Most of the time when I make this dish I cook the bacon or sausage first and then use the fat from cooking the meat to brown the potatoes before transferring them to the oven where I finish them. Because I really didn't want to fry bacon or sausage in a newly painted kitchen that doesn't yet have a working exhaust fan, I decided to alter my method a bit.
I occasionally get to work on call for a friend of mine who owns his own catering business. I mentioned in my previous post that I like to take advantage of having the opportunity to work with other chefs because it exposes me to new ideas and different ways of doing things. The roasted potatoes we had last night are a great example of this. The method I used to roast them is an adaptation of a popular potato hors d'oeuvres that my friend serves. Wedges of potato are wrapped in a sage leaf and a strip of bacon, skewered and then roasted. Surprisingly, the bacon cooks in the same amount of time as the potato. As it cooks, the potato absorbs some of the sage-infused bacon fat. The resulting potato skewers are quite tasty. For some reason it wouldn't have occurred to me to put raw bacon and potatoes into the oven at the same time. I would have thought the bacon would burn before the potatoes were cooked through. If I had read it in a book, I would have been skeptical about how well it would work. But it does work and the idea is easily adapted to roasting a pan of potatoes.
To make Potatoes Roasted with Bacon and Herbs, scrub some small potatoes—true new potatoes if you can get them (this time of year that shouldn't be too hard), but the ubiquitous baby reds will work fine—and cut them into halves or quarters or wedges, depending on their size. The goal is potatoes that are no thicker than 1/2- to 3/4-inch. It's OK if they are longer than that, but if they are too thick, they will take longer to cook than the bacon, resulting in burned bacon or crunchy potatoes.
For every 5 to 6 oz. of potatoes (one serving), use about an ounce of bacon—regular or thick sliced. Cut the bacon crosswise into 2-inch widths. Toss the potatoes and bacon with a very small amount of olive oil—just enough to barely coat the potatoes—there will be plenty of fat for the potatoes to cook in once the bacon begins to render. Season with salt and pepper and add several sage leaves or a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme. Spread the potatoes, bacon and herbs in a pan just large enough to hold the potatoes in a snug single layer.
Roast until the bacon is crisp and the potatoes are tender and beginning to brown—about 45 minutes. I used bacon sliced at a standard thickness, so I roasted the potatoes at 375°. If you have thick bacon, you can increase the temperature a bit to 400°. Stir the potatoes occasionally while they are roasting to make sure they aren't sticking and to tuck any bacon that is cooking too quickly underneath some of the potatoes. If the bacon is throwing a lot of fat, spoon some of it off. When the potatoes are done, immediately pour off any extra fat, or transfer the potatoes to a serving platter so that they won't continue to absorb fat and become soggy.
For our dinner, I added the roasted potatoes and bacon to a pan of sautéed mushrooms and sweet corn (sauté the mushrooms, reduce the heat and add a bit of butter, some minced garlic and thyme and the corn...continue to cook until the corn is tender...season to taste and toss in a bit more butter...).
Since I love to eat eggs for dinner, I served the potato-bacon-mushroom-corn hash topped with a poached egg and some chives from the garden...
but a "sunny-side up" fried egg would have been equally nice. If you prefer to have a more substantial protein, this same combination of ingredients would also be great with a sautéed chicken breast or salmon filet. In the fall, the new potatoes could be replaced with chunks of sweet potatoes. Earlier in the spring, some blanched asparagus would be nice in place of the corn. If you happen to have some onions (I didn't), some diced caramelized onions would be a traditional addition to hash.
Of course, you don't have to be making hash or even a pantry dinner to enjoy these potatoes. They are so good that you will probably end up making them on a regular basis to serve as a side dish instead of ordinary roasted potatoes.