I have to admit that the arugula pesto was an afterthought. I’d made it the day before, using three-quarters arugula and a quarter parsley, for a quick pasta dish. Everybody loved it, though I thought it was a bit heavy on the garlic, and after I cooked up this lovely batch of roasted potatoes I figured they wouldn’t hurt from a quick toss in some left-over pesto.

The funny thing is that I’ve been cooking potatoes for a long time. Being from Idaho originally doesn’t hurt and just having parents that love a good country breakfast helps a bit too. I’ve oven-roasted them for dinner, made country fries for lunch, sliced and pan fried them for breakfast and thought that I’d just about had it down. Good potatoes, hot oven, quick toss in salt and pepper, and they’re done.

Well, it turns out there is a better way.

I came across this awhile back in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Meat Book, in one of the accompaniment sections he describes the best way to roast potatoes. It sounded good, and what’s more, it just made sense. So I tried it, and he was right. Then, I sort of forgot about it until recently I received my copy of The American Test Kitchen’s top Picks of 2011 and there it was again. The best roasted potato recipe ever.

Of course, theirs was slightly different, a little butter and no herbs, but pretty much the same. And it is awesome. The best part about it, and the reason the Test Kitchen picked it, is it’s relatively quick compared to just oven-roasting. But what I like about it is the nicely crisp outside and perfect fluffy inside. You can dress it up any way you want. Add herbs, garlic butter, just olive oil, anything really, they can take it.

This batch was slightly under-done, I could have let it go for another few minutes, but it was late, and the troops grew weary. So I rushed, a sin against these gorgeous tubers. I think that’s partially why I dressed them in the pesto, to give them a little glitter, to make them feel perfect again. Try it out, and be patient. You want a little mashed potato covering them, making them crisp and sweet when cooked in the high heat. Wait for it and have no regrets.

2# Red potatoes, halved

3 T butter

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

This is more technique really than ingredients. First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Then boil the potatoes in heavily salted water. Add a good 2 tablespoons of salt to the water. Boil them for 12 minutes, or depending on the size, until they are just getting able to pierce with a knife all the way through but not crumbling. This is really the essence. You want the potatoes hard enough that they won’t turn to mashers, but soft enough that when tossed roughly in salt and butter they get some mashed and crumbling bits on the outside. Toss roughly in butter, season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly in one layer on a sheet pan and place on the middle rack of the oven. Your going to bake these, tossing once, for about 40 minutes. Until they’ve browned nicely.

In the meantime, in a food processor blend the following:

3 cups arugula, chopped and packed

1 cup Italian parsley, chopped and packed

5 garlic cloves

1/2 cup olive oil, give or take, enough to blend smoothly

Then add 1/2 cup roasted pecans and blend until coarse, but granular. Finish by mixing in 1/4 cup grated parmigiano. And there you have arugula pesto. When the potatoes are done, let them cool slightly, then toss in pesto and serve. Or just serve and toss some pasta in the pesto, either way its good.

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