Greek-Style Garlic-Lemon Potatoes

December 24, 2007 at 7:18 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cook's Illustrated, Derek's faves, Root vegetables, Starches)

This is based on a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. The addition of raw garlic and fresh oregano give these potatoes a full flavor with plenty of bite. This is a great recipe for late winter, when you’re desperate for something fresh tasting, but none of the springtime veggies have arrived yet.

Heat in a heavy-bottomed, very large skillet (ideally 12-inches across the bottom) over medium-high heat until butter melts and foaming subsides, swirling pan occasionally:

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter

Add to skillet, cut sides down (ideally in a single-layer)

  • 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 8 ounces each, for about 2 pounds total), unpeeled, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges (Halve the potato lengthwise, then cut each half lengthwise into quarters, then halve those lengthwise into equal-sized wedges.  Each wedge should be about 3/4-inch wide.)

Cook until golden brown (pan should sizzle but not smoke), about 6 minutes. Using tongs, turn potatoes so second cut sides are down; cook until deep golden brown on second side, about 5 minutes longer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover tightly, and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with tip of paring knife, about 5 minutes. While potatoes cook, combine in a small bowl:

  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1.5 Tbs)
  • 1-3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs grated zest from 2 lemons
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice (you’ll need only one of the lemons).  Do not increase!
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp. fine salt (this is correct!)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

When potatoes are tender, add garlic-lemon mixture; stir carefully (so as not to break potato wedges) to distribute. Cook, uncovered, until seasoning mixture is heated through and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle potatoes with

  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley

Stir gently to distribute; serve immediately. Serves 4-6 as a side-dish (5-8 wedges each), or 2-3 as a main dish (11-16 wedges each).

Variation 1: GREEK-STYLE GARLIC-LEMON POTATOES WITH SPINACH Follow recipe for Greek-Style Garlic-Lemon Potatoes, after stirring garlic-lemon mixture add 2 1/2 ounces clean baby spinach leaves (about 3 cups), and gently stir mixture again to distribute. Omit parsley.

Variation 2: SPICY GREEK-STYLE GARLIC-LEMON POTATOES In keeping with the bold flavors of the dish, this variation is very spicy. Follow recipe for Greek-Style Garlic-Lemon Potatoes, adding 2 small jalapeño chiles (or one regular-sized chile), cut into 1/4-inch slices (with seeds and membranes), to pan just before covering skillet in step 1.

My notes:

The zest is a must. With just lemon juice and no zest the potatoes taste sharp, shallow, and acidic.  The amount of salt looks high, and the dish is definitely salty, but it doesn’t taste too salty.  I have no idea why you add the olive oil in the end with the lemon juice and seasonings.  CI online recipe doesn’t say if it’s for flavor or serves some sort of functional purpose.

The main problem I have with this recipe is that there is no way that I can fit 2 pounds of potatoes in one 12-inch skillet, even though I have the exact skillet that CI recommends!  I can fit only about 16-20 ounces of potatoes in a single skillet, and even then some of the wedges cook much faster than others.  Normally I end up cooking the potatoes in two batches, monitoring them carefully to flip each wedges as soon as it’s brown, and filling in a new wedge when I remove a wedge because it’s cooked.  Then the last wedges are finally done I carefully dump all the potatoes back in the skillet, pour on the sauce, and cook for about a minute.  With this strategy, the suggested cooking times are only approximate.  Another option would be to half the olive oil and butter and cook the potatoes in two skillets, but because the inner potatoes cook faster than the ones along the rim, I think I would still have to watch them carefully.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-

Update May 2020: I made this recipe (by request) for Derek’s 40th birthday dinner. My potatoes were quite small so I just cut them in half, but that was a mistake. They were too thick and only had one flat side to brown on. And even cutting them in half they didn’t all fit in my 12-inch skillet in one layer! In the end I had to cut them all in half again to make thinner spears, and rotate them around to make sure all the pieces got evenly cooked. Eventually I got all the potatoes nicely browned and cooked through, and they ended up delicious as always. Derek and I loved them. Alma had two pieces and then didn’t want anymore. Derek and I ate the leftovers the next day, and they reheated surprisingly well in the oven.

Update January 1, 2010:  I made this recipe for dinner last night, along with some sauteed spinach and leftover baked tofu.  But when I went to chop up the oregano, I discovered that I hadn’t bought oregano, but marjoram.  And it wasn’t in the greatest condition.  I managed to salvage only a single tablespoon of marjoram, and for the other tablespoon of herbs used a mix of chives, mint, and parsley.  The dish turned out well–perhaps not quite as good as with oregano, but not all that different tasting.  Derek didn’t even notice the switcharoo.  The dish was a pain to make, as always.  I had 1 3/4 pounds of potatoes, but could only fit 1 pound 1 ounces in the skillet at a time.  Lots of futzing and flipping ensued.  The final dish was very tasty, as always.  But some of the potatoes ended up with more of the garlic/lemon/herb mixture than other.  The ones with the most seasoning were the most tasty.  So next time I make this I might consider making more spice mixture.  Maybe I’ll try using 1.25 times as much of all the seasonings, except the salt, of which there seemed to be plenty.

I wonder if there’s any other way to make this recipe eaiser.  If I had a large griddle that was uniformly hot throughout….  Or would it be possible to make it in the oven?  Maybe if I preheated the cookie sheet?

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