It’s always fun to take a recipe and put a couple twists on it. Here, we’ll combine a wonderful roasted smashed potato recipe with some Asian flavors and a brief marinade, to give a crispy-on-the-outside dish with a sweet, smooth center, topping it all off with some candied bacon!
Many restaurants serve “smashed” potatoes – similar to mashed or whipped potatoes, but with much less mashing, which leads to a chunky, coarser texture that can hold its own shape and flavor even when you’re scooping up gravy on the same spoon. This recipe, however, will go even a little further than that – each potato will be individually smashed, ending up with small individual servings that make a perfect side dish for a dinner, or a home-fry-style complement to a breakfast!
I’ll start by tipping my hat to Susie Middleton’s excellent recipe for Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes, which inspired and advised this variation. We’ll follow some of the same steps, but we’ll be marinading the potatoes in a Chinese Five Spice Mixtureand cream bath to give them some extra softness and depth of flavor, and then garnishing them with some candied bacon. The result is a smooth-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside sweet-spicy-tasting potato that reminds our taste testers of a doughnut!
- 8-12 small red potatoes, each roughly 1.5 – 2″ (4-5 cm) wide
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 2 c. (1/2 L) heavy cream (optionally, light cream or milk)
- 4-5 tsp. (20-25 mL) Chinese five spice mix
- ¼ c. (60 mL) olive oil
- 4 cloves (4 metric cloves) garlic, sliced or chopped coarsely
- ¼ c. (45 g) brown sugar, packed (optional)
- 3-4 strips thick-cut or center-cut bacon (optional)
- 1 scallion, minced
- 4-12 quail eggs (optional)
- Scrub the potatoes, and trim any eyes or stems.
- In a large pot, boil enough water to cover the potatoes, along with the salt. Boil for 30 minute, until a toothpick or skewer goes through easily. You don’t want them to get too soft, so even for larger potatoes, it shouldn’t take more than 35 minutes.
- Remove the potatoes and let cool for a few minutes on a towel or a drying rack.
- Once the potatoes are cool enough to be handled without discomfort, take one at a time, place it on wax paper or a nonstick surface, and then mash it straight down withthe palm of your hand until they’re around the thickness of your finger (or slightly smaller, for people with sausage fingers – you know who you are.) Don’t worry if these break apart a little, you can smush them back together before roasting!
- Whisk 2 tsp. of the Chinese five spice mix into the cream until it’s spread throughout. Pour the cream and spice mixture into a flat tray or baking dish large enough to hold all of the smashed potatoes in a single layer. Gently transfer the potatoes, keeping each one together as a distinct, separate unit, into the cream-filled tray. Spoon a little of the liquid over the top of each potato until coated. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours. If you like, occassionally spoon more of the cream over the tops.
- While the potatoes are marinading in the cream, take the olive oil and heat it over medium-high heat until it just starts to smoke, then reduce to medium-low heat. Add the garlic and 1 tsp. of the Chinese five spice, and cook until the garlic is golden, just turning to brown (keep a close eye on this; you don’t want to garlic to brown darkly.) Once golden brown, strain the oil through a mesh strainer to remove the garlic chunks, keeping the infused spice oil. Discard the garlic (or munch on it once it’s cooled, if you’re a garlic-muncher or have vampires). Set the oil aside to let it cool.
- To prepare the candied bacon (an optional garnish), heat your oven to 350 F (190 C). Cut the bacon strips in half. In a bowl, mix the brown sugar and 1 tsp. of the Chinese five spice. Press the bacon strips into the sugar on both sides, until it is fairly coated. Arrange the strips in a single layer, on aluminum foil atop a sheet tray (for easy cleanup of the caramelized sugar afterward), and cook for 30-35 minutes until crispy but not completely blackened. Remove, let cool, and using kitchen shears, snip the bacon into small strips, about the size of a julienne.
- (Optional) In a flat, greased (or seasoned) skillet, over medium-low heat, fry the quail eggs far apart enough from each other to be separate. You will want to keep the heat relatively low here, as higher heat tends to make the whites of quail eggs bubble up and look a little ridiculous. Fry sunny side up, until the white is cooked but the yolk is still runny. Set aside to cool.
- Once you’re ready to cook the potatoes, preheat your oven to 450 F (235 C). Remove the smashed potatoes from the cream marinade and let them drain for a moment on a paper towel. Take the spice oil infusion and stir it up until it’s homogeneous, then pour it into a baking dish large enough to contain all of the potatoes without their edges touching. Arrange the potatoes in the baking dish, then ladle some of the oil from the pan liberally over the tops of the potatoes until they are thoroughly covered. Roast for 35-40 minutes, turning them over with a spatula (“and with extreme care”, says my right thumb, who is now friends with the oven rack) once, mid-way through. For an extra little treat, sprinkle a little of the remaining brown sugar over the tops of each potato roughly 5 minutes before they are done cooking.
- Remove and serve hot, garnishing with the candied bacon strips, the minced scallion, and 1 quail egg for every 1-2 potatoes (depending on how many people are eating), with a final tiny sprinkle of five-spice at the end, for good measure.
Sprinkle white sugar liberally over the top with 5 minutes remaining, instead of the brown sugar. This will give it even more of a doughnut-like taste.
Well, obviously we’ll have to get rid of the bacon. But you can candy some thin green apple slices, or orange rinds, and use them to garnish.
Lose the bacon and eggs, and use soy milk as a marinade. To compensate for its relatively intense flavor, marinade in the milk for an hour instead of two.
You can also use much smaller red or fingerling type potatoes, in which case the initial boiling time should be reduced to around 20 minutes (use the toothpick test as you would have otherwise), and the roasting time should be closer to 25 minutes. This version can be served as finger food, atop 1″ (2.5 cm) squares of candied bacon.