Extra, even

Allison Robicelli
February 07, 2018

I don’t think I need to convince you that in the genre of breakfast, potatoes need to be extra crispy. Eggs are soft and require contrast if you’re going to properly wake your taste buds up early in the morning. It’s a jolt to the senses that immediately invigorates you, a reminder that the day ahead is yours to win. Breakfast potatoes are a firm base upon which a fluffy scramble can luxuriously perch. They’re a field of crunchy bits that readily welcomes runny yolks.  Flaccid, soggy breakfast potatoes are a waste of everyone's time. Who knows how many days have been wasted, life changing opportunities missed, all because of subpar breakfast potatoes

Today, we fight back.

Hash browns are easy enough to get crispy thanks to the fact they’re shredded into tiny bits with lots of surface area. I didn’t know much about them until adulthood, because I grew up in New York City where hash browns weren’t a thing and I had never heard of a Waffle House. The only breakfast potatoes were home fries: pre-boiled slices of potatoes mixed with sauteed onions smashed and fried on the griddle next to your eggs. And yes, they were slices. Every recipe I’ve found on the internet says to use cubed potatoes, and I have no idea what these people are talking about. Maybe they’re from Long Island? You really want to trust people from Long Island?

Slices are the best for home fries because, like I mentioned with hash browns, they have lots of surface area, and you can smash the hell out of them with the back of a spatula. Surly Greek men working the hot line in tank tops have no time to be gentle with your dainty potatoes. GREEK HULK SMASH.

Hard rules of ultra-crispy home fries, which are easy enough to memorize:

1. Use russets
2. Slice right
3. Parboil
4. Dry well
5. Rocket hot skillet
6. Smashy smashy

Now for elaboration, so you can have a firm grasp on these concepts.

photo by TDOPhotography via getty images

1. Use russets

These are nice and starchy, and extra starch means extra crispy. They’re also quite fluffy and break down easily—which is why we use them for things like mashed potatoes—so they’ll smash up nice and good. 

2. Slice right

You don’t want paper thin pieces, because that’s Pommes Anna (another recipe for another day), and you want potato fluff between the crunchy layers. Remember: contrast. About ⅛-inch is perfect.

3. Parboil

There are two reasons for this. One, you don’t want to end up with raw insides, which can happen with the hot and fast method; starch takes longer to cook than things like protein. Two, parboiling helps that starch swell up, meaning that when it hits the hot pan those surface granules will explode into a crispy, crunchy exterior. 

You don’t want to boil your slices to death, just until you can barely pierce with a fork, like how it feels when you are picking up a cucumber slice in a salad. 

4. Dry well

Wet potatoes in a pan = steamed potatoes. After you parboil, drain them into a colander, give them a good shake, then lay them out on a tray lined with paper towels. Water will drip off, and the steam will disperse into the air. 

If you want to add onions or peppers to your home fries, now is a good time to sautee them.

5. Rocket-hot skillet

Your best bet is cast iron. You want to get that thing the temperature of the flat top grill at a diner, which is hot enough to make you a full breakfast in less than 90 seconds. 

Next, coat the bottom with oil. You’re not deep frying, but you don’t want to chintz, either. Make sure you’ve got a solid even coat in there, around ⅛-inch if you like measurements. 

6. Smashy smashy

Put your potatoes in a small bowl, toss with some salt and pepper, and the onions/peppers if you went that way. Carefully tip the whole mess into the rocket hot skillet, spread out a bit with a flat-bottomed spatula, then smash those suckers down and make them sizzle. Give them a bit of time to brown up, then flip. It’s okay if they don’t stay in a solid mass since we’re not making hash browns or potato pancakes. It’s fine to be sloppy. 

Once they’re done, lift them out and spread onto your plate to let them cool a bit. And look at them. Take a few seconds to really appreciate those textured niblets of crispity crunchity starch. You put the effort in, and you deserve to enjoy your handiwork on all the levels. 

You May Like