Recipe: Braised Red Potatoes with Lemon and Chives
Brought to you by America's Test Kitchen
After developing recipes in our test kitchen for more than two decades, we thought we knew everything there was to know about cooking potatoes. But up until a few years ago, we’d never tried braising them.
We just wish we’d thought of it sooner. If done correctly, braising would give us a side dish that featured the best of both boiling and roasting: tender, creamy interiors and browned, savory exteriors. It’s the perfect – and often elusive – combination that we were determined to achieve. Low-starch, waxy Red Bliss potatoes were the perfect centerpiece for our recipe experimentation.
Our first attempts involved simmering the potatoes until tender, then carefully draining off the water, adding some oil to the dry pan, and letting the spuds brown over high heat. The technique was cumbersome and resulted in potatoes with washed-out flavor or scorched undersides. That’s when we realized our cooking order of operations shared the basic framework of a classic Chinese dish: pot stickers.
Pot stickers are browned in an oil-coated skillet and then simmered in water until the water evaporates, at which point they’re browned again. The main difference was that with pot stickers, the fat goes in at the beginning. Would adding the fat earlier in the potato-cooking process gloss the potatoes and prevent them from sticking after the water evaporated?
To find out, we combined everything – water, salt (whose water-soluble flavor molecules would season the spuds), halved potatoes, and a few tablespoons of butter – in a cold skillet. We then brought the mixture up to a simmer, covered the pan, and cooked it until the potatoes turned creamy and the water fully evaporated. In the then-dry skillet, the potatoes and butter were left alone to fry and develop great flavor and color. These creamy, well-seasoned, browned spuds had it all.
It took an unlikely source of inspiration, but in the end, we came up with a mostly hands-off, one-dish recipe that goes from skillet to table in about 45 minutes – a new addition to our recipe archive and also a new favorite.
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Braised Red Potatoes with Lemon and Chives
Serves 4 to 6
Note: Use small red potatoes measuring about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
- 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, unpeeled, halved
- 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
- Arrange potatoes in single layer, cut side down, in 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add water, butter, garlic, thyme and salt, and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.
- Remove lid and use slotted spoon to transfer garlic to cutting board; discard thyme. Increase heat to medium-high and vigorously simmer, swirling pan occasionally, until the water evaporates and the butter starts to sizzle, 15 to 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, mince garlic to paste. Transfer paste to bowl and stir in lemon juice and pepper.
- Continue to cook potatoes, swirling pan frequently, until the butter browns and the cut sides of potatoes turn spotty brown, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Off heat, add garlic mixture and chives and toss to thoroughly coat. Serve immediately.
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