and crispy outside, soft and yielding inside, your
perfect hash browns will make your eggs proud.
thing Iíve said exactly 6 gajillion and 11 times is, there
are more bad examples of food out there than there are good
examples. Todayís topic, hash browns, is no exception. Too
often, what should be a crispy, creamy, perfectly seasoned,
standalone dish is reduced to little more than a bland and
mushy ketchup delivery system. Letís see what we can do to
YOU NEED TO LEARN THIS
eat breakfast? Well, then, say no more.
STEPS YOU TAKE
before we start, letís get our terms straight so we know
exactly what weíre talking about. When I think of hash
browns, I think of golden brown cakes of pan-fried shredded
potatoes. Some people also include preparations where the
potatoes are cut into small or medium dice, or even thin
slices, but now youíre straying into home fries territory.
For today, then, weíll grab our graters and go with
remember that hash browns are pretty much just potatoes. If
you start adding binders, like egg or flour, well, now weíre
talking potato pancakes or latkes. Those are terrific, too,
mind you, but theyíre not hash browns.
take a quick look at the ingredients:
course, thereís the potatoes. What kind of potatoes
depends on whom you ask. Personally, I prefer Russets, the
best-known variety of which are called Idaho potatoes. James
Beard, the legendary food writer, preferred waxy or new
potatoes which have less starch. Clearly, theyíll both
work with slightly different results. You can decide for
of the type of potato, there seem to be two general schools
of thought on Planet Hash Brown. One is to start with raw
potatoes, the other is to start with previously cooked
potatoes, typically boiled or baked. Iím in the raw camp,
though Iíve had some great examples from the cooked camp.
If you start with cooked potatoes, you can pretty much cut
the cooking time in half. For my money, though, I think you
get a somewhat more crispy product by starting with raw.
thereís the fat. Remember that fat serves a number of
functions, including heat transference, non-stickitude and,
perhaps most important, flavor. For the first two functions,
any fat or oil will work. For the last function, though, I
would recommend lard, bacon fat or clarified butter. (You
can use whole butter, but, because it has milk solids, you
run a great risk of it burning.)
last necessary ingredient is salt. Potatoes without salt are
like chimps without bananas ó just a little bit sad.
you add other stuff as well, like a little minced onion, as
long as you take care not to let it burn. For garlic, my
inclination would be to crush a couple cloves and saute them
slightly in the hot fat BEFORE you add the potatoes. Then,
remove the garlic and add the potatoes. That way you get the
flavor without the risk of burning.
can also add herbs or spices. A little rosemary is nice, as
is a bit of paprika. But, with all this stuff, I prefer it
simple: potatoes, fat and salt ó yum.
last thing: the pan. Diners mostly make their hash browns on
a flat top griddle. For the home cook, I think a good,
nonstick pan works best. Some people love cast iron, too,
but those things are so heavy, it makes it hard to flip the
hash browns like you could if youíre using a light
nonstick. If youíre going to flip it with a spatula
anyway, go ahead with the cast iron. Thatís probably what
Abe Lincoln would have used.
now letís get to the actual making. I figure one big
potato makes enough for two servings of hash browns. If youíre
making a lot, keep potatoes in acidulated water until itís
time to cook. That will keep them from discoloring.
Peel your potatoes and shred them with the largest hole of
your grater. If youíre going to cook them right away, put
them in a paper towel or clean dish towel and ring out as
much water as you can. This will help them crisp up more
Heat your nonstick skillet over a medium to medium-low
flame. While itís heating, season your potatoes with salt
and anything else you might be adding (pepper, for example).
Now, for most sauteed items, I add just enough fat to coat
the bottom of the pan. For hash browns, I add a little more
to make sure they really donít stick and to add a little
enough grated potatoes that you can press them into a circle
covering the whole pan. How thick a layer? Excellent
question. The thinner the layer, the more crispy the whole
thing will be. If you mound your potatoes more thickly, the
interior will be soft and white while the exterior is all
nice and crispy. Iím not about to tell you which way is
better. Thatís your choice. Arenít you glad weíre not
living in the Stalin-era Soviet Union? Cook them over medium
low heat until the bottom is golden brown and crispy, 5 to
10 minutes. Flip the hash browns and do the same on the
other side. Serve immediately, because theyíll lose their
crisp if you try to hold them.