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Tim Kelley's Gremolata Potatoes

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It should have been clear to me that off-handedly mentioning spicy potatoes in a previous post wasn't exactly fair. Who cares about celery root when there are potatoes - spicy potatoes - to be discussed? How could I possibly leave you all hanging? I've had my head in the clouds for the past few days, but those plaintive, pleading emails snapped me out of my reverie.

So, without further ado - the potatoes. Call off the dogs!

After making someone else's fussy version of roasted potatoes last week, I thought of nothing else but my favorite roasted potatoes - diced Yukon Gold potatoes tossed with olive oil (liberally, please - don't complain, it's good for you) and salt and rosemary, then roasted in a hot oven until crisped and browned, with impossibly creamy insides and an incomparable fragrance. It's kind of difficult to improve upon potatoes like those. And I don't really plan to. Those potatoes taste like Italy to me, like my youth and my family. They're a taste capsule to another time and place.

But because I'm a slave to my clipped recipe notebook, earlier this week I dug up an old New York Times recipe for potatoes roasted with gremolata - that Milanese mixture of parsley and garlic and olive oil and lemon peel that usually gets dolloped on top of osso buco. The recipe came from the chef at Zoe, that workhorse of a Soho restaurant. It has you make the gremolata (with lemon and orange peel!) and let it sit for a while. Then you toss sliced potatoes in a pan before roasting them in the oven. The gremolata is used only as a dressing.

Well, I don't know about you, but that whole process seemed wrong. And because it was that kind of evening, the kind in which my patience for trying other people's (crazy) cooking methods was wearing thin, I disregarded Tim Kelley's instructions and I urge you (strongly!) to follow mine instead.

I made the gremolata as directed (except, I used dried thyme and rosemary - it's fine, you'll survive) and let it marinate for a bit. Then I sliced up my potatoes and tossed them with the gremolata on a sheet pan (a nice, heavy sturdy one. I've got exactly one good sheet pan and the rest are a bunch of flimsy floozies that I mean to throw out at least four times a week. They're useless.). I slid the pan into the 450 degree oven. After 20 minutes, I took out the pan and flipped the potatoes a bit with my spatula. And after another 25 minutes, they were burnished and golden and crisped and so fragrant you could smell them all the way to the front door of our building (well, full disclosure: we're on the first floor).

Other than suffering a bit from having been sprinkled with a few too many hot chili flakes, the potatoes were glorious. Exploding with flavor and a sight to behold. Through the miracle of chemistry, the potatoes were both crispy and creamy. The dried-out chicken breasts that were meant to be the bulk of the meal got entirely ignored as we focused our forks on the bowl in front of us, piled high with potato spears.

Perfumed with citrus zests and browned garlic and all those herbs, these are special potatoes, dinner-party potatoes, potatoes that will have the people at your dinner table asking you how you made them and what is in them and are there any more no seriously are there any more and can they please please please have the recipe.

And you? Just have to smile serenely. Why yes, they can.

Gremolata Potatoes
Serves 4

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 medium Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds), rinsed and dried
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

1. Whisk together 1/3 cup olive oil and the parsley, thyme, rosemary, zests, garlic and red pepper. Set aside for at least a half-hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut each potato into 6 to 8 wedges. Toss the potatoes with the gremolata, and add salt to taste. Spread the wedges out on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Pull out the sheet, flip the potatoes with a spatula, and then continue roasting them for another 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.