Genius Recipes

Ultra-Crispy Roast Potatoes From a Secret Cooking Club in Indonesia

Plus, 20 beginner recipes I’m still hunting for our next Genius cookbook.

December 16, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Founding Editor and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.


Crispy potatoes steal attention wherever they go, and deservedly so. The contrast of hot, salty crunch to soft, steamy belly is as Pavlovian as it gets. No wonder we’ve been pre-heating our pans and fiddling with pH and chasing the singular best technique all this time.

But once you’ve got your crisping technique down—and, oh, does this recipe have it down—there’s an even more impactful frontier to cross: flavor. What if they could taste the way they crunch? What if we could match the roasted potato’s position on the zero-to-French fry scale of craveability with umami, tang, and zing?

When Lara Lee was travelling through Indonesia writing her gorgeous new cookbook Coconut & Sambal, researching the recipes of both her own family and of home cooks and chefs all over Indonesia, she encountered such a potato, in the home of a member of a secret cooking club in Surabaya, the capital city of the province of East Java.

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Top Comment:
“A sheet pan dinner that works every time (and is truly one-pan, and doesn’t sneak in extra washings of said pan) Okay, I have so so many ideas but I’ll start with this one because it’s such a no-brainer and has been in our rotation all pandemic long. i’m talking about SHEET PAN GNOCCHI. this is the best because it’s truly so flexible — you can make it vegetarian or vegan, you can use store-bought, $1.99 gnocchi, make your own, or even cauliflower gnocchi — it all works and it’s all delicious. just throw the gnocchi in a sheet pan with some rough-chopped (i actually like to use narrow-ish wedges) red onion and bell pepper, halved cherry tomatoes (whole if they are even smaller), smashed garlic, salt, freshly-ground black pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes if that’s more your thing, as it is ours). and maybe a quarter cup of olive oil, maybe less. smash a few garlic cloves and throw them in there. we like to break up some veggie sausage by hand and put that in, too, but you can also apparently do the same with actual pork sausage. add some dried oregano TOSS, TOSS, TOSS. roast at 425° for about 30 minutes, tossing once. YUM. crumble some feta cheese on top when you serve, if you feel like it, but delicious without, too! honestly the easiest sheet pan dinner that does not require you to fussily add different ingredients at different times, and is so so satisfying.”
— cyn
Comment

“It really started as this secret society of women—which I loved—and that generous hospitality that I got all over Indonesia where everyone wants to teach you their family recipes,” Lara told me in the video above.

Umami, tang, zing. Photo by JAMES RANSOM. PROP STYLIST: GERRI WILLIAMS. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG.

“The original dish is a dish called sambal goreng kentang, which is essentially a fried potato dish," she continued. "So the potatoes are chopped, and then fried in a wok in oil, and then stirred through with a really aromatic spice paste of lots of aromatics like ginger, like garlic, and then quite often stirred together with things like liver or gizzards…it was really, really delicious.”

Back home in London, Lara wanted to keep the flavors and crunch of sambal goreng kentang, and make it easy to recreate in home kitchens outside of Indonesia. She experimented with roasting techniques to mimic the crunch of a good fry, settling on this genius strategy: Swiftly simmer potatoes in salty water, drain, then toss them back in the pot for a couple minutes to steam-dry. Shake about to rough up the edges, then roast them hard in hot, garlicky oil. Finish with a quick, chunky stir-fry of ginger, garlic, and scallions, and a big dousing of soy sauce and rice vinegar.

When I first saw this recipe, I had to know if the crisp would hold up through dinner against such a generous, flavorful soak and—thanks to Lara’s smart technique—it does. Like a good Buffalo wing, the dressing seeps in without softening too quickly, while the shreds of chewy ginger and sweet twists of green onion give more textures for your fork to chase.

Lara likes to serve this with roasted or grilled meats, and I’ve had it in many week-brightening dinners with my husband’s famous fried eggs. In Indonesia, sambal goreng kentang is typically served with rice and sambal on the side—you also might want to put her potatoes in the center of the plate, since they will inevitably steal the show.


Our Next Genius Cookbook Needs You!
The 20 Beginner Recipes I’m Still Hunting

For close to a decade, whenever you’ve stumbled on a recipe that shocked you or taught you something memorable—much like Lara’s potatoes will, from here on out, have me reaching for new sauces my crispy potatoes can drink up—you’ve been generous enough to send them my way.

You’ve fueled the Genius column and cookbooks, which is why I’m asking for your help once again. I’m knee-deep in the next cookbook—for beginners!—and there are a good handful of recipes I’m still on the lookout for.

If any on this list jump to mind—from a cookbook, a blog, an Instagram post, wherever—please share them in the comments below or at [email protected]. As always, I’ll thank you by name in the book for the tips that make it in. And even better, we’ll all get to trade tips and stories in the comments like last time.

1) Overnight oats or muesli
2) Other quick workday breakfasts (bonus if they’re vegan or vegetarian)
3) Huevos rancheros, migas, or other new life for stale tortillas
4) Dutch baby or other puffy pancakes
5) Make-ahead strata or other low-stress breakfasts for a crowd
6) A big-batch cocktail
7) Dinners faster than ordering takeout (that aren’t noodle-based)
8) Set-and-forget soups/stews/etc. that are still ready in an hour or two (not eight)
9) Dal
10) The best dinners with canned fish
11) A stir-fry (preferably vegetarian)
12) Last-minute sauces and schmears
13) A sheet pan dinner that works every time (and is truly one-pan, and doesn’t sneak in extra washings of said pan)
14) A genius garlic bread (I love this one but I usually want the garlicky part toasted, too)
15) Side dishes only slightly more elaborate than buttering a bag of frozen peas
16) Homemade brownies as simple as the boxed kind
17) Galette
18) The laziest desserts that aren’t just opening a bag of Tate’s
19) Any other recipes that made a big impact on you when you were first starting to cook
20) Any other recipes you make constantly, and never want to stop making

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Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Magerber
    Magerber
  • J
    J
  • KindBanjo
    KindBanjo
  • allthebutterforit
    allthebutterforit
  • Wendy Layne
    Wendy Layne
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."

93 Comments

Magerber April 16, 2021
I am sure this is too late, but just in case, I have a suggestion for 8: Japanese-Style “Meat and Potatoes” from the cookbook Keepers by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion. Really simple recipe, that comes together in about 45 minutes—15 minutes for putting everything together and about 1/2 hour of simmering. Delicious right away, but like any stew, it is even better the next day.
 
J April 10, 2021
Too late to be useful, but I make savory oatmeal, with a little instant chicken stock and then top with roasted veg, fresh herbs, pesto, parmesan or what ever you have floating around for a weeknight go to. I roast veg on Sunday to have during the week so in 15 minutes I have an easy and comforting dinner.
 
KindBanjo February 28, 2021
Hello Kristen and other commenters/readers,

Here is my list, thanks :)

Combo of #1 and #2- Chia pudding, ratio: 3/4 cup any type of milk to 3 Tbls chia seeds, 1 tsp vanilla (no alcohol), 1Tbls maple syrup

#3- stale tortilla recipes- chilaquiles, I use a family recipe and sub chorizo for the vegetarian version.

#15- a great side dish/veggie- Curry Salted Crusted Kabocha (also good topped on a brothy soup like pho)
https://myeverydaytable.com/curry-salt-crusted-kabocha-squash/

Also another easy and delicious side dish is calabacitas
https://www.food.com/amp/recipe/calabacitas-196430

#19 & #20
Can’t get enough of these mushrooms! I serve it with a Caesar salad

Tempeh stuffed mushrooms with aioli from The Native Foods Restaurant cookbook by Tanya Petrovna

And another favorite of her simple and amazing vegan recipes is her ranch dressing!

1 cup vegan mayo (Veganaise)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. parsley
1/2 cup soy milk to thin (add up to 1 up total like it thin)
(Note: I use water because it keeps longer)
I add salt to taste

Also massaged Kale salad was a game changer for me. It opened up my world to raw kale in a salad.
https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aarti-sequeira/massaged-kale-salad-recipe-1952450

Thanks, Kindra
 
allthebutterforit February 9, 2021
For a vegan breakfast, I've been really into Umpa lately, although I also love (I think it's Julia Turshen's) avocado and kimchi toast with tahini. For the huevos rancheros, try Melissa Clarke's recipe in Dinner. I make it way way more for breakfast or brunch than I do for dinner. For a stupid easy side, I've been really into steamed eggplant recently. I blame Ottolenghi, but it's so good and plays well with basically everything.
 
Wendy L. January 6, 2021
For the strata definitely go with Sohla's recent Off Script lesson. The pizza one is so good I may never make actual pizza again....and the process is infinitely adaptable.
 
cyn December 27, 2020
3) Huevos rancheros, migas, or other new life for stale tortillas

my wife i ate big fans of deb perelman of smitten kitchen’s method for making an inauthentic but still awesome version of huevos rancheros. so much so that the word “huevo” is now a shorthand in our house for this recipe/technique. it doesn’t always work perfectly it even when you mess up your egg, it’s still always delicious! it also stands up to whatever toppings you have on hand. e like it with the leftover black beans that are often sitting in our fridge, chopped scallions, avocado, hot sauce, cilantro, and maybe a little yogurt or sour cream.

https://smittenkitchen.com/2008/07/huevos-rancheros/
 
cyn December 27, 2020
13) A sheet pan dinner that works every time (and is truly one-pan, and doesn’t sneak in extra washings of said pan)

Okay, I have so so many ideas but I’ll start with this one because it’s such a no-brainer and has been in our rotation all pandemic long. i’m talking about SHEET PAN GNOCCHI. this is the best because it’s truly so flexible — you can make it vegetarian or vegan, you can use store-bought, $1.99 gnocchi, make your own, or even cauliflower gnocchi — it all works and it’s all delicious.

just throw the gnocchi in a sheet pan with some rough-chopped (i actually like to use narrow-ish wedges) red onion and bell pepper, halved cherry tomatoes (whole if they are even smaller), smashed garlic, salt, freshly-ground black pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes if that’s more your thing, as it is ours). and maybe a quarter cup of olive oil, maybe less. smash a few garlic cloves and throw them in there. we like to break up some veggie sausage by hand and put that in, too, but you can also apparently do the same with actual pork sausage. add some dried oregano TOSS, TOSS, TOSS. roast at 425° for about 30 minutes, tossing once. YUM. crumble some feta cheese on top when you serve, if you feel like it, but delicious without, too! honestly the easiest sheet pan dinner that does not require you to fussily add different ingredients at different times, and is so so satisfying.
 
Megan December 27, 2020
Any idea if this would work with frozen gnocchi?
 
Catherine December 26, 2020
I just wanted to add a few more easy recipes thats I've found genius:

Barbara Kafka's microwave-made spicy polenta (from Microwave Gourmet)
Kafka's orange cumin roasted mushrooms (from Roasting)
Paul Prudhomme's blackening seasoning for chicken or fish takes no time at all to get the main course on the table.
Dorie Greenspan's salmon en papiote (from Around My French Table)
Peter Reinhart's pancake recipe is so easy and so good that I know it by heart (from Crust and Crumb).
Alice Medrich's Queen of Sheba is so easy for so little effort.
My local Afghan restaurant just puts a little rose water and crushed cardamom on vanilla ice cream and it's divine.
Deborah Madison's stewed fennel and tomatoes

Cobb salad, coleslaw, shakshuka, and aloo gobi were dishes I made over and over while a beginning cook.
 
Sharon R. December 26, 2020
For #19. Super easy Chicken dinner. I use a glass oven pan; pour sliced mushrooms (I use the pre-sliced packs from Walmart), carrots cut however you prefer (store bought pre-cut stick carrots is what I usually use), and plenty of onion slices into the pan as a bed for the chicken. Then I make a quick mix of oil and Dale's (it's actually a liquid steak seasoning, but I love the flavor and it works really well here) to pour over the top of everything and give it some liquid to cook in so it doesn't dry out. Put it in the oven at 350 degrees for something like 35 or 45 minutes (I just make sure the chicken cooked through honestly). Wa-la. Yummy dinner in less than an hour.
 
Makiko K. December 24, 2020
For #7 and #10: quick and easy canned mackerel (or sardines or tuna) poke bowl. Over a bowl of cooked rice, place mackerel, cherry tomatoes (cut in half), diced avocadoes and edamame. Top with chopped seaweed,light soy sauce, sesame seeds and a pinch of chili pepper. Endlessly adaptable, super healthy and ready in a flash.
 
Catherine December 23, 2020
I love Deb Perelman's extra billowy Dutch baby. Rose Levy Beranbaum has the easiest and best French toast and chocolate semifreddo on her blog. Caramelized onions make the best blue cheese and onion galette. Breakfast drop biscuits from America's Test Kitchen are my favorites. A big batch of Sam Ross's Paper Planes is so easy and a huge crowd-pleaser. Bon Appétit has a great and really easy recipe for roasted green beans with harissa. You can make the harissa, but don't have to.
 
Katie December 23, 2020
Canned fish:
I’ve been making tuna muffins (basically a tuna melt) since I first started cooking for myself. Mix up a can of tuna, some diced carrots and celery, and enough mayo to make it wet. Spread it on English muffins and bake at 350 for a few minutes. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top and put under the broiler until bubbly. It’s still a go-to meal for when I don’t want to cook a full dinner but don’t feel like take-out either. There are no set measurements, and if I mix up too much tuna, I put the rest in the refrigerator to eat the next day.
 
Author Comment
Kristen M. December 23, 2020
Thank you all, again, for the wonderful beginner tips!
 
Pat T. December 21, 2020
Hi Kristen! I have 2 suggestions for a stir-fry. Many people don't realize that single veggie stir-fries (called qingchao or plain stir-fry) are de rigueur as part of an Asian meal. For dinner, I usually serve a meat/protein dish with a leafy green vegetable like bok choy or snow pea shoots flash-fried in a wok with garlic and salt or soy sauce--it completes the meal with steamed rice. It's so easy and quick, and allows the vegetable's sweetness and flavor to really stand out. (I have a recipe for stir-fried pea shoots in "The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook).
Another recipe I love is cabbage and egg stir-fry. After being tossed in the pan, the shredded cabbage caramelizes and becomes deliciously sweet and bits of egg add protein and a contrast in texture. Link: http://smithsonianapa.org/picklesandtea/eggy-stir-fried-cabbage/
(the dish can be easily made vegan too!)

 
Grace G. December 21, 2020
I love Smitten Kitchen's sheet pan chickpeas & meatballs! https://smittenkitchen.com/2018/01/sheet-pan-meatballs-with-crispy-turmeric-chickpeas/
And Sohla El-Waylly just did a great video about strata!
 
Eliav O. December 21, 2020
Hey,
I really enjoy the Genius Recipes series. I think you are great Kristen and the recipes are awesome. Quite a few of them have become staples in my rotation.
A neat little sandwich I like to have is peas with olive oil, ginger and mint. I came across it on this blog here: https://whatshouldieatforbreakfasttoday.com/pea-sandwiches-with-ginger-and-ricotta/ but it's all over the internet. Really simple but full of flavors that I wouldn't think of pairing. The recipe calls for ricotta but I usually just use cottage cheese and am perfectly satisfied.
Can't wait to see what you have in store for us.
 
durun99 December 20, 2020
America's Test Kitchen has two last-minute sauces we use all the time: "Chipotle Mayonnaise" (recipe from a great black-bean burger but goes with lots of stuff: https://apnews.com/article/f7ddc0430ebb40248f55b2cea715b889) and "Avocado Crema" (https://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/12279-avocado-crema).
 
durun99 December 20, 2020
Alton Brown's "Overnight Coconut Oats" are ambrosial and take <10 minutes to throw together. There's a recipe for one serving in his "Everyday Cook" cookbook, and a recipe for four in the "Oat Cuisine" episode in Season 2 of "Good Eats: Reloaded": https://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/alton-brown/overnight-coconut-oats-reloaded-8670507
 
Bonniesue December 19, 2020
Easiest go to meal, which sometimes becomes breakfast the next day is a frittata. It’s rarely the same, but usually includes some kind of protein like leftover chicken or ham, and vegetables. If I’m using onion, I sauté them first, then add the mixture of protein, vegetables and eggs mixed with a bit of milk, and sprinkle the top with cheese. For 2 people, I use 4 eggs, cook in a 8 inch skillet until set and brown in the oven. If I’m making it for a larger group, I might make it in a casserole dish and cook the whole thing in the oven.
 
pat December 19, 2020
Kristen, Lately have been familiarizing my husband with the kitchen. He finally has a go to recipe for Summer Spaghetti with Wilted Tomatoes and Burrata. This recipe is so easy, so quick and it has many culinary moves we need to know in the kitchen. If interested and if you cannot find it yourself let me know. And thanks for all your time, all your great lessons and for letting us come into your home these past crazy months. Much appreciated !