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Fat Guy

Making home fries

29 posts in this topic

I use Idaho russets and John Thorne's recipe, which is more of a technique than a recipe.  The basic idea is to start with raw cubed potatoes and cook with butter over low heat for over an hour in a cast iron pan.  It's fussy and slow, but I've never had better home fries.  The potatoes shrink into crispy nuggets with molten centers and concentrated potato flavor.

The main problem is that it's hard to make a lot this way; with a single 10" skillet you can do barely two servings.  To feed four hungry people you'd need two 12" skillets on two burners.  Thorne says he likes waxy potatoes as well as russets, but I tried it and disagree.


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Does Thorne's recipe involve onions? And if so when are they added? Any seasonings besides salt and pepper? Is it 100% butter or is there another fat in there as well?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I've had success using russets cut into thin slices rather than cubes.  The slices can be halved if the potatoes are large.  I usually use half corn oil, half butter for frying and add chopped onion in the ratio of 1 onion to 2 potatoes after the potatoes begin to take on color.  Salt and pepper, of course.  These potatoes can take on ethnic character if you decide to add herbs.  The trick is low heat, slow cooking.  If you try to rush home fries, you will end up with half raw, half burnt potatoes and all burnt onions.

(Edited by Sandra Levine at 1:50 pm on Dec. 28, 2001)

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Thorne's recipe uses no onions, just salt and pepper, and pure butter, although he also recommends fowl or pork fat of any kind or peanut oil.  He covers the pan for the first 20 minutes.  Do you own Serious Pig?  It's in there, along with his dynamite cornbread recipe and a lot of other good stuff.  If you don't have it and would like me to post the whole method, I can type it up.


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Question: what specifically makes home fries home fries.  Are they just bigger and fatter than regular fries?  Or is it some additional falvoring assumed?

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I did a bit of a double-take. Haven't we discussed "fries" before?

If I get it, these aren't deep-fried chips/fries (as in fish and chip shop chips), these are potatoes shallow fried in frying pan. I associate them with diners. Aren't they similar to hash browns if they break up?

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Home fries are sliced or coarsely chopped potatoes, sauteed with onions and sometimes bell peppers.  French fries are cut differently, and deep-fried, most properly, twice, at different temperatures.

My grandmother used to cube the potatoes and par-boil them them before sautee-ing them in corn oil only, never butter.  She sprinkled them generously with paprika, too as well as salt and pepper.  They were delicious, but not, in my opinion, true home fries, which are not par-boiled.   The paprika adds a delicate and delectable crust...if you like paprika.

(Edited by Sandra Levine at 6:19 pm on Dec. 28, 2001)

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Out here (Oregon, and the western US in general), the terms ‘hash browns’ and ‘home fires’ are often used as if they were synonymous. I usually think of hash browns as the industrial breakfast spud, pre-cooked, grated, frozen, and mostly terrible, but the phrase is sometimes applied to the fried cubes of potato more commonly called home fries.

When I was young, my mother and grandmother just called them ‘fried potatoes.’ We ate then often and not just for breakfast. Anyway, here’s how I like to make them...

Russet potatoes have a higher sugar content, so they brown better than more waxy varieties. Peel or not, as you prefer, then cut into appx half-inch dice. Slices also work, but what’s important is a uniform thickness so they all cook evenly.

In a heavy, preferably cast iron, skillet, heat enough olive oil (I use it for almost everything, and the flavor goes well with spuds) to cover the pan. When it’s pretty hot, carefully add the potatoes (they will sputter a bit, so watch out). Let them cook without stirring for a few minutes so the bottoms are seared and starting to brown, then turn over with a stiff spatula. Adjust the heat down a little, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until they’re evenly browned all around (and we like them pretty dark, which they will get by the time the insides are cooked, at least 20 minutes).

You can eat them like this, but I like to season them a bit....

Drain off some of the excess oil, and add a few shakes of chile powder (I like the dark, smoky pasilla), some cumin, oregano, sage, and any other herbs or spices you like. Stir to coat the spuds, and let the spices cook with them for a bit. I often move the potatoes to one side of the skillet and fry a couple of eggs alongside.

If you want onions, cook them separately and serve them with the potatoes.


olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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Quote: from Jim Dixon on 5:04 pm on Dec. 28, 2001

If you want onions, cook them separately and serve them with the potatoes.

Thanks for the clarifications.  It sounds like when I fry leftover potatoes I should probably call them home fries.  Not a million miles from Lyonnair potatoes either.  And I completely agree about cooking the onions separately;  I have spoiled my Lyonnaise potatoes several times by letting the onions get overdone, brown and bitter.  I find they generally cook a lot quicker than the spuds.

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Home fries aren't too far removed from hash, either, although I usually boil the potatoes first for that.  A well-crusted hash made with leftover meat or fish is about the best breakfast I know;  the best I ever made was from leftover five-spice duck from a popular local restaurant.

In our house hash browns are made from grated potatoes and home fries from diced.  The ingredients are the same, but when I make hash browns I want the potatoes to stick together into a cake, which I often wrap around something.

Now I am really hungry.


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Ok, not two cents but a nickle's worth this time: A lot has been mentioned, styles, tastes and concoctions. I like to separate: Hash Browns and Homefries. Both from cooked potatoes. Always waxy Mainers, Fingerlings or Yukon Gold. Boil in skin a day ahead, they must be cold when being sliced! (for "homes") and chopped! (not diced for "Hashs"). Added onions to sliced pots will be Lyonnaise. Yes, cook onion separate, incorporate last few turns of browning. I like to use home rendered goosefat or clarified butter. Always finishing off with a lump of good fresh butter. Salt and white Pepper right from the start, pots will absorb better.

Mamster mentions: "potatoes to stick together into a cake", this type I know as "Berner Roesti", where one takes russets, raw grated, more shredded, placed into a colander and boiling water poured over, well drained, even padded dry, and fried brown without stirring on one side, then turned and browned on the other.

If I forget to mention the usage of salt in any of my given (not often) recipes, please forgive me, as those things are common knowledge and I sometimes assume too much of others who are not in the trade.


Peter

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You're right--my hash browns basically are roesti but without any precooking.  I generally think of roesti as being a little thicker, too--for my browns I'm after maximum crunch.


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I forgot how much potato terminology varies by nation and region (many Brits have learned this the hard way by asking for chips in the US), but what this New Yorker meant by home fries was the diced or sliced, sauteed version, usually with some onions. I'd love for somebody to start a rosti thread, though.

It would seem as an academic matter that precooking is the way to go. This would allow you to get the potatoes done just so, and to brown the exterior without overcooking the interior. An hour in a skillet, at any temperature, sounds like a recipe for mushy, fat-saturated potatoes. Perhaps that's the desired effect, but it doesn't appeal to me. Am I right here?

It would also seem that cooking the onions separately and combining at the end makes eminent sense. This is how Julia Child does ratatoiulle, with all the ingredients separated and mixed at the end. Or is there a flavor-mingling benefit to cooking the potatoes and onions together?

Maybe I'll try half butter and half olive oil. I've been finding lately that combining fats almost always yields better results than using one fat alone.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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i cut the potato (any kind) and toss with olive, salt, and lots of pepper.  low heat (about 350) in the oven for at least an hour.  the last 15 minutes, i might throw in chopped onion and rosemary.

they come out well-done, with a sweet almost chocolate flavor.   the first time i did this (almost by accident) i was quite surprised with the chocolate outcome.

they go over quite well, and the best part is they can remain in the oven and served whenever everything else is ready.  timing, i find, is the biggest problem for me when preparing dinner for more than 2 ppl.

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I did not mean to imply "pre-cooking" of the potatoes for Roesti. The effect of the boiling as mentiond above, can almost be achieved by having the shredded pots in a pointed "chinacap" or sieve, and letting very hot faucet water run over them. One can then also sort of squeeze out the water by pressing down. The result is a prewarmed potato with some of the outer starch removed. Pressing this product (about half inch thick) into a well heated skillet with the cooking medium (fat), will almost guarantie a "holding-together-pancake-like" Roesti. General cooking time for this should be no more than 5/6 min on the first side, then placed in a hot 400F oven for about 8/10min, now flipped and moved to stovetop, for second side browning

Steven, the important factor of pre-cooking, and not slicing or chopping until cold,  for "Homes" and "Hashs", should not be neglected. Absorption of fats will be less!!

When separately sauteeing onions, don't brown them, but salt them, and add to pots when those are almost finished. Yes, onion flavors will then combine with the pots. The desired flavor-mingling effect will be achieved.


Peter

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Nu, so how come nobody mentioned bacon fat?

The best real home fries have always been served in roadside greasy spoons where huge mounds of browned, softened potatoes, flecked with onion and green pepper, sat happily alongside (and were cooked in at least partially in the grease of) the sizzling bacon.


"To Serve Man"

-- Favorite Twilight Zone cookbook

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Hey, you're not allowed to say "nu" and "bacon fat" in the same sentence.  (Just kidding.)

Shaw, I can assure you that my home fries spend over an hour in the pan and are neither mushy nor fat-saturated.  They're crispy as ####.  There's probably a much quicker way to achieve the same effect, though, and the main reason I don't precook is that I don't enjoy dicing cooked potatoes--when I start with raw I get more even cubes.


Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I read in an old cookbook that Homefries are fried up raw, and Hash browns are precooked. For this definition, think "hash" as something which is precooked, then fried up the next day.

Nowadays Hash browns are often shredded and cooked into patties, whereas Homefries are, especially in restaurants, precooked, barely heated and served unseasoned.

To make Homefries, I dice raw potatoes, any kind, peeling if necessary, and sauté over medium high heat in animal fat or a blend of butter and olive oil, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are nicely browned. Then I reduce the heat to medium, cover, and continue to cook until they are done inside. Season with freshly ground black pepper, red pepper, and salt. Paprika added during the cooking process gives them an attractive color, but it reminds me of restaurants that do this instead of cooking them crispy and seasoning them properly, so I don't usually use it.

Optional onions and peppers, sauté separately and add at the end.  

To serve with cheese and bacon, add the precooked bacon and cheese to the onions and peppers, cover, and heat until cheese is melted. Dump onto the Homefries just before serving.

I never precook potatoes. Some varieties harden on chilling and don't resoften when reheated. You don't save time, either, if you figure the time you spent precooking them. Besides, that 2 extra minutes in the morning is time you can spend doing something else. No need to watch the potatoes, they're very forgiving.

My Hash browns

On the shredding blade of a food processor, shred potatoes, peeled (except for young red ones). Mix the shredded potatoes with salt, and put in a collander for about 1/2 hour. Squeeze out all the extra moisture.

In a frying pan, heat about 1/4" of fat, or butter and olive oil over medium heat. When hot, drop handfuls of potato and shape into rounds about 3/8"-1/2" thick. (A can with the bottom and top removed can make attractive patties.) Rotate when the center is done if you are using a large pan so they brown evenly. When potato is golden on the bottom (Peek! don't test-flip!), turn over and cook until brown.

(Edited by Katherine at 8:24 pm on Dec. 29, 2001)

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Just for clarification, but who am I ?

Slice the "Homes", chop the "Hashs", dice the "O'Briens" with Peppers, Onions and Bacon. Shredd the "Roesti", Brown saute them whole they are "Rissolee", melon baller scooped-out ones are "Noisette" or "Parisienne". I am sure there are hundred others.


Peter

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Wow! this topic has hit a culinary nerve given the number of replys. I also par-boil to speed up the process for pan fried spuds. Tommy's method of tossing the spuds with olive oil, salt, pepper and roasting in the oven works very well, especially for large quantities. I'll also add whole unpeeled gloves of garlic, and sometimes paprika to add color/flavor.

For  something really excellent, slice up cold, leftover baked potatoes and pan fry. Because they've already been cooked they brown quickly and the flavor is very concentrated.

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Okay, with considerable embarrassment, will share

own final trial of corned beef hash which is much

like home fries but with some meat:

I start with a cast iron frying pan, 9 1/4" OD, with

a machined interior surface (no, it's not for

sale!).  I add 1/3 C olive oil and 9 ounces of diced

yellow onion.  I cook slowly with occasional

stirring until the onion is translucent.  I add 1 T

of minced garlic, stir, and cook a little, being

sure not to burn the garlic.

While the onions are cooking, I take about 16-21

ounces of US Number 1 Red potatoes, cut a flat spot

on one end, dice the cut piece, and, with the potato

resting on the flat spot, push down with a wire

French fry cutter.  While the potato is still held

by the wires, I cut the potato into dice.  I dump

the diced potatoes into a 2 quart bowl and add some

pepper.

When the garlic has cooked a little, I add 12 ounces

of diced corned beef and mix, dump that mixture into

the potatoes, mix, dump back into the frying pan,

and pack until smooth on top.

Over medium-high heat, I bring to a simmer, cover,

reduce heat to medium-low, and cook about 20

minutes.  This step cooks the potatoes.

Now, the mixture will likely be too wet.  So, to dry

the mixture, concentrate flavors, and develop a

crust on the bottom, I just leave on the heat,

uncovered, about another hour.  For the heat

adjustment, I basically just keep the mixture

steaming but not hot enough to smell burning.  Takes

a long time to make a good crust.

When the crust is right, can use a dull knife to

loosen the mixture around the sides of the frying

pan and the bottom will be loose and well lubricated

with plenty of the oil.

Then, I put a dinner plate upside down on top of the

frying pan and quickly rotate 180 degrees about a

horizontal axis, trying not to let the cast iron

frying pan scratch the dinner plate.  The mixture

should come out of the frying pan as essentially one

mass with the crust on top.

I pour over lots of catsup.

It's not subtle.

It reheats decently well in a microwave.

Note:  Here I just use raw potatoes, that is, do not

boil the potatoes first.  Also, I don't peel the

potatoes, just put it all in there because as we

learned growing up in the South "It's ALL good!".


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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I don't want to get into a linguistic debate about home fries vs. French fries, vs. ....

But I've tried Heston Blumenthal's Pommes Pont Nuef (from Modernist Cuisine), and they are the best I've tried so far. I don't have a ultrasonic bath or any pectinase, so I haven't tried those methods.

For those who don't have MC or In Pursuit of Perfection, the recipe calls for boiling 500g of Russet potato batons (cut 1.5x1.5cm thick) together with 500 g of water, 15 g of sugar, 7.5 g of salt, and 0.75g of baking soda for 20 minutes, or until nearly falling apart. (I might reduce this to 15 minutes, even at my 7000 ft. altitude). Then drain and place the warm potatoes on a rack in a chamber vacuum. Pull vacuum, if necessarily repeatedly, until the chips are dry and cool, 3-4 minutes. Then blanch in 150C/300F oil until the chips are mostly cooked but still pale, about 7 minutes. Air cool in a single layer, if possible using a fan. Finally deep-fry in blisteringly hot 220C/430F oil until crisp, about 2 min. (My deep fryer won't go that high, so it may be necessarily to do this on the stove.)

The results are delightfully crunchy on the outside, yet meltingly tender on the inside.

Note that there is an error in MC -- steps 6 and 7 are reversed.

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Hi,

We precook sliced/diced/fry-cut potatoes (don't let any pieces touch) in the microwave for four minutes before roasting with duck fat at 400 degrees.

We also microwave vented russets for four minutes, to remove moisture before cooling. These may also be roasted in the fat of the day or sauteed.

Tim

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