Chris Cooks

Crispy Pork Belly, Roasted Potatoes, Kale Pesto and Black Currants: PT. 2

May 10, 2013

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Roasting potatoes is something that everyone needs to know how to do properly. They’re so easy to make, as well as versatile, but some people don’t like roasting potatoes because they often stick to the pan, have a gummy texture, or are too oily etc. etc.. Well I’m going to change all that for you right now. By the end of this post you’ll never make bad roasted potatoes again. Unless you burn them, but that’s on you. Check it.

If you never learn anything else from reading my posts, learn this. “Cold oil, hot pan.” Got it? Repeat it 3 times. Cold oil, hot pan. That’s the key to keeping food from sticking when working with cookware that isn’t nonstick. So when you’re gearing up to roast your potatoes, put your roasting pan inside the oven, without potatoes or oil on it, and preheat the oven to 425. Got that? So your pan is inside the oven while the oven is preheating. And once the oven has reached 425, you should let the pan sit in there for another 10 minutes at that heat, to make sure it’s really heated. I cannot overstate the importance of this step. I promise you, this one tip will change your life. And this applies to all kinds of food and cooking vessels, such as grills, cast-iron skillets and whatever else. Cold oil, hot pan.

Once the pan is in the oven, cut your potatoes and put them in a strainer and rinse well with water.

I usually do 1.25 potatoes per person, depending on their size (the potato’s size, not the person – though that could apply as well). The rinsing step is also very important. Some day I’ll write a post about what happens to different types of nutrients (carbs, proteins, fats, etc) when heat is introduced. It’s quite fascinating, and really helpful when trying to achieve certain textures with your food. But for today, we’re going to talk quickly about starches. When a starch is introduced to heat, it turns to gelatin. Like, jello. If you’ve ever made gummy potatoes, it’s probably because they weren’t rinsed. When you cut a potato, it releases some of the starch, which gathers along the cut edges. Leaving that starch on the potato while it cooks will turn the starch to gelatin, and give the potato a gummy texture. Rinsing the potato allows the potato to get crispy on the outside, which is way more enjoyable.

After rinsing, dry your potatoes with a paper towel and place in a ziplock bag. Add a bit of oil and toss to coat. The great thing about using a ziplock bag is you don’t have to add much oil. If you’re cooking 4 medium sized potatoes, you probably only need a couple tablespoons of oil. Add kosher salt and black pepper to the bag and toss again.

Quick note on kosher salt. If you don’t already use kosher salt, I really encourage you to start. Iodized salt should be saved for baking, and that’s about it. We actually use a special sea salt for health reasons, but I prefer kosher salt for cooking, and once you try it you’ll never go back. I’m serious, it makes a huge difference.

Next, take the hot pan out of the oven, dump the potatoes from the bag onto the pan, and spread evenly.  It’s going to hiss, which is what you want. It’s very important that the potatoes be in one layer. Don’t have potatoes stacked up, or they’ll be soggy. If you’re cooking for a large group of people, then put the potatoes on two pans, and place one oven rack two spaces down from the top of your oven, and the other two spaces up from the bottom. Cook the potatoes for 10 minutes, then move the pan from the top rack to the bottom and vice versa. Do this again at 20 minutes, and again at 30, until the potatoes are golden brown. If only cooking one pan of potatoes, put the oven rack two spaces down from the top, and cook for about 20 minutes. But keep an eye on them and remove them once golden brown. So if they don’t look done at 20, leave them in.

Potatoes spaced evenly
Potatoes roasted. To perfection, I might add

Boom, a basic roasted potato you can use for anything, and you can season them up however you want. Speaking of seasoning, you’ll recall that this is the second part of our crispy pork belly and roasted potatoes with kale pesto dish. So, kale pesto. Here’s what you need:

sea salt, extra-virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, kale (thick rib parts removed), garlic, lemon, fresh pepper

Usually I make pesto in a food processor, but with kale pesto I like it a bit rustic, so I chop it with a knife. Until it looks like this:

From there, just mix the stuff together, in these amounts (scaled to meet your party size):
• 1 Cup chopped kale (please be sure you wash the kale really well – kale is notorious for hiding little bugs)
• 1.5 Tbsp finely-grated parmesan cheese
• 1 medium garlic clove, minced (I use a garlic press)
• 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
• Pinch salt
• 2 Grinds pepper
• About 2-3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil. I say “about” because I didn’t measure. Just add some, stir around, add more, stir around until it looks like this:

Make the pesto while the potatoes are roasting, then toss them together in a bowl once the potatoes are done, like so:

And plate like so:

That’s all she wrote. Not too hard, right? These potatoes totally stand on their own as a side dish for all kinds of things, but if you need a reminder, here’s what the final dish looked like with the crispy pork belly:

Only thing left for this dish is to top it with the black currant sauce (dried black currants simmered in 1/3 part sugar to 1 part water, plus 1/4 part balsamic vinegar).

I wanted to share the potatoes separately, because I don’t want anyone to feel locked into the pork belly. Don’t get me wrong, the pork belly is awesome, but it’s not always doable. So use these potatoes however you like! Maybe as part of a special dinner for Mother’s Day this weekend or something. No matter when you pull this out, you can now feel confident in your ability to make the perfect, roasted potato.

What do you think?

  1. Megan says:

    After reading this post when it was originally published over a year ago, I’ve been using the cold oil, hot pan method…life changing! It is so much easier and the potatoes come out so much better. I’m usually a silent blog reader, but just wanted to say thanks on your cooking and decorating tips! You guys rock.

  2. Hannah says:

    I made this recipe and it was great! I pan fried the potatoes instead to get the same results (I almost never use my oven but I will try your method another time). The pesto on the potatoes was amazing! I also made a second batch just to try it on pasta, and that was great too.

  3. Jill says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I tried this recipe last night, and it was sooooo delicious! Thank you for posting it!

    One slight problem I had, though – I tried your method of putting the pan in beforehand, but the potatoes still stuck. Maybe I didn’t heat the pan long enough?

    • Hi Jill! It could be one of three things: the pan may not have been hot enough, the potatoes may have had some starch left on them, or there may not have been enough oil. It’s most likely the pan wasn’t hot enough. When you preheat the oven, you should put the pan in during preheating. Then, once the oven has reached full temp, leave the pan in for an additional 10 minutes. This ensures the pan is nice and hot.

      I hope this helps! Let me know if that works better for you next time! :)

    • Jill says:

      Thanks, Chris! You are right – I didn’t leave the pan in long enough. I will make sure to do that next time. Thanks for your help.

  4. Anonymous says:


    I never post on blogs, but have to tell you that I truly enjoy Chris’ food posts. The way you write is really engaging without being too wordy or over the top. Your recipes provide he little details that a layman cook, such as myself, really appreciate. Most cookbooks and cooking shows don’t tell you the secret helpful hints, like to heat your pan in the oven first, or where to put the racks for even cooking. These simple, but REALLY useful, pointers will definitely help me in the kitchen and I have you to thank for it! I can’t wait to try these roasted potatoes!

    -Krysta Houseknecht

    • Hi Krysta! I’m so glad to hear my posts are helpful. For me, it only took understanding technique to really love cooking, and I think it’s the same for everyone. If we just know the proper way to do it, the end product is so much better, which makes the entire experience less frustrating and more rewarding.

      I hope you keep reading! And feel free to ask any questions or make requests along the way. :)

  5. I LOVE roasted potatoes, so I am totally going to try this trick and see if it makes them better. Adding Kale to it is a perfect way to get some green in the meal. Would love more veggie recipes for us vegetarians of the world :)

  6. Anonymous says:

    so much Kale in my CSA box!! So much!! thank you for this recipe

  7. Wow, this is so straightforward and simple– thank you! I love roasting potatoes we get from our CSA box, and this advice will help.

    Love that you guys combined the blogs, too– much easier. :)

  8. Roasting potatoes is something that Ginger Bradley needs to know how to do properly…Cold oil, hot pan…Cold oil, hot pan…Cold oil, hot pan…roasting pan inside the oven…cut potatoes, rinse well with water…kosher salt…I think I’ve got it. I never thought I’d be excited about roasting potatoes. (Thank you for explaining the whys about a hot pan and cold water and salt and all that) Also I had to stop at the seasoning brain is over stimulated!

  9. Lindsay says:

    Those potatoes look much better than mine ever do (and just think – I always thought mine were good!). So one question – once the potatoes are on the pan in the oven, do you flip/stir them at some point or just leave them alone the whole time?

  10. Anonymous says:

    I can’t wait to try the kale pesto! I love making roasted potatoes but I’ve always used the convection setting to get them nice and crisp. I’m going to use your rinsing and cold oil/hot pan tips next time!

  11. Those potatoes look amazing! So much better than how my roasted potatoes turn out haha Pinning!

  12. Looks amazing Chris! Great meal.

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We believe we should all love where we live.

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