David Tanis's Saffron Carrots
On Why I'll Always Remember My Trip to San Francisco

Nancy Silverton's Roast Potatoes, Onions, Fennel and Bay Leaves


dear readers am in undisclosed location STOP it is hot here so very very hot STOP

we eat bright orange papaya for breakfast STOP and fried fish for lunch STOP and smell wild sage in the hot air that blows off the desert STOP

in a few hours this indolent lifestyle comes to an end STOP i make my way to san francisco STOP

but i miss my kitchen STOP and that tall guy who often hangs about in it STOP


before I left i made the fussiest roast potato dish ever FULL STOP it involved halving potatoes and dipping them in seasoned oil fer chrissakes and sandwiching bay leaves between them and putting them in a roasting pan and cursing them as they fell apart STOP

onions and fennel helped prop up those potatoes but i still put the dish into the oven feeling twitchy STOP

turns out roasted bay leaves give potatoes lovely flavor haunting even STOP but i am lazy STOP what else is new STOP and this was all too much work for me STOP also the oven temperature situation was weird STOP aren't i eloquent STOP

still haunting potatoes is a good thing STOP you agree STOP so see below for my notes in bold while i go regret my choice to write this post entirely in telegram-style and cram a few more papaya chunks in my cheeks before my flight STOP

Roast Potatoes, Onion, Fennel and Bay Leaves
Serves 4

2  teaspoons coarse sea salt, divided
1/2  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 pounds new potatoes (about 12), cleaned
12 bay leaves, or one for every potato
1  1/2  pounds small sweet onions (about 6), peeled and trimmed
1 large head fennel, trimmed (reserve 2 sprigs from the top)

1. Heat the oven to 500 degrees (if I made this again, I'd only go to 450). Lightly oil a 9-by-12-inch baking dish. Pour 3 tablespoons of the olive oil into one corner of the dish. Season this puddle with 1 teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper (you'll use it to dip the potatoes). (Just lightly oil the dish for now.)

2. Halve the potatoes. Dip each half into the seasoned olive oil, then put the halves back together with one bay leaf sandwiched between, leaving the prepared potatoes in the dish. (No, for Pete's sake, no! Wouldn't you rather be screaming at the television or saying hi to your partner or filing your nails? Life is too short, my friends. Halve your potatoes, prepare your onions and fennel and throw everything into the oiled dish. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle liberally with the oil then toss everything together so the vegetables are coated with oil. Tuck the bay leaves hither and thither among the vegetables - don't just plop them on top.)

3. Cut the onions into 8 lengthwise wedges. Separate the layers of the fennel bulb and cut the pieces into 1-inch strips. (See above.)

4. Arrange the vegetables in the dish, alternating seasoned potatoes with onion and fennel pieces. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper. Top with the sprigs of fennel, and cover lightly with foil. (Yes, the sprigs of fennel are sweet and the foil is fine, too.)

5. Place the dish on the middle rack of the hot oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes, until the potatoes are almost tender. Remove the foil and continue to roast an additional 15 minutes. (Just put the dish in the 450-degree oven. Follow everything else as written.)

6. Remove the dish from the oven and turn the potatoes, onions and fennel so the other sides caramelize. Return to the oven and roast another 10 to 15 minutes, until the bay leaves are charred and brittle, the onions brown and molten, and the fennel pieces papery and crunchy or molten. Serve immediately.(I'd keep an eye on the pan during this period, because it's a fine line between "brown and molten" onions and onions charred to an inedible crisp. And one more thing: don't eat more than one or two of the bay leaves or your tongue will go numb.)