Potatoes are one of America’s favorite comfort foods, and they are also on the list of the world’s healthiest vegetables. Potatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin B6, the vitamin we need for building cells and maintaining a healthy nervous system. Potatoes get a bad rap as a simple carb (and as a vehicle for eating too much fat). While we shouldn’t live on mashed potatoes, don’t take them entirely off the menu. Fire roasting potatoes is a good way to prepare a delicious side without depending on fat for flavor.
How is it possible to have great flavor without excess fat? By fire roasting potatoes in the presence of burning wood. The aromatics released in burning wood activate certain sensory cells in the nose. The activated sense of smell combined with taste on the tongue work together to produce the quality of flavor. Cooking with wood enhances the flavor or potatoes (and most other foods). Taste tests show that the flavor of food cooked over wood is better than the flavor of the same food cooked over a charcoal, gas or electric source. That’s why home fries, curly fries, and other potato dishes taste so good when prepared by fire roasting.
Potatoes are the world’s number one vegetable crop, and are a natural side for meat and poultry. Available year around, potatoes are an inexpensive way to fill out the menu when feeding a crowd. So take advantage of your wood burning oven this BBQ season and try fire roasting potatoes (and other vegetables) to accompany the main course.
The basics for fire roasting potatoes are variations on potato size, oven temperature, oil and seasoning. Basic oven fries are an easy way to experiment with the different heat zones in your wood-burning oven.
1. Cut the potatoes into uniform size and toss them with a little olive oil, enough to lightly coat them.
2. Add table salt or another fine-grain salt that will create small scratches on the cooking surface (making them crispy).
3. Toss to incorporate salt.
4. Spread the potatoes in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Add any extra seasoning like garlic or pepper.
5. Slide the pan into the oven. Keep an eye on how quickly they are cooking. Experiment with different heat zones in the oven. If the exterior browns before they are cooked through, move the pan away from the fire (even out to the entry) while they finish.
6. Stir the batch once of twice, then move the pan to the outside of the door area to keep them warm.
Curly fries are another fun way of fire roasting potatoes, pictured here coming out of the oven and then served in a paper funnel.
1. With the aid of a spiralizer, cut potatoes into long vegetable strings. Cut the strings into spirals of 4 to 7 inches.
2. Parboil the spirals in salted water for one minute. Drain the potatoes and wrap in a towel to dry off excess water.
3. Follow the instructions for basic oven-roasting.
Fire roasting potatoes is a good way to practice working with heat zones in your oven. Where to place the roasting pan to get good color? Nearer the fire. Where to finish off the dish at a lower heat? Close to the opened door.