A white bed of salt offers a striking presentation set against the black of the skillet.
There is an incredible amount of salt in this dish. But you won’t be eating it. Instead, it will be cradling and insulating your potatoes — providing some close-up, intense heat and locking in moisture.
I tried this method cooking shrimp first, but quickly found that unless you use shrimp with the heads on, the tails on, and the shells perfectly intact, salt is bound to seep in. So while it was possible, it was hardly foolproof. Potatoes, however, have their own little jackets — the perfect built-in barrier against the salt. Yes, you can generally eat the skins, too, but they do provide a level of insurance: The salt tends not to stick to them, but even if it does you can still eat the rest of the potato.
Now, here was my concern with the skillet: Would all that salt harm the cast iron? I pictured rusted-out hunks of metal by the seaside, marred by corrosion and time. (My mind wanders, OK?) As a practical matter, you wouldn’t want to store your skillet in salt. Or leave it at the bottom of the ocean. But we’re talking an hour or so here. Clean out the skillet, as usual, and you’ll be fine.
This one is worth serving right from the skillet. Seeing the potatoes emerge from beneath the salt crust is pure theater.
— Daniel Shumski
3 pounds (about 6 cups) kosher salt
1 pound baby potatoes (1 1⁄2- to 2-inch diameter)
Unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with one rack in the middle.
Pour about half the salt in the skillet, nestle the potatoes in it, and then pour the remaining salt over the potatoes, covering them completely. Place the skillet in the oven and roast until a knife can easily pierce a potato, about 50 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool slightly before serving, about 10 minutes.
Serve the potatoes directly from the skillet: To remove the potatoes, use a spoon to crack the salt crust and dig out around each potato. (Some potatoes will probably make this easier by having an air pocket around their sides, but the salt on top must be removed.) With a spoon, lift each potato from its bottom to extract it without breaking the potato skin. With the potato over the skillet, brush off any salt clinging to its skin before transferring it to a plate.
Serve warm with butter or olive oil.
Nestle a few sprigs of fresh thyme or a few fresh sage leaves among the potatoes, making sure that they, too, are well covered by the salt to avoid burning.
For more on Will It Skillet?: 53 Irresistible and Unexpected Recipes to Make in a Cast-Iron Skillet (Workman Publishing, 2017) and to read our interview with cookbook author Daniel Shumski, click here.