Add a Little Drama to Boring Spuds
When my meals are lacking in either substance or familiarity, the potato has always been a nice, safe, relatively easy addition. To be quite honest, while potato dishes can be very tasty, it’s easy for them to become a bit bland-looking and boring. Imagine my delight when I was introduced to the purple potato. I’m a sucker for color (if you couldn't already tell), so just seeing that pop of vivid purple flesh on my plate had me hooked. An added bonus was finding out that the purple pigments function as antioxidants, boosting their nutritional benefit as well.
This roasted potato dish not only boasts good looks and great benefits, but the flavor is insane, all thanks to a few exceptional ingredients. First, if you've never cooked potatoes with rendered duck fat, you've been missing out on a flavor-enhancing match made in food heaven! There is also black garlic (a new staple in my kitchen), which is just aged, caramelized garlic with a deep, savory taste reminiscent of soy sauce. The last key flavor comes from finishing with black lava salt, a sea salt that is combined with activated charcoal to create a rich, smoky, salty (salty salt?) taste. The flavor combination of the savory potatoes + savory poultry fat + pungent garlic + salty salt (I’m amused now) results in an overall deep, complex profile. I highly recommend pairing these potatoes with the homemade papaya ketchup, which adds a mildly sweet element to such a flavorful, rich dish.
While the flavors in this dish are a bit unconventional, the cooking method for the potatoes is pretty tried and true: parboil, toss in fat, oven roast under high heat. I've been burned one too many times with roasted potatoes that come from the oven rock hard and still practically raw, so this has been a lifesaver. The resulting potatoes are guaranteed to be crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
Once you've done the 3-step potato roast a couple of times, it will become second nature. You boil then simmer diced potatoes in salted water until the exterior is tender when poked with a fork. You’re not cooking them all the way through as you would for mashed potatoes, so this only takes 5-10 minutes of simmering. Once the potatoes are drained, toss a spoonful of the duck fat on them while still warm to allow it to melt. During the roasting, it’s always great to flip the potatoes halfway through to allow for even crisping. One final thing to remember with purple potatoes is that it’s harder to gauge coloring as a sign of crisping (as you would with a white potato turning golden brown); be mindful of this as it may be more difficult to notice if the potatoes are starting to burn and char.
The papaya ketchup is so ridiculously easy that you may start making your own fruit ketchup to replace the traditional bottled kind. There is so much flexibility on the final taste, from using a different tropical fruit (like mango or pineapple), a different vinegar (I used a sweet honey and herb variety, but rice wine vinegar would also be great) or just tweaking the types and quantities of spices used. One thing I would not change is dry toasting the spices in the beginning; this step releases more flavor and also adds a bit of ‘warmth’ to the condiment.