Yes, I have previously celebrated French fries and roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic, the latter not technically fried, but bathed in so much oil it might as well be. But another tribute is certainly due. Today's honoree: hash browns.
Zillions of Americans love going to the Waffle House, a big restaurant chain based mainly in the South that is especially well known for its hash browns. The Waffle House has over 2,100 branches, but none in New York. The New Yorkers I know who hail from the South or have discovered the Waffle House while traveling mostly observe a "Don't ask, don't tell" or ""What happens in Georgia stays in Georgia" stance in their enjoyment of the hash browns. Those who think too much about their pleasure at the Waffle House seem a bit afraid of what they might learn.
Take this question to the official Idaho potato website:
Q. Dr. Potato, why do I love Waffle House-style hash browns more than ones I make at home? What do they do to the food service version that makes them so good? Are they partially dehydrated? Or maybe seasoned with some kind of chemical? I mean the shredded kind that come in boxes, not the deep-fried QSR formed hash brown.
Here's the answer:
A. Waffle House does use a dehydrated potato (very similar to what you can buy in the stores in the center of the aisle from Idahoan or Basic American) and they use a butter style oil. One of the tricks you can do at home is to lightly oil the surface of the pan, heat it up, and then place the re-hydrated potatoes into the pan, resist turning right away till they start to caramelize. Flip, wait for the potatoes to turn a golden color and then remove and serve.The website provided a link to a supermarket "premium" hash brown mix that I checked out. Here are its ingredients: IDAHO® POTATOES, VEGETABLE OIL (CONTAINS ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING: CANOLA, SOYBEAN, COTTONSEED, SUNFLOWER), SALT, DEXTROSE, ONION POWDER, MONOGLYCERIDES, CALCIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE (PRESERVE FRESHNESS) AND SODIUM BISULFITE (PRESERVE FRESHNESS). CONTAINS: SOY.
You know what I'm going to say next. You can do better. Here's how.
First, and most important: use actual potatoes. Russet potatoes are a good choice.
Wash them. I suggest not peeling the potatoes. (Of course I'd say that.) Oh, all right, you can peel them if you want to.
Spread a thin film of oil on a griddle or cast iron skillet. Turn on the flame to a moderate heat.
Take a clean white cloth (or in the alternative, a cloth that was once white, but then got stained from many rounds of potato juice) and spread it out over a clean counter or big cutting board.
Using a box grater, grate the potatoes - one big potato makes a nice hash brown; two potatoes make two hash browns, even nicer.
I find grating by hand boring, so I recommend listening to some good music while you toil. Take care not to skin your knuckles. You can also use a food processor to grate the potatoes. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the pile of grated potato.
The next step is key: Squeeze out the potatoes' liquid. The goal is to dehydrate your potatoes so they get a chance to caramelize on the griddle. Roll up your white cloth and squeeze as hard as you can.
Yeah, wring it out some more.
I like to mix in some pepper and paprika in at this point. You can add whatever seasonings you like, just distribute them evenly.
Grab a pile of "dry" grated potatoes, dump them on the grill and flatten them into a patty. Use a double grill or a second skillet if you're doubling your portion.
Here's the hard bit. Don't touch the has browns for 15 minutes. Set the timer and mosey off to do something else.
When your timer rings, give the hash browns a flip and - you guessed it - leave them alone for another 15 minutes.
Your home should have a rich, potatoey aroma by now. And beautifully lacy, caramelized potato shreds for your other senses.
You'll just have to make do without the calcium stearoyl lactylate, sodium acid pyrophosphate and the sodium bisulfite.