As I put together this post, I took a quick little poll on Facebook, asking for my friends' top three favorite foods. I was assuming that crispy potatoes in their various forms would solidly make the list. I can't be alone in my obsession with salty french fries, roasted potatoes, or potato chips...right?
Not right! Apparently I stand alone, like cheese (which did make the cut, big time, along with avocados, peanut butter, and bacon). Did no one else grow up pining for Taco John's potato oles (with extra seasoning)? Ah well. I'll share my hash browns recipe anyhow, for the days when a grilled cheese with avocado, peanut butter, and bacon just won't cut it.
Thanks to my Grandma Meyer, I set off for college with the ability to deliver a panful of these golden, buttery beauties to starving, post-party roommates. And boys. Perhaps not what she intended when she taught me to make them, but really, these are cheap eats of the highest order, face-stuffable on their own, or even rather elegant topped with sauteed vegetables and a poached egg.
The trick for crispy potatoes of any variety is an adequate amount of hot fat. Once you accept that, and don't stress out about it, because you're not going to eat them every day, you're all good. I most often use a combination of high heat vegetable oil (safflower or sunflower) with butter. But if I have beef fat, or chicken fat, or bacon drippings, or duck fat, you can bet it goes into the pan. The hash browns in the photo are kissed by beef fat, because I'd just made stock with beef short ribs, and saved the fat I skimmed from the stock. (Always do that! Wrap it up and freeze it and there it is, a little present to yourself when you're craving crispy potatoes.)
Recipe for Hash Browns at TC Taste/Minnesota Monthly Magazine.
PS If you, like I, love Taco John's potato oles, but can't eat gluten (they're coated in flour before frying), keep in mind that it's easy to whip up your own seasoned salt to sprinkle over hash browns. Combine sea salt, good chile powder, cumin, and garlic powder to taste in a coffee grinder, whir briefly to create a finely ground seasoning.