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Right potato key to hash browns

September 24, 2009|By LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER/Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Lynne: I've eaten really delicious home fries at restaurants, but when I try to make them at home, they fall flat. Do you have some tips for home fries? The kind I mean are cut into squares, are very crusty and have onions in them. Thanks. -- Anne in Baltimore

Dear Anne: The secrets to great home fries are the right potatoes and precooking them. Home fries came about from using leftover cooked potatoes, and the potatoes that hold their shape best are boiling potatoes, the kind you'd use for potato salad -- for instance, the easy-to-find red skins.

Here's a recipe that will tell you all you need to know. This becomes a great hash when you add chopped vegetables and any leftover meat or poultry to the mix. Of course, herbs and spices you like are good here, too.

Good to have: A big cast-iron skillet or 12-inch straight-sided saute pan is a big help here because to get the potatoes to crisp, you need to spread them out in the pan so a good crust can form and so they don't steam.

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DOWN-HOME CRISPED HOME FRIES



Serves 3 to 4

Potatoes could be precooked a day ahead. Use organic ingredients if possible.

You could hold the finished recipe in a 300-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Hash browns are a big treat at our house, so we have them as a main course with a tart green salad for contrast. If you feel a need for protein, fruit and cheese make a great dessert.

2 to 2-1/2 pounds small red-skin potatoes (ideally, all about the same size for even cooking)

Good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil, or a mix of olive oil and bacon fat

1/2 medium to large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 to 4 branches fresh thyme (optional)

Simmer the unpeeled potatoes in water to cover for 10 minutes, or until barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and rinse with cold water. Cool completely and slip off skins. Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch dice.

Generously film the bottom of a heavy 12-inch cast-iron skillet or a 12-inch straight-sided saute pan with the olive oil. Set over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and the onions (and thyme branches, if using), sprinkling them with salt and pepper. Lower heat a bit and let cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are golden brown and crusty on the bottom. Do not stir them, but do check for burning and adjust heat as needed.

Slip a metal spatula under the potatoes and lift them without losing their crusts and turn them over. Continue cooking, adjusting heat so they don't burn, but develop another rich golden brown crust. Taste for seasoning and serve hot.

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