Dinner with Friends! Do Potatoes have Secrets?


There are some things that change with age, things that bit by bit reveal themselves and make our life style different. One of these things is the marriage!

It is like a “Life together certificate”, a full stop where you start a new sentence of life. It is now 4 years I’m happily married and slowly even our friends are getting married! It is now that the dinners between couples start to grow and they are the very best occasion to speak badly of the respective partners!

It is important to be self ironic, after all in a couple life you have to be understanting in order to lower all the edges of our habits! I tell you: you will NEVER be able to change your partner the “perfect way” you want him/her! But there will surely be quite an amusement to speak about all the idiotic episodes in a married life that happen! Husbands will never stop asking where are those damn unpaired socks, and wives will never stop bothering husbands the millisecond after they leave some dirt anywhere! These are the basics of a family! Do not forget it!

It is natural that being the home chef, I’m particularly hit by these menaces about order and cleanliness, even more when I got guests for dinner! Today I even got a tough one, since he’s the Maitre of one of the best restaurants of Cagliari! Let’s admit it: even if I’m not a chef I’m proud of my cooking and I want to leave a good impression! I’m a bit egocentric I know!

This time I listened to my wife suggestion: do something simple and be great!

The menu has been two dishes, after all the holidays and feasts we have enough of long menus. I preferred just to make the portion a bit bigger!

The first has been an italian classic: Risotto a la Milanese, where I used, instead the standard diced stock, I cooked a broth with vegetables and ox tail.

The second dish was a traditional scottish recipe: Scotch Egg with Baked Potatoes as side dish.

The recipe is simple but I wanted to try to increase its quality and make it a little bit more interesting enriching its preparation! Today we will follow the rpeparation of a part of the dish to reveal some “secrets” about potatoes while tomorrow we will have a look to the special egg of the scottish tradition!

Le patate migliori che abbia mai preparato! Una tira l'altra!
The best potatoes I ever prepared! One calls another!

Ingredients for 5 people:

  • 1.2 kg early potatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • rosemary
  • salt

As you may see there are not secret ingredients to make good baked potatoes. The secret is in the preparation! What would we expect from good baked potatoes? We love the crunchiness, the aroma and the good taste of potato and rosemary, not too oily and soft and fragrand in the inside! Reality is that it is difficult to make good baked potatoes. It happens quite a lot to have them soft, browned but tough outside, sometimes dry inside or full of oil dripping!

I therefore “stole” information here and there to make really SPECTACULAR potatoes!

We start washing the potatoes. It is a fundamental step since we will use the skins to give aroma to the potatoes. We peel them and put aside the skin. We cut them in pieces of 3 cm roughly. We put them in a large bowl and leave them under cold running water for 5 minutes, this helps taking off the starch from the potatoes surface leading to a crunchier preparation later on. We take the skins and envelope them in baking paper. We tie it with twine for cooking (I used silicon twines, quite good invention!) to prevent it from opening, finally we pierce it with a stick all around.

Patate al Forno 2

We put potatoes and the skin package in a casserole with cold water. We cook it at high flame. The baking paper softens with the water and the holes will let the aroma of the skins pass through for extra aroma! After 20 minutes of boiling water (but it is best to follow closely the cooking of the potatoes in order not to overcook them) they will start to break on the surface  looking a but rough. That is the exact moment we need to take out the water all the potatoes with a holed ladle into a colander. It is important to do it this way since they are very fragile and we do not want to break them. We let them cool down into the colander for 30 minutes.

Patate al Forno 3Patate al Forno 4

Let’s look to our potatoes: the steam that rises is the hot surface that loses water through evaporation, this with the loss of the starch we did at the beginning of the recipe will give extra crunchiness! In fact humidity and starch are direct enemies of crunchiness! When the 30 minutes pass we can see our potato surface: it looks rough thanks to the “violent boiling” and this is a great tool to let the oil permeate when baking, on the other side the dryness of the sirface will prevent it to go further inside the potato!

Now we take a large pan with high sides and we pour some olive oil in it. We pan fry the potatoes for 2 minutes in order to coat them perfectly and give a first crust. The oil must be hot to let it be lightly liquid. This way the minimum oil will remain on the potatoes. If it was cold the oil would be more dense leaving a thick layer and making them soggy.

We put everything into a baking pan covered with baking sheets and we bake them in preheated oven at 190°C for one hour. At 50 minutes baking we check how they are cooked, then we season them with fresh rosemary and salt. We let it cook till the end of the cooking time, eventually putting the tray higher in the oven to let it bown faster.

We serve them hot and we can taste them in all their marvellour crunchiness! You will not be able to stop! I guarantee it!

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