Pierced easily by a fork, golden brown skin opening to reveal a fluffy interior, potatoes are a side dish that feature in a variety of cuisines in cultures all over the world. However, baking is a long process for cooking the raw tubers. For the soft, desired interior, and a reduction in overall cooking time, boil the potatoes before baking. This method also reduces the chances of overcooking the potato, which leaves a dried, unappetizing interior when cut open.
Starchiness of potatoes varies with each variety. For example, yellow potatoes cook quicker than their russet counterparts, also due to their size. While all potatoes can be boiled before baking, there are certain types that suit this method better such as Cara or King Edward varieties that have a floury interior. Know the properties of the potato you are cooking before simmering -- this will help you to decide whether to cut them into cubes or leave them intact. Smaller tubers, such as the Duke of York variety, can fall apart if you cook them before boiling while russet potatoes will cook faster if you cube them.
Prepare the potatoes for boiling by rinsing them under running cold water and brushing them with a vegetable brush to remove any dirt or debris. Cut them to the desired size of the final roasted potato pieces. This can range from leaving small potatoes whole to cutting large potatoes into 1-inch large pieces or more bite-sized 1/2-inch ones. While preparing the potatoes, bring water in a large pot to a boil, as the potatoes should be cooked right away after cutting to prevent unattractive browning.
Season the water with salt before bringing it to a boil and adding the potatoes. This will add flavor to the flesh of the root itself. You can also simmer other herbs and spices before adding potatoes. For example, throw several sprigs of rosemary in for an sharp, woody and savory flavor or use the subtle spice-like taste of bay leaf to compliment additional flavors added during the roasting process. Add the potatoes and simmer for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on the type and size of the potato pieces. Remove the potatoes before they are easily pierced by a fork and let them cool completely.
Toss the potatoes in oil before roasting to keep them from sticking to the pan as they bake. Cooking the potatoes with a larger roast also adds flavor, and the drippings can be used in lieu of oil. For more absorption of flavor when roasting, score the outside of the cooked potatoes with a fork. When roasting, cook in one even layer, with space in between to ensure they roast evenly and each piece turns the desired rich caramel color.
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