greek-style lemon potatoes (patates sto fourno)Posted: August 14, 2012
So it has yet again been awhile since I posted here. I’m not neglecting the blog out of boredom – I’ve just had a lot of things going on this year. As I mentioned a few posts back, I was on a posting hiatus for awhile because I was preparing for my Ph.D. qualifying exams. After passing them, and spending a lot of time reflecting, I finally decided that I don’t want to be a professor as much as I thought I did, and so I’ve decided it’s time for a career change. I’m not sure what that will be just yet – editing/publishing? Non-profit? Or will I switch tracks entirely and become a savvy business woman in a pencil skirt and power pumps? It remains to be seen. In the meantime I’ve been working odd temp jobs to pay the bills, researching different career options, and polishing the old resume.
I’ve also been cooking a lot. Because most of what I was doing in grad school was very sedentary and cerebral, I always found it relaxing and therapeutic to stand up and do something with my hands that produced nourishing, satisfying results on a much faster timeline than any results ever get produced in academic research. Some kinds of cooking projects – quiche, bread, for example, which I’ve been making a good bit of recently – are still totally magical to me. The finished product is something so completely different than the original pile of ingredients that I’m always surprised it is something I have made. I’ve tried lots of new recipes that I’ve loved in the past few months – bolognese sauce, spaghetti and meatballs, a lovely Spanish method for cooking green beans, an intense chocolate sorbet – all of which I plan to come back to at some point so that I can share them.
But the first thing on my list to share was these potatoes. When I lived in Central Jersey, the wonderful Pithari Taverna introduced me to great Greek food – if you are ever in the area, you should seriously go there. They serve these classic Greek lemon potatoes with many of their main courses, and I finally got around to looking up recipes so I could make them myself now that I don’t live there anymore. The recipe I found is a bit different from their potatoes, but it is so wonderful that I plan to make it every time I want roasted potatoes, whether or not the main course is Greek. These potatoes are everything I look for in a roasted potato – soft and fluffy on the inside, crisp on the outside. I’ve made so many roasted potatoes with hard, chunky insides (blech), but once I made these I realized that of course roasting them with some liquid in the pan, as you do here, would lead to internal fluffiness, because the potatoes soak up the liquids (along with their flavors) as they are cooking. Genius.
They are also very simple to make – one of my silly pet peeves is having to parboil vegetables before roasting or sautéing them. I know this feeling is unreasonable, but I just hate doing it! So for me these potatoes are pretty much perfect in every way, since no parboiling is required – you just chop them, toss them in their seasonings, and leave them to roast for about an hour while you deal with other things. And they are better than any of the much fussier roast potatoes I’ve made in the past. Basically, these potatoes and I were made for each other, and we’re going to go get a room now before everyone gets nauseated by my infatuation with them. Make them yourself and you’ll understand.
Patates sto fourno
A note on potato variety: from what I’ve read, it seems like russet (baking) potatoes are the ones to use here – you kind of want them to fall apart a little as they are cooking. However, for some odd reason my farmers’ market only seemed to have Yukon Gold (a boiling potato – i.e. it will keep its form when cooked), so that is what I used. As evidenced by my enthusiasm for these potatoes, they were still excellent. So use whatever potato you want – just know that baking potato varieties will be more authentic. The lemon flavor is quite subtle here – not in a bad way – but if you want a strong lemon flavor, you might zest the lemon you juice and toss that in with the oregano, and/or add more lemon juice. I might do one or both of these things myself next time. The original recipe also recommends that you use Greek oregano. The stuff I have is labeled “Mediterranean” so that seemed close enough.
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges (see note above on varieties)
1 tablespoon dried Greek oregano
Juice of 1 lemon (or more, to taste)
1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C.
Arrange potatoes (which should already be peeled and chopped) in a single layer in a baking dish (I use a glass 9 x 13 – it just needs to be deep enough to hold some liquid). Drizzle a small amount of the olive oil over them. Sprinkle all of the oregano and salt and pepper to taste over the potatoes, then toss to coat evenly.
Carefully pour in the lemon juice and remaining olive oil – pour into the gaps between the potatoes so you don’t wash off the oregano. Then pour in 1/4 cup of the water.
Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour, checking halfway through. If the potatoes start to look a bit dry, add the remaining 1/4 cup of water. To test for doneness, pierce with a fork – the inside of the potatoes should be soft, and the outsides will be a light golden brown (especially around the edges). Serve with some of the extra sauce from the pan drizzled on top. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from Souvlaki for the Soul (It looks like there are lots of other tasty Greek recipes to try out here!)