You Say “Potato,” I Say “Perfection”
When others shun potatoes, I welcome them with open mouth.
Yes, in this low-carb world, I am the outlier who lusts for spuds.
And when I find a recipe that does them proud, I am beside myself.
Such is the case with “Crispy Semolina Potatoes.”
This insanely good yet simple recipe is by Susan Spungen, a recipe developer, stylist and cookbook author, who is the former food editor at Martha Stewart Living. She was also the food stylist for the film, “Julie & Julia.”
It’s from her newest cookbook, “Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings” (Avery), of which I received a review copy. When Spungen cooks, she likes to break down the prep into stages so that it can be spread out over a day or two. That way, it’s less intimidating, especially if you’re cooking for company.
That pragmatic philosophy is what makes this cookbook so appealing. Well, that plus the enticing recipes for wonderfully breezy dishes such as “Cassoulet Toast,” “Burrata with Pickled Cherries, Sumac, and Basil,” “Italian-Ish Ribs,” and “Fried Black Rice with Shrimp, Shiitakes, and Shishitos.”
I put my Full Belly Farm new red potatoes (delivered via GoodEggs) to good use in this recipe. Most potatoes at the grocery store were actually harvested months ago, if not a year ago, and kept in cold storage. But new potatoes, as the name implies, are just-picked. Their skins are thin and fragile. As a result, unlike other potatoes, spring’s new potatoes need to be stored in the fridge.
In this recipe, the potatoes first get cooked in boiling water. They are then showered in semolina, which I admit I’ve only used to make pasta or to dust my pizza paddle with. The potatoes are then placed in a preheated cast-iron pan of hot oil. The recipe didn’t indicate what to do with the called-for fresh sage leaves, so I just added them to the pan at the start with the garlic cloves.
Then, the magic happens. The coating of semolina turns deeply golden brown, leaving the most irresistible thin, yet impressively crisp, crust on the potatoes. They’re almost like deep-fried potatoes — yet you’ve only added 3 tablespoons of fat to the pan. The interior of the potatoes gets ever so creamy, too.
The garlic cloves and sage leaves are rendered nearly petrified. But that’s a good thing, because they are all crunch, and as wonderful to eat as potato chips.
Even if you’ve forsaken potatoes, do yourself a favor and make an exception for these.
Crispy Semolina Potatoes
2 pounds thin-skinned baby potatoes
3 tablespoons melted duck fat, or peanut or grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons fine semolina
3 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed into large pieces
Handful fresh sage leaves
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and a good handful of salt and cook for about 10 minutes (depending on size), until they are softening on the outside but still hard in the center. Drain in a colander, banging them around to break the skins. Pull any big pieces of skin off, leaving at least 50 percent of the potato flesh exposed.
Heat the fat in a large cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and toss with ½ teaspoon salt and the semolina. Add the garlic and sage leaves. Carefully transfer to the hot pan, give it a stir, leaving any loose semolina in the bowl (this will burn), and return to the oven to roast for about 40 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes, until golden brown all over. Season with flaky salt and serve.
*Up to 1 day ahead: Par-cook and peel the potatoes; store in the fridge.
*About 1 hour before serving: Preheat the pan and cook the potatoes so they’re done as close to serving time as possible.
* Reheat at the last minute.
Adapted From “Open Kitchen” by Susan Spungen
More Irresistible Potato Recipes: Microwave Potato Chips
And: Gordon’s Red Potato Salad with Whole-Grain Mustard Dressing
And: New Potatoes with Soft Green Herbs
And: Roasted Potato Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing
And: Smashed Yukon Gold Potatoes
Ok Carolyn, I’m going to make these this weekend. I have two kinds of semolina: farina, which is like cream of wheat, and durum semolina, much finer. I think I should use the durum semolina, yes?
Rena: Yes, durum semolina would be the best one to use. Let me know what you think when you try it. I LOVE these potatoes! 😉
I hacked it! I’ll try the real technique this weekend, but tonight it was just too hot to turn on the oven for 40 minutes. So I steamed baby potatoes, and since I used baby, not new, potatoes, I cut each one in half so they’d have more surface area and “sticky” spots. When they were almost done, I fried the semolina in my nonstick tfal pan using olive oil. When it was well toasted and smelled almost like a brown roux, I tossed in the steamed, still-hot potatoes, and fried until crispy golden on at least one side, tossing often. Total success. And delicious! My daughter says it’s like eating a potato that you accidentally dropped into the sand, but it’s really delicious sand. And I got the crunchy crust and the creamy interior.
I think the original technique probably produces a better shattering crust – more time turning the potato starch into crispy edges. But I thought this was a pretty good compromise on such a hot day.
Rena: Whoa! I love your ingenuity especially when it has been way too hot to turn on the oven. I think your daughter’s description is delightful, too. Way to go! 😉
I did this. They are my new favorite!
I’ve long been a fan of roughing up the potatoes — adding the semolina coating takes crisp to a new level. As the potatoes sit, the crunch does not fade.
I did not have small potatoes and cut Yukon Golds into inch-and-a-half chunks. Worked great.
Moe: So glad to hear the recipe works just as well with regular-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, too. I’m with you — I just LOVE the crunchy coating. Addictive! 😉
very neat! i’m always excited to see a new way to prepare potatoes!