Crispy Hash Browns

When I make hash browns, they tend to be sorta soggy and fall apart, so I looked at a lot of online suggestions for avoiding this problem, and I came to this strategy:

  • I grate the potatoes onto a big paper towel.
  • I squeeze them out, trying to get as much water out of them as I can.
  • I put them on a big plate that is microwave-safe, and microwave them for 2 minutes while heating oil on the stove.
  • I fry them without moving them until I can peel up the edge and see that they are getting brown. I try to keep a wide, thin layer and if possible, flip them all together.
  • Once both sides are getting crispy, I try to scatter them so that more of the middles get a crispy edge on them. This part is my own choice though, so you totally don’t have to!
  • On Whole30, you can serve them with onions, tomato, avocado, etc. and of course some bacon if you are into that.

Hashbrowns bring me back to my favorite meal, and make me feel pretty normal in the midst of a very clean-eating month!

Being the Backstage Cook

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I think too many of us envision cooking as the cooking-show version: a row of delicate ramekins full of pre-measured, pre-seasoned, pre-cut foods ready to be poured artfully into a mixer or a pan. A quick statement of what you needed to do (chop, dice, mince, filet) is all you need.

These days, there are even faster cooking shows, where you don’t even see the cook but instead see a fast-forward version of the person cooking and adding everything, one thing per second. The final product shows up after less than 60 seconds, perfect and picturesque.

I think one of the things that keeps us from cooking more is that we only think of these as the way that cooking looks; real cooking is mostly chopping. I know that I am more likely to cave on the Whole30 month if I don’t pre-cut and pre-wash a lot of my veggies, but I don’t kid myself: I’ve signed up for a month of Sunday afternoons where I’ll be preparing food, making it so that my weekday schedule can fit healthy choices in. It’s a bit of an experiment too – Whole30 is so restrictive that eating in restaurants is difficult, so we’re aiming to not eat any restaurant food the whole month. Instead, some of the money that normally goes toward restaurant eating (because we love it) will be channelled into better, purer ingredients. Not because I’m always going to go organic or go grass-fed or go free-range – I’m just interested to see if I see a difference.

The other day, I prepped potatoes and sweet potatoes to have for meals later on that day and week. It was nice, because I didn’t really notice it. Like food channel cooks, I was able to pull out the things I needed, heat oil in a pan, and make my meal without taking the time to cut up veggies. I’m usually hungry by the time I walk in from work, so it’s a nice thing that I’m able to prep ahead and do a little cooking-show magic, but it’s not without the background cook, the person who makes all those lovely cuts – that person is me, just me on the weekend.

43. Childhood “Loaded”Mashed Potatoes

As a kid, I was fascinated by state-changed foods. I thought that pancake batter puffing into soft, thick cakes was magical; liquid to solid was pretty common. More strange still was solid to liquid, when my mother and I would make mashed potatoes. I couldn’t imagine how those hard, brown lumps turned into the fluffy cloud-like mashed potatoes I loved.

When I was 10 or 11, my parents instituted a rule when I had to cook a meal every week during the summer – it was both to teach me, keep me busy, and help my mom a little. One of my first variations on my mom’s normal recipes was my idea for “loaded” mashed potatoes: namely, normal mashed potatoes full of onions, bacon, and cheese. I clearly have been a girl who loves rich food for a long time.

So, Husband and I were making salmon with potatoes as a side the other evening, when I realized I wanted mashed potatoes – salmon with a little mashed potato on the side was just EVERYTHING for a moment there. So, I boiled a bunch of sliced fingerling potatoes, fried bacon with shallots, and poured it all into my newly-acquired stand mixer. At first I was worried that leaving skins on the potatoes was going to ruin the look, but when I threw a bit of cheddar and a pat of butter in with them, the potatoes whipped up wonderfully. They were thick and had chunks in them, which isn’t nearly like the bright white potato-flake mashed potatoes of my thanksgiving memories, but they felt hearty and flavorful anyway.

It’s this kind of memories that are coming back when I cook more – sure, I love me a pile of take-out chinese food (hello crab rangoons) but it doesn’t hold as many home memories as getting in the kitchen and putting something together. My family only ate out as a treat when I was growing up, probably for money reasons, and while my young adulthood has been filled with eating in restaurants, I am really reconnecting to the way time in the kitchen calms me, employs the problem-solving parts of my brain, and saves me money.

No formal recipe for loaded mashed potatoes; I just recommend boiling the cut potatoes at least 20 minutes, and add proportions of “baked potato ingredients” to your mixer as you feel led.

What recipe have you re-discovered lately? Do you remember specific kitchen moments when you encounter a familiar ingredient or craving? Feel free to comment and tell me about it. 🙂

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So important to boil them long enough… then you get to go wild.

Food Memory: Crepes on a Mountain Morning

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I ate this savory egg-filled crepe on top of a mountain by Husband, who was then Boyfriend. I think part of why I feel so at rest when visiting my now-in-laws is that there is so much good food near their home! Going for a walk of 20 minutes is enough to get you from front door to the creperie, and smothering my potatoes in garlic aioli always satisfies me in a way that makes a long day of housework, games, football, or sightseeing feel possible and exciting.

Food Memory: Irish Breakfasts with E and S

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Many of my best talks in graduate school didn’t happen in the classroom – they happened while eating the breakfasts at the Irish themed restaurant in town with E and S. Both of them were thoughtful women who wanted the best for ourselves and our classmates, but we all had our frustrations to vent, and there’s just something about buttery toast and fried potatoes that helps a person process the many ideas we confronted daily. We planned papers here; E told me her idea for what would be her first book here. I ate enormous pancakes with pecans and bacon in them, and I calmed down about my anxieties as a teacher here. 

GoSun Herb Potatoes

If you are a brunch fan, you’ve probably run into a really good pile of home fries here or there: maybe they were deep fried, with the soft outside and the creamy inside, or just set to sizzling on a stovetop with a generous supply of butter and garlic, but fried potatoes have got to be one of my favorite foods. They definitely are in Husband’s top 5 list, which includes mostly simple dishes. After a few weeks of complex dishes (and a harvest of modest potatoes), we decided to see if the GoSun could get a nice crust on a pile of potatoes.

I cut up the littlest of the potatoes into quarters and piled them in alongside sea salt, black pepper, and oregano, as well as some sizable pats of butter. I think butter is going to be a final frontier for me; so many of the best and most delightful dishes of my childhood were heavily buttered, so while I feel pretty proud of my ability to add veggies and more plant-based proteins into my diet, I think a lot of things may still be cooked in butter. I welcome alternatives and often throw olive oil in things instead, but I don’t see myself changing soon… oh well!

The GoSun started in bright sunshine, but quickly was shrouded in cloudy afternoon, so I left the potatoes out there a very long time – actually went to a neighborhood organizing meeting while I waited! When I returned home, the butter was melted and everything was hot, but the potatoes were still raw-crunchy, not fried-crunchy. Husband generously let me go take a bath while he gave them the last edge of cooking in his cast-iron skillet, but I still count it as a win because it took much less time than just cooking them straight-out would have taken. I’m still figuring out how to use the GoSun in a busy work-filled life, but I’m going to keep trying!

 

Also, huge shout out to everyone who has submitted a recipe! I am going to try to write them out on recipe cards and add them to my list but I still welcome more!

Results of Potato Barrel Experiment

We started the spring with half a whiskey barrel that we found on sale at a home improvement store; we wanted to do something like this experiment to grow potatoes in it. While I pulled out two pounds of potatoes for a recipe 10 days ago, this weekend we finally dumped the whole barrel and sorted through the dirt on a tarp, finding even the tiniest of potatoes and adding them to our loot.

The experience of layering in potato plants was somewhat good – the problem, I think, at the end was that we’d just put too many slips into the barrel and certain varieties crowded out others, resulting in sad, sickly looking yellow stalks. Because of this, we probably harvested earlier than needed, especially since some of the potatoes were the size of a quarter. Still, we got multiple pounds of potatoes and spent only a couple dollars on slips, so I count it as a success in spite of the fact that I’ll do it differently next year.

We also grew multiple varieties of potatoes, which might not have been a necessary thing. I think that I am happy with red potatoes usually so hopefully next year we can stick with just those and not confuse our poor plants by penning them in with a ton of root systems from various kinds of potatoes.

I think that this evening I’m going to take some of the tiniest potatoes and make up a GoSun recipe to get them nice and toasty, perhaps covered in herbs and butter. That, alongside the pesto quinoa I’m hoping to make with some roasted walnuts and our herb-garden basil, will make for a perfectly delectable dinner. I have recently read a lot of good recipes for pesto, and I’m intrigued to see if it goes well with our potatoes or if it’s better just on the quinoa.