Nancy Silverton, the James Beard award-winning chef and restaurateur, may be known for her magic touch with bread, pizza, and pastries, but in her cooking class for YesChef — a subscription-based streaming platform offering cinematic cooking classes taught by world-renowned chefs — she’s gently coaxing the flavor out of buttery-soft potatoes. “What I love doing is cooking them until they’re almost cooked before finishing them in the oven,” Silverton says of the potatoes, which she confits in an aromatic bath of olive oil, butter, garlic cloves, and herbs.
In this recipe, Silverton pairs the potatoes with bagna cauda, an Italian sauce of sharp garlic and briny, salty anchovies. Once the potatoes are tender to a knife’s poke and have steeped in the warm oil until cool, Silverton spoons some reserved oil onto a sheet pan, and transfers over the halved potatoes.
The spuds crisp in a hot oven while Silverton prepares bagna cauda to go alongside. “This is really to taste,” she says, “it’s not science.” Silverton likes her bagna cauda to telegraph the pungent taste of garlic, and a kick of saltiness from anchovies, so she goes heavy on both ingredients. Though the sauce is traditionally eaten as a dip with raw vegetables, Silverton likes the way anchovies pair with creamy bufala mozzarella or, in this case, tender potatoes.
In a mortar, Silverton smashes 12 cloves of garlic — you read that right — and a small school of anchovies until the mixture is an emulsified paste. This fishy combination meets melted butter on the stove, letting the garlic and anchovy simmer and the flavors meld. “It’s so good,” Silverton says, tasting the finished dipping sauce. “I would take a warm bath in this any day.”
Using just eight ingredients, Silverton turns out a dish in which potatoes feel elegant and anchovies are the star of the show. With a bag of potatoes, and enough garlic and tinned fish, you can too. — Elazar Sontag
Roasted Potatoes With Bagna Cauda Recipe
For the roasted potatoes:
3 pounds German Butterball potatoes (Butterball potatoes are fluffy, creamy, and soft; if you can’t find them, substitute with Yukon Gold potatoes)
1¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, divided
2 fresh sage sprigs, divided
4 whole garlic cloves, divided
For the bagna cauda:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
20 anchovy fillets (preferably salt-packed), rinsed, back bones removed if salt-packed, finely chopped, and smashed with the flat side of a knife
12 garlic cloves
1 hot red chile pepper such as Calabrian or Thai bird
1 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped, optional
Spanish oil-packed anchovies, optional
For the roasted potatoes:
Step 1: Adjust the oven rack to the floor of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees.
Step 2: Halve the potatoes lengthwise.
Step 3: Put the potatoes in a large sauté pan in a single layer.
Step 4: Cover with olive oil and add the butter and half the rosemary sprigs, sage leaves, and garlic cloves.
Step 5: Season the potatoes with salt and place the pan over medium-low heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. The potatoes should cook only partially, as they will continue to roast in the oven. To test for doneness, insert a knife into a potato; the flesh should have a little resistance.
Step 6: Turn off the heat and allow the potatoes to steep in the butter-oil mixture for 10 minutes.
Step 7: Ladle about ½ cup of the butter-oil mixture onto a baking sheet, rotating the pan to cover the bottom surface, and season generously with salt. Adding salt directly onto the sheet pan ensures that the underside of the potatoes is seared and salted upon contact.
Step 8: Use tongs to remove the potatoes from the butter-oil mixture and transfer them to a baking sheet, cut side down. Scatter with the remaining sage, rosemary, and garlic cloves.
Step 9: Roast the potatoes until their edges are nicely browned, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Step 10: To serve, arrange the roasted potatoes on a platter, cut side up. Add the roasted garlic and crumble the charred rosemary and sage on top.
While the potatoes are roasting, make the bagna cauda:
Step 1: Combine the butter and olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
Step 2: Smash 20 anchovy fillets and 12 large garlic cloves in a mortar and pestle until ground together. Alternatively, you can chop the anchovies into a paste with a knife and use a Microplane to grate the garlic.
Step 3: Once the butter completely melts, add the anchovy-garlic paste and the chile.
Step 4: Cook over medium-low heat until the anchovies dissolve and the garlic is soft and fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir constantly so the garlic doesn’t brown.
Step 5: Reduce the heat to low and cook the bagna cauda for another 2 to 3 minutes to meld the flavors.
Step 6: Turn off the heat and let the bagna sauce rest in the pan until ready to use it.
Step 7: Use the bagna cauda as a dipping sauce for your potatoes. If serving with bufala mozzarella and sauces with fett’unta, stir in Italian parsley before serving and float a Spanish anchovy on top for presentation and serve warm. Stir to recombine the ingredients before serving and from time to time when it is on the buffet or dinner table.