Last week I saw the cutest little potatoes at the Greenmarket. About the size of thumbnail each, they looked absolutely adorable — and I knew exactly how I wanted to cook them.
I wanted to roast them. In parchment paper.
I cannot express to you how essential a roll of parchment paper is in my kitchen. I use sheets of it all the time. They’re non-stick. They make clean-up a breeze. They line my sheet pans when I roast vegetables. They keep my pie weights away from my delicate tart crusts when I par-bake them.
And they make it possible to cook things en papillote, which is a fancy French way of saying that you cook your food in an “envelope” that you have made out of parchment paper.
Parchment paper is amazing. It lets just enough moisture release while cooking so that your food comes out perfectly moist and juicy, but not water-logged. Potatoes done in this way are crispy on the outside, and meltingly tender on the inside. They are practically like little orbs of confit.
It’s so simple to do, yet looks so impressive — like a beautiful present.
And who doesn’t like presents?
About 1/2 pound of tiny potatoes per 12 x 16-inch sheet of parchment paper
1 sprig of rosemary
A few sprigs of thyme
1 fat clove of garlic, lightly smashed but still in its papery skin
How to prepare:
1. Preheat your oven to 400°.
2. Thoroughly wash and dry your potatoes. Put the potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle them liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. With your hands, toss the potatoes together so that they are evenly coated with the oil and the seasonings.
3. Take a large sheet of parchment paper (about 12 x 16 inches) and fold it in half width-wise. Lay it out on a baking sheet. Turn the potatoes out onto one half of the paper. Arrange them in a single layer. Add the garlic clove to the potatoes, and lay the sprigs of rosemary and thyme on top. Fold the other half of the paper on top of the potatoes.
4. Beginning at bottom corner of one side, fold over or crimp the edges of the parchment paper as you move from one side to the other until you have a half-moon shape.
Now, traditionally you’re supposed to fold your parchment paper in half, and trim it into a heart shape (just like you did for Valentine’s Day back in school) before stuffing and crimping. However, I don’t know if this does anything other than make your half-moon a prettier shape. Maybe it also gets rid of excess parchment paper if you have cut off a sheet that is too big.
In any case, you can do it if you want to, but it’s not necessary.
To help you visualize crimping, here is a video with Chef Paul Prudhomme, who will pronounce en papillote any dang way he pleases.
5. Roast the potatoes for 45 minutes. Your kitchen will fill with the heavenly smell of rosemary, garlic, and thyme. Remove the potatoes from the oven. The parchment parcel will be all puffed up from the steam inside. Let the parcel sit for about 5 minutes before carefully (watch out!) using a pair of scissors to slit it open. Remove the garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and serve the potatoes straight from the paper.