Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


How to roast a potato.

We don't roast all that much, certainly not as much as our parents did. Sometimes can't seem to get it just right. The vegetables, I mean.

I recall my mother's baked potatoes having crisp golden brown outer shells around steaming flesh with the texture of butter. Your knife fell through them after piercing the crust. They were so tasty you didn’t need gravy. She also roasted pumpkin and it always partially caramelised to a sweet unctuous black-crusted deep orange block that you could bulldoze through the gravy on the end of your fork, leaving clean white porcelain underneath like a snowploughed road. Everything had a faint minty tang lurking about the taste perimeter, like mountains on a summer breeze. That came from the mint that grew like a bushfire in the backyard. A few leaves chopped in a jug of boiling water with a glug of brown vinegar and a little sugar.

Someone mentioned on radio yesterday – it might have been Adrian Richardson of La Luna restaurant – that the best way to roast was to use an aluminium roasting pan. I didn’t think anyone recommended aluminium any more.

Then I thought. It took a while. Then it came back. My mother’s roasting pan. Aluminium! I must have tried to forget it, because I probably had to wash it several thousand times during my childhood. Child labour! I washed, my brother dried, my sisters put away. Or the other ways around. The kitchen sink faced the back yard; and while working, we’d stare at the tricycles on their sides on the concrete, and the birdcage near the bungalow with zebra finches in it, and the flattened football in a corner, and the peach tree with a tree house further down the yard, and the clothesline beyond that with seven pairs of pyjamas on it. Do children still get made to wash up? Or do they just slink off to their rooms with their ipod?

The roasting pan was aluminium. It had roasted a million roasts, most of them mutton; the occasional beef; chicken hardly ever. It was beaten up. This made it harder to wash, because of all the corrugations. It was large and deep and had voluptuously rounded corners that were blackened at the edges and in the recesses of the dents, and if you turned it upside down it looked like the burnt-out fender of a Peugeot 403 that had crashed during the Redex Round Australia trial.

Apparently aluminium conducts ambient or indirect heat better. Supposedly it cranks the drippings in the pan up to about a thousand degrees; the super-hot fat penetrates the outer shell of the potato, fusing it and trapping the moisture inside. And for thirty years I’ve been using enamelled steel!

Might have to sneak over to mother’s house and open the pan cupboard, and search for the old pan that looks like a 1950s rally car fender. I’ll have to be careful. There are several hundred pots and pans in there, all sitting in and on top of each other precariously. Move one, and the kitchen could turn into a wrecker’s yard.


Dr. Alice said...

That's good to know. I usually use a glass (Pyrex) pan, but maybe I should start looking for an aluminum one.

kitchen hand said...

I had a Pyrex pan with lid until I let the lid - ex-oven - slip into a sink of cold water, shattering.

selena said...

Seems like the only kind of aluminum pan you can get anymore is the cheap disposable kind. Maybe the thrift stores...

kitchen hand said...

Yes Selena - alumin(i)um is out of fashion due to its instability with acids, but with careful use it is fine. The thrift shops here are full of old pots and pans.