At Milk Street, we prefer to make our own harissa, but that isn't always practical. To find the best purchased option, we tried a variety of widely available brands. Most tasted heavy, weighed down by too many sun-dried tomatoes or too much spice. But one brand—DEA—stood out. Made in France, DEA packs a balanced, complex spiced flavor with a smooth, creamy texture and moderate heat. It’s great as a condiment or squirted into soups, stews, tagines or salad dressings for a burst of bold flavor.

Roasted potatoes are gratifyingly simple, but rather plain. We wanted a one-stroke solution to add bold, bright flavor without sacrificing the crisped exterior we love. We found our solution in North Africa. And in biding our time.

For flavor, we reached for harissa, the spicy red condiment consumed gratuitously across North Africa, particularly Tunisia. Typically sold heaped in mounds at open-air markets—and in jars and cans in the U.S.—harissa is a paste of chilies and spices often paired with meats and starches, such as couscous.

We loved the punchy, bright flavor harissa added to the potatoes, a taste that suggested barbecue, but deeper. We didn't appreciate that the potatoes never got as crisp as we liked. Roasting also dulled the flavor of the harissa. The issue turned out to be a matter of timing.

We had followed our usual technique for roasting potatoes—in this case Yukon Golds cut into 1-inch chunks—coating them with the harissa before cooking. We got far better results from reversing it—roasting the potatoes first with just oil, salt and pepper until crisp outside and tender inside, then tossing them with harissa.