01 November 2008

Hash browns!

Do you know what I love? I mean, LOOOOOOVE? (Aside from the usual suspects, of course.) I love hash browns. Yes, folks, the solid, homely potato, grated, fried up to a lovely crisp, often with onions, always delicious. My favorite ones come from The Golden Apple Restaurant, in Chicago. The Golden Apple is a 24-hour diner that serves its entire, picture-filled, laminated menu all 24 of its hours. Everyone goes there: nightowls, kids on the way home from school, drunks coming from the bar, families after church, people that have lived in the neighborhood for their entire lives. It's such a great place that This American Life even devoted a whole show to it. They make terrible pie but fantastic hash browns.

Hash browns are not something indigenous to the east coast. I am unaware as to why this is; it is possible to get passable home fries, french fries, fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, and everything else, but there are no hash browns. Believe you me, I have looked. Every time I pass a diner, I peek at their menu, always hoping for the elusive item. In the year and three months I have lived here, it remains elusive.

Unfortunately for me, all my previous attempts at recreating hash browns chez moi have been a bust. But today, feeling desperate, I employed a trick from the latke recipe that we use for Chanukah: you have to squeeze the potatoes dry. That's the trick! And it works, people, it works. Delicious, homemade hash browns, made how you like it. Worth every minute of squeezing.

These potatoes are too easy to merit a real recipe. So I'll give you a quick overview:

Peel a few potatoes. Grate them on the coarsest setting on a big box grater. I also grated a small onion. (I like onions in my hash browns. My mom doesn't. So, you know, as you wish.) Dump them into a clean kitchen towel, close it into a big ball, hold it over the sink, and squeeze until most of the water drains out. (The water might be a disconcerting shade of pink. That's ok. It's just the air and potato and moisture.) Melt a tablespoon or so of butter into a large skillet. Spread out your potatoes and keep a sharp eye on them. Don't turn them more than you have to, because they will not stay together. Flip with a metal spatula every now and then until cooked through and golden more or less all over. I prefer to eat mine with eggs sunny side up. I highly suggest it. Enjoy.

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