, add them to the bowl and toss. Leave them in the bowl for 15 minutes, stirring several times to make sure that the liquid is well distributed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup oil and combine well, being careful not to break up the potatoes.
Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and brush it with oil. Transfer the potatoes to the pan and spread them out in one layer.
Roast the potatoes on the middle shelf of the oven, turning them several times, until they are golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove them from the oven and toss them with the parsley, oregano and pepper to taste.
Nutrition information per serving: 203 calories; 84 calories from fat; 9 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 81 mg sodium; 28 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 3 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”