One of my biggest kitchen triumphs has been learning to cook a traditional Sunday roast that gets the seal of approval from my English husband, Andy. When he was growing up, Andy’s family cooked a roast dinner every Sunday evening. When he and I lived in England we would often go to his grandparent’s house to enjoy that ritual meal. We looked forward to the slow cooked meat, roasted potatoes, and heaps of vegetables, topped with rich, homemade gravy. I will never make a roast dinner as good as Andy’s Nanny, but after years of observing, I’ve learned a lot from her.
When we moved to the states, Andy was missing this tradition – and so was I. We would occasionally make a Sunday roast, but it was more of a special occasion meal. We hadn’t made it a tradition yet. Nearly a year ago when we found out I was pregnant, Andy wanted to share the same tradition with our children, so we made a commitment to carry on the Sunday roast. For the past year we have cooked a roast dinner together nearly every Sunday night – lamb, pork, beef, or chicken – always accompanied by some of our favorite roasted vegetables—parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts, shallots, and cauliflower—but the one thing I could never seem to get right was the roasted potatoes.
Nanny’s potatoes were satisfyingly crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. My version was good—halved, coated in oil, and roasted—but there was no magic. Knowing mine weren’t up to par, I shied away from making roasted potatoes, always opting for mashed. But the last time we were in England and I asked Nanny her secret, and she was quick to share.
She peels the potatoes and then parboils them just long enough to get the potatoes’ outside edges soft. She then drains them and returns them to the pot, covers them with a lid, and shakes them so the potatoes’ exterior becomes fluffy. She then coats them in duck fat (!) and roasts them until golden perfection. It’s taken me awhile to get the method right, and they’ll probably never be as good as Nanny’s, but I have to say, these roasted potatoes are excellent—crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and, when gravy-covered, divine. If you don’t have duck fat, just use butter – it works every bit as well.
- 3 pounds starchy potatoes, such as Russets or Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- Table salt
- 4 tablespoons butter (or duck fat) melted
- Kosher salt
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Place potatoes in a large pot with water just to cover (about 1½ quarts) and 2 teaspoons of table salt. Turn burner on high and cook, covered, until a knife, piercing one of the potatoes, goes in about ¼ inch, about 12 minutes from when you turn on the burner. Drain off water, return lid to pot, and shake potatoes to create a rough surface.
- Turn potatoes onto a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with butter to evenly coat, and lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt. Roast, turning once at about 30 minutes, until golden brown, about 40 minutes total. Serve!