home fries – smitten kitchen

All right, people, time for a confession. This summer, for our third anniversary, our parents bought us a new set of pots and pans from the lovely All-Clad Master Chef 2 series. My last set, also a gift, dated back to 2000 and as much as I loved, loved, loved those Calphalon non-sticks with the clear glass lids, the nonstick was not only wearing off, I was ready to wean myself from it, and the annoying silicon-coated cooking utensils required to keep them intact. I wanted wooden spoons and metal spatulas and better caramelization in my cooking.

yukon goldsinto the microwavecooking the onions separatelysearing

I love my new pots and pans, and they do everything good, heavy steel pots promise. Caramel? A cinch. Stovetop to oven? No problem! Gorgeously browned food? You got it. Eggs, potatoes and pancakes? Whoops!

People, I have no doubt it is my own lack of cooking skill causing this drama, but there are some things I am finding flat-out terrible to cook in anything but nonstick. I feel that no amount of butter or oil keeps my fried egg from cementing itself to the pan, and I didn’t have much more luck with those cottage cheese pancakes. Oh and home fries? I was nearly moved to tears this morning by the amount of butter in the pan and the fact that I was still chiseling the potatoes off the bottom.

Compare and contrast, if you will, the way mine used to come out when cooked in a nonstick pan with the picture at the top.

sunday morning

The beauty! The lack of gumminess! The separation of pieces! I… I have to buy a new nonstick pan, just one if I want to ever enjoy cooking these again. But enough about me. Though I suspect that I am going to get raked over the coals for this–the horror! someone who claims to cook well not being able to fry an egg without an artificial teflon film!–if one person out there can echo this sentiment, it will be worth it. And I will happily share my home fries with this person any day.

minealex's fries

Breakfast Index: Not the breakfast you have in mind? We’ve collected all of our breakfast recipes, from muffins to scones to panacakes, eggs and a couple how-tos, over on one page. Please try them all, and then invite me over, thank you.

One year ago: Apricot and Walnut Vareniki

Two years ago: Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers

Home Fries
Loosely adapted from Cook’s Country

There are two secrets to making great home fries, if you ask me. The first is cooking the onions separately. As potatoes need to cook quite a bit longer than onions, it saves them from become burnt specks by the time the potatoes are ready. The second is more of a shortcut (so you can make them more often because they’re easier!) which is that I reduce the pan-frying time by half cooking them in the microwave first. As the best French fries are twice-cooked, this follows that line of reasoning well, yielding home fries with a soft center and crisp edges.

As you may guess from my tirade above, I do have more success with these (and can greatly reduce the amount of butter needed) when I cook them in a nonstick pan, but I’ll leave it up to you whichever you prefer working with.

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch cubes
4 tablespoons salted butter
1 onions, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Seasoning of your choice: Garlic powder or salt work great, as does smoky Spanish paprika or chopped chives

1. Arrange potatoes in large microwave-safe bowl, top with 1 tablespoon butter, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on high until edges of potatoes begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes, shaking bowl (without removing plastic) to redistribute potatoes halfway through cooking.

2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in large regular or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

3. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and pack down with spatula. Cook, without moving, until underside of potatoes is brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Turn potatoes, pack down again, and continue to cook until well browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring potatoes every few minutes, until crusty and golden on all sides, 9 to 12 minutes. Stir in onion, seasonings of your choice and salt and pepper to taste.

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