Tonight’s dinner is the roast beef I planned for Christmas. The potato is a recipe Victor found from Jamie Oliver. I love Jamie Oliver. I love his passion for food. He’s a great role model for kids and adults.
The roast has a funny back story… Back when I worked at the Hyatt House in Burlingame – early to mid ’79 – the fancy restaurant, Hugos, did a mean prime rib. They went into a 500°F oven for an hour and then the oven was turned off and they sat in the closed oven for 90 minutes. They were seriously known for their prime rib – and they always came out excellent. The only reason I remember that is because yesterday, I saw two different articles on cooking a roast for 5 minutes per pound at 500°F and then turning off the oven and letting it set for 2 hours. I had this niggling thought that I had seen this somewhere before or someplace I worked had done it… Every hotel I worked in cooked prime ribs – and every one did them differently. We slow-roasted them at the Hyatt Lake Tahoe. One did them completely encrusted in salt – also excellent. Alas, I worked in too many of them to actually remember details at this point in my life, but Tahoe and Burlingame are the last two hotels where I actually cooked.
But I did decide to cook my little-more-than-2-pound roast using the 500°F method, today, just because. I preheated the oven, placed it in, set the timer for 11 minutes, left the kitchen, and never heard the timer go off.
I was answering an email when I had an oh shit moment and went running into the kitchen. The timer had reached almost 10 minutes and was still counting up. It had been in there for 21 minutes.
I resisted opening the oven and decided I would pull it out at 90 minutes instead of 120. I did, and it was a bit more cooked than I generally like, but it was tender and flavorful – and the gravy made it perfect.
Lesson Number One: If you’re going to set a timer, make sure it is placed where you can hear it.
The beef was a bit over-cooked and the potatoes a bit under-cooked. One of those days… the recipe for the potatoes calls for Maris Piper potatoes – quite the popular potato in England. It looks like a thin-skinned white potato but I don’t recall seeing the name around here. I had a nice russet that I cut in half and used, but it would probably have been better had I used a smaller spud. It tasted absolutely wonderful – the combination of thyme, bread crumbs, hazelnuts, and cheese was remarkable. It just could have been a tad softer.
I definitely will make these potatoes again.
Jamie calls for blue cheese. I didn’t have any but used manchego. I think you could use whatever you had on hand and get excellent results. I also used dried thyme – I just got a sample from Penzey’s… It was great.
- 2.5 kg Maris Piper potatoes , choose the smallest ones
- ½ a bunch of fresh thyme (15g)
- 4 tablespoons higher-welfare turkey dripping , or olive oil
- 50 g stale bread
- 40 g hazelnuts
- 100 g blue cheese
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.
The fun and unique part of this side dish is that you need to slice multiple times through the potatoes, but – importantly – without going all the way through, giving you a kind of concertina-style potato. This looks beautiful but also makes them wonderfully absorbent of flavour and amplifies their crispiness. Try to choose small potatoes, give them a wash, and if you have any larger ones, cut them in half and use the flat side as a base.
To make this process as simple as possible, place a potato on a board between the handles of two wooden spoons, so that when you slice down into the potato the spoons stop the blade from going all the way through.
Carefully slice at just under ½cm intervals all the way along. Repeat with all the potatoes, placing them in a large roasting tray as you go.
Pick half the thyme leaves into a pestle and mortar and pound with the turkey dripping or oil. Spoon over the potatoes, making sure the fat gets down into the cuts you’ve made, then season with sea salt and black pepper.
Roast for 1 hour, or until the potatoes are golden and tender.
Meanwhile, tear the bread into a baking dish, add the hazelnuts and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool, then tip into a food processor, strip in most of the remaining thyme leaves, add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper and half the cheese, and pulse into coarse crumbs.
When the hour is up, sprinkle the crumbs over the potatoes, then finely crumble a little bit of the remaining blue cheese on to each one.
Dress the rest of the thyme sprigs with a tiny bit of oil and sprinkle randomly on top.
Return to the oven for a final 10 minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt, then serve.