Winner, Winner, chicken dinner! That was what we would call out when we guessed correctly which form the potatoes took every Sunday as a child.
Sunday dinner was a must in our family. It was the only time we were allowed in mum’s kitchen to cook with her. It was mom’s belief that if she taught us to cook a Sunday roast everything else in the world would fall into place. Nothing could be more difficult than a perfectly cooked wonderfully timed Sunday dinner. If you could complete this task then nothing in the world would ever seem too complicated.
Potatoes were a debate. Mom hated peeling potatoes so that was always the assistance task. As the assistant we could decide if we; boiled the ‘Spuds’, boiled then roasted or Mashed. We could roast them in their own tray or next to the roasting joint. We could add onions or other vegetables too. Options like weather to salt the boiling water or the potatoes before we roast them and should an assistant add milk and butter when mashing or just salt and pepper? All was part of the game.
Everyone in the living room would take a guess and as we grew older we would bet our pudding on the result. This continued for many years as we were seven children strong. But dad never had to assist, he always got to guess.
4 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, rinsed, peeled if desired, and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 cup duck fat
Freshly ground black pepper
12 sprigs thyme
Adjust oven racks to lower and upper position and preheat oven to 500°F. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 1-inch. Add 2 tablespoons salt and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until exteriors are tender, about 5 minutes. Potatoes should show a slight resistance when poked with a paring knife or a cake tester. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.
Add fat to bowl with potatoes. Season with pepper and more salt to taste then toss with a large metal spoon until exteriors are slightly bashed up and coated in a thin layer of potato/fat paste. Divide potatoes evenly between two heavy rimmed baking sheets. Spread thyme sprigs over potatoes.
Transfer baking sheets to the oven and roast until the bottoms of the potatoes are crisp and golden brown, about 20 minutes total, swapping top the trays top for bottom and rotating them once half way through roasting. Using a thin metal spatula, flip the potatoes and roast until the second side is golden brown, another 15 to 20 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs, and serve.