21 May 2009

My favorite things

Does you remember The Potato Song, Cheryl Wheeler's homage to the lovely tuber? If you don't, take a look at the link above. It's great. And it will give a decent insight into the fact that I have never met a potato that I couldn't love. Mashed, baked, roasted, gratin, fries, they're all good. Even though I have a special place in my heart for hash browns, making them at home has proved more than a challenge. Latkes, fine. I've got those under control. But hash browns? I don't even know where to start. It's especially sad, too, since it's nearly impossible to find them at all in New York--every place out here has the dreaded "home fries."

Home fries? No thank you. I mean, the thing about that is, I can make them at home. And they turn out more or less fine. But nothing beats a hash brown.

Unfortunately, I've given up on them. In their place, though, I did manage to get fried potaotes down pat. I know, I know. How hard could it be? I mean, it's just fried potatoes, after all. I have memories of my mother's, sizzling away on a Saturday morning, the pan covered with some tin foil and me anxiously peeking under it, just in case they were ready and Mom hadn't realized it yet. Hers were sliced in thin rounds, and evenly browned on the bottom. In my adult life, they always turned out terribly--gray, mushy, rubbery, you name it.

BUT. Again, Alice Waters came to the rescue, giving me golden, crispy, deliciously fantastic fried potatoes. And now... I can't stop making them. I'll make them for breakfast, an afternoon snack, or even an easy-peasy dinner. It's like I'm desperately trying to make up for five years of terrible potatoes. I also like to throw in a couple of eggs at the very end, and let them fry until they are just cooked through, so that the potatoes can have a nice, easy coating of runny yolk.

I feel as though I have been initiated into the secret breakfast club. I never plan on renouncing my membership. Come on over any time.

Fried Potatoes

2 medium-sized waxy potatoes (anything but russet), peeled and diced into about 3/4-inch
2 tablespoons butter
1-2 tablespoons canola or corn oil

1. Put potatoes into a pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, and simmer until tender, about 10-15 minutes.

2. Drain the potatoes and set aside. (This step is crucial, since a bunch of the water drains off, leaving you with pretty potato specimens that will actually crisp up in the pan.)

3. In a large pan, heat oil and butter over medium to medium-high heat. Stir in the potatoes, and let them sit and sizzle for about 5 minutes. After that, gently turn them every few minutes, shaking the pan so that they don't stick, until golden and crispy. All in all this will take 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Eat anytime, day or night.

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