By Melissa Clark, The New York Times
Of all the comforting, carb-heavy starches of the kitchen, potatoes rarely make it to the center of the plate. Unlike rice and pasta, which often take the starring role in main courses, potatoes are relegated to the sidelines — usually as fluffy fleshed arm candy to some meaty protein hogging the limelight.
But to me, a crackly roasted potato is a worthy focus of any meal, especially when it’s drenched in a caper- and anchovy-flecked brown butter and topped with canned tuna.
In a way, it’s very similar to one of my go-to pasta dishes. But instead of al dente pasta, it’s the potato’s golden, crunchy skin that gives the dish its texture. (It also adds an earthy note to all the other more saline flavors.)
For this dish, I like fingerling potatoes best. They have slightly thicker skins that stand up to roasting better than, say, thin-skinned Yukon golds. But use whatever potatoes you’ve got. Even sweet potatoes would be excellent, giving a honeyed contrast next to all that anchovy and garlic pungency.
To get roasted potatoes with the most downy interiors and crispiest skin, I boil them until they’re thoroughly soft, offering absolutely no resistance when you plunge in a fork.
Let them cool, smash them to expose their insides, then toss them with lots of oil. Be generous: The more oil you use, the more golden and crunchy they get. Also be sure to arrange them in a large pan so there’s plenty of space in between each one, which also helps them brown.
While the potatoes are roasting, you can make the caper and anchovy sauce. This brown butter, spiked with garlic, is the kind of miracle elixir that makes everything taste better: cauliflower, asparagus, chicken, a hunk of bread or that fillet of salmon in the freezer that you forgot about for a year. But I think to be drizzled over potatoes is its true calling: The potatoes absorb the silky butter perfectly, soaking up every bit of richness and oomph.
If you were serving these potatoes as a side dish, you could throw on some herbs for garnish, and stop right there. They’d do honor to any roast chicken or pork chops you’ve got. But adding a can of tuna (or chickpeas or white beans) makes them shine all on their own.
Recipe: Roasted Potatoes With Anchovies and Tuna
In this pantry-friendly recipe, golden, crackling-skinned potatoes move from side dish to main course after being tossed with tuna, capers and a pungent sauce of anchovies melted in brown butter. It’s extremely adaptable. If you don’t have (or like) tuna, use chickpeas or white beans instead. Just don’t skimp on the onion, which adds a crisp sweetness to the potatoes. With their slightly thicker skins, fingerlings work especially well here, but use whatever you’ve got.
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling
- 1 1/2 pounds baby or fingerling potatoes
- Kosher salt
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for roasting
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
- 1 (2-ounce) tin anchovies, chopped (about 10 to 12 anchovies)
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
- 1 (5- to 6-ounce) can or jar tuna, drained and flaked, or 1 (13-ounce) can chickpeas or white beans, drained
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh lemon juice, to taste
- 1 cup chopped soft herbs, including parsley, celery leaves and dill (optional)
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion, shallot or scallion
1. In a medium pot, cover potatoes with at least 1 inch of water, and add a generous amount of salt. Bring to a simmer, then cook until potatoes are very soft, 25 to 30 minutes. You want to overcook them a little, so the insides stay creamy when they’re roasted later.
2. Drain the potatoes, and let them cool until you can handle them.
3. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Use your hands to smash the potatoes to about 3/4-inch thick and transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with oil and a little salt. (The more generous you are with the oil, the crispier the potatoes will get.) Arrange potatoes in a single layer.
4. Roast until dark golden and crisp, 40 to 50 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.
5. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small pot over medium heat. Stir in anchovies and capers, and continue to cook until butter is brown and nutty. Stir in garlic and remove pan from heat.
6. Pour brown butter all over the potatoes. Add tuna (or beans) to the pan, and toss well. Season with more salt, if needed, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Scatter herbs and onions over the top and serve.