I think most people have that one staple party food they like to make when they have friends coming over for dinner. You know the one that you have tried and tested, that looks impressive but isn’t actually that difficult to make? For me it’s hasselbackspotatis.
Hasselback potatoes are a kind of Swedish baked/roast potato that was invented in the 1950’s by a chef student or principal (the story differs) at Hasselbacken, a Stockholm hotel and restaurant. It was established as a restaurant in the mid-1700’s (under a different name), served as a cookery school between 1947 and 1969, and in 1992 it opened up as a hotel and restaurant after eight years of building and renovations.
The background story is (supposedly) that the baked potato was just starting to become popular, and that either a student or the principal of the cookery school thought that slicing the potato up would make it easier to cook because it would be quicker. And the rest is history as they say.
Hasselback potatoes are now really popular, especially in the US it seems, and even Nigella has a recipe for them. They look impressive, taste great, and have so many possible variations you can try out. But once you’ve learnt how to slice them thinly without slicing through them, they’re not very difficult to make.
Traditionally you are supposed to use ‘normal’ potatoes, but I prefer smaller and oval ones, such as mandelpotatis (almond potatoes) or aspergespotatis (Ratte potatoes). If you’re in the UK, Charlotte potatoes are good too. I find the smaller ones cook quicker and are easier to slice.
The general tip when cutting Hasselback potatoes is to place the potato in a wooden spoon. I have actually never tried this, but I’m sure it works. The general thought is that this will prevent the knife from slicing all the way through.
Because I like smaller potatoes with a soft skin, I also prefer keeping the skin on – and this is how most of the recipes I’ve seen do it as well. I keep my potatoes plain (just butter, oil, and some salt, pepper, and rosemary if I have it at hand), but many recipes say to put breadcrumbs on top. I’ve also seen American recipes that stuff them with garlic, cheese, and/or bacon, and I have to admit I’m quite tempted to try the cheese and bacon ones. But with a nice bit of meat and a good red wine sauce I think plain is the way to go.
600g pork tenderloin
Start by slicing your potatoes, leaving a bit (around 5 mm or maybe ¼ of an inch) at the base so they don’t fall apart. You want the slices to be spaced evenly at about 2-3mm apart, but when you first try to make them you might want to try a bit wider at first – to practice.
Once they’re all sliced, melt some butter and oil in the tray that you’re going to bake them in. How much is really up to you, but the estimate for 500g of potatoes I would say is 30g butter and 3 tbsp oil. Place the potatoes cut side down and shake around for a bit, so that the butter and oil seeps into the cuts. Turn them all onto the uncut side and if any of them look dry, spoon some of the butter and oil over them. Salt and pepper, and why not add some fresh herbs.
Bake in the oven at 225 degrees Celcius for 20 min. Then remove from the oven and spoon the butter and oil mix over the cut side of the potatoes again. If you want to add breadcrumbs or cheese or something – this would be the time to do it. Return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes.
Because I was making bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with my potatoes, I cooked them first and set aside. The pork needs to cook at 175 degrees Celsius, but to get that crispy texture of the potatoes I wanted them in at 225 degrees Celsius.
To make the pork, place the bacon on a cutting board and then the tenderloin on top. Wrap it up and tie with cooking string (no Bridget Jones accidents here!).
Sear the bacon in a frying pan before you pop it in the oven – to make it crispier. Then cook at 175 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Because we were having guests and I didn’t want to be cooking all the time, I have to admit to using a ready-made red wine sauce. It was really tasty though, so I don’t regret it!