Hasselback potatoes, named after the Stockholm restaurant that created them, sometimes look better than they taste; too often, they’re just ‘roast potatoes with a few cuts in them’, as Ed Smith puts it in his book On the Side. Yet, done well, they combine the fluffiness of a classic roast potato with the crispness of the fried variety – and the showstopping beauty of a bona fide Instagram sensation.
Not everyone thinks that hasselbacks should be fluffy: Nigella Lawson writes that she loves them made with new potatoes, too, a choice echoed by Smith, Stevie Parle and Trish Hilferty in her book Lobster and Chips, which calls for “medium-sized waxy potatoes”. Ranged against them are Martha Stewart and Alastair Little, who calls for baking potatoes, which also get an airing in Julia Moskin’s recipe, because I can find no other spuds weighing a pound each.
Although I don’t think such huge potatoes are the best suited for the hasselback treatment,
I do prefer their fluffy texture to the smoothness of the waxy kind, which, soaked in butter, are almost too rich and more like fondant potatoes.
Little and Hilferty are the only ones to bother peeling their potatoes; happily, leaving the skins on gives the dish a better flavour. Many of the recipes dictate slicing them at 5mm intervals, but Smith’s 2-3mm intervals look more impressive, and speed up the cooking process. Cutting the potatoes on a wooden spoon and at a slight angle will help prevent you slicing all the way through, while rinsing off surface starch, as Hilferty suggests, stops the slices gluing themselves back together.
Moskin’s is the only recipe to pre-cook the spuds, an idea that has its merits: potatoes are dense things, and many of the recipes I try wildly underestimate the
time they take to bake through, so it makes sense to give them a head start. However, I prefer Smith’s method of braising them in water in the oven itself: although the bottoms might not be quite as crunchy as those roasted just in butter, the tops still crisp up satisfactorily, and there are no questionable bits of semi-raw spud in the middle.
It’s essential, as most recipes acknowledge, to keep basting them throughout the cook, “in order for the butter to penetrate”, as Parle puts it. The flavourings
Butter is the order of the day here – and lots of it; you could substitute olive oil if you’d prefer to keep them vegan. Garlic goes well with butter, of course, and also has the benefit of helping to wedge the slices open, although shallots, sage and bay will do the same job. If you want a more robust flavour, Smith’s caraway seeds and Moskin’s smoked paprika both work well. Swedish restaurateur Leif Mannerström finishes his with breadcrumbs, which adds yet more crunch, but feel free not to bother if you don’t have any to hand: they’ll still be utterly delicious.
Perfect hasselback potatoes
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas 6. Find an ovenproof frying pan or a heavy, hob-safe baking tin just large enough to hold the potatoes in a single layer.
Put each potato in the bowl of a wooden spoon and cut carefully down, but not quite through, the flesh, maintaining a slight angle, at roughly 2mm intervals.
Slice the garlic, and stuff several pieces into each potato, making sure you push them well down, so they don’t burn. Tear the bay leaves, if using, into several pieces and do the same.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in the pan or tin over a medium heat until it’s sizzling. Put in the potatoes one by one, and carefully turn them in the butter to coat well, then pour in enough cold water to come halfway up the sides of the potatoes.
Bring to a boil, then remove from the hob and put in the oven to roast for an hour and 30 minutes, basting every 15 minutes. Scatter with the breadcrumbs, if using, for the final 15 minutes of cooking, at which point you can add any remaining garlic to the pan as well. Serve hot.
Coat each potato in melted butter, then arrange them in a single layer and add water to come halfway up the spuds Bring to a boil on the hob, then roast for 90 minutes, basting often, for a crisp, buttery treat