Sunday, May 6, 2012

Salt of the Earth - Salt Roasted Potatoes

It's been a great weekend so far. I'm feeling a tad bit better and got out of the house for breakfast, gun stores (a great new find near IND I'll review on Tuesday), bookstores and shopping for groceries for a dinner creation. There will be more on all the fun Monday but for today, before the rest of the household wakes and it's time to start loading up gear, a recipe right under your nose.

With company here I wanted to do something nice, especially as my guest brought me something new to wear. A standing thing between us as long time friends is funny gifts from around the world as we traveled.  I've things from all corners of the globe but when I got a call the other night - "what to get you from a truck stop in Illinois??"  I never expected this.

Oh, that was good for a chuckle, though I will pass on wearing it to the brewpub today as I don't want people staring at the two boobs on my chest.

But with gifts and guests you want to do so something nice in return, I thought, as I shopped for dinner.  There was a nice pork tenderloin that was marked down, a bag of fairly large russet potatoes, 5 pounds for a couple of bucks on sale and there's always canned or frozen chopped veggies in the freezer bought in bulk and stored.

How about Salt Baked Potatoes.

"No Barkley, Salt is not good for dogs, but Mom did get you a new dog food made out of DUCK!"

I'd heard the concept and lumped it in there with Radiator Roasted Rump Roast and Steam Engine Steamed Salmon , But after reading of it on Cooks Illustrated  Oct. 11 website, which had a recipe for salt roasted potatoes with thyme and shallots, I had to try a HOTR edition.

Most recipes just call for burying a baker under a mound of salt. The premise is there is a moisture exchange between the salt and the spud, the moisture escaping the potato being absorbed by the salt and then reabsorbed by the potato making the interior, not only well seasoned, but very light and fluffy. Store brand salt was 32 cents   The four potatoes were about 50 cents (two for dinner, two chopped and reheated for home fries in the morning)  The worse case  scenario if these turned out like mortar rounds was I was only out  out a buck and there was still pork tenderloin, salad and garlic cheese biscuits (knock off Red Lobster version). if needed.

You start by laying 4 potatoes in about 2 and a half cups of salt (one 26 ounch package) in a 13 x 9 pan.   To the salt was added a clove of garlic and some sprigs of rosemary instead of the thyme and shallots.  In hindsight, I would have left some of the paper surrounding the garlic on there, so it didn't fall apart, and was a little softer at the end of cooking.

Cover TIGHTLY with foil and bake in the middle rack of a 450 degree oven for 1  hour and 15 minutes.  When there's 30 minutse left to cook, pop in a 1 and 3/4 - 2 pound pork tenderloin which you have rubbed with garlic and herbs and laid in a small glass pan on top of a little EVOO and salt, then covered with foil.

When time is up, remove potatoes and pork.  The pork should be about medium rare,  Keep foil on it, set on a trivet and allow to finish cooking to medium with the foil on it.  Remove foil from potatoes and remove the garlic to a small dish while you raise the heat on the oven to 475 degrees (my oven tends to be "hot" so 475 worked better than the 500 degrees the web recipe called for)  Brush the tops of the potatoes with a Tablespoon or so of EVOO and return to oven for 15-22 minutes. 

While that finishes, squeeze the garlic bulbs gently (and carefully, they're hot) to remove the garlic pulp and mix with a big pinch of chopped fresh rosemary and 4 Tablespoons of butter and a dash of sea salt to make a paste.

The potato skin will be dark golden brown and firm, but when poked with a knife, the interior should be quite soft when done.  Remove any clumped salt from the bottom of the potato with a clean kitchen towel , and serve with the garlic herb butter. (The salt in the pan can be strained and reused for another batch of potatoes before discarding).

Seriously, this was the best baked potato I've ever had and my dinner guest gave it a huge thumbs up. The interior was incredibly soft and fluffy, with a hint of garlic and rosemary in it, even without the butter and  there was no  "salty" taste.  The skin was crisp but not shoe leather, making it easy to scoop out the well seasoned flesh with a spoon.

Inexpensive, easy and delicious, that's what range cooking is all about. Now time to clear off the table to get the range bags assembled for Sunday!


  1. Nice, very nice, We should try that sometime. Thanks.

  2. Your dinner guest has huge thumbs...?

  3. Looks great. Perfect timing as well. I picked up a small tenderloin at the store yesterday and was looking for something to try. Have a fun day and thanks for the recipe.

  4. I'll have to try that one, as I tend to like baked potatoes! Shoot em good!!!

  5. I may need to try that. I was thinking the same thing about the leaving the garlic as probably a whole head when you mentioned that. Nothing like nice, sweet roasted garlic. That makes me wonder about roasting garlic buried in kosher salt instead of wrapped in foil. Hmmmm.

  6. Thanks for the tip -- I'll have to try that this week.

  7. I hope that you both had a very nice weekend.

    ...and Barkley, too. :)

  8. Ooh! Those potatoes have my tummy growling, I've got to try that!

  9. O.K. - Extra Virgin Olive Oil, right? What can I say, it's Friday afternoon.


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