Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hash browns, or hashbrowns, revisited

With company visiting, hashbrowns were again served for breakfast. And again, they turned out splendidly. I do want to pass along a couple of tips that I don't think I stressed enough on my post of Sept. 26, or else the editors of the Washington Post weren't listening. A recipe they ran on Oct. 21 had this to say about the breakfast potatoes:
Making hash browns can be tricky. To get the onions caramelized just right and keep the potatoes crisp at the same time, cook them separately and toss them together with a spice mix just before you’re ready to serve them. This is a good way to use leftover baked potatoes; hash browns made with raw potatoes will turn out mushy.
Wrong! If the photo they ran with their recipe is any indication, what they ended up with were very tasty country potatoes, not hashbrowns. (I like the compound form of this word, since everyone knows that hash does not modify browns; the word is a contraction of hash-browned potatoes, so why not contract it to its logical end?) (Click here to see the Post recipe.)

The secret to using raw potatoes is this: Grate them into a bowl of water. Drain well, then dump the shreds on a clean, absorbent towel, roll it up and wring the potatoes dry. "Dry" is the key to nonmushy potatoes.

Heat the oil on medium heat before adding the potatoes, then, when you have them spread over the pan, lower the heat a little. Add finely diced onions and seasonings then, including dots or slices of butter if you'd like. In about 10 minutes or so, the bottom will be browned and you can turn your hashbrowns over and continue cooking until done.

If you put your onions in first, thinking that they will caramelize nicely, you will end up with burnt onions by the time the potatoes cook. If you put in the onions after the potatoes, they will steam as the potatoes cook on the first side, then when you flip the hashbrowns, the onions will brown as the second side cooks. Yum!


  1. Lori,
    Absolutely right on several points.
    A) The dish in the NYT recipe are by no means hashbrowns. Not sure what they are, but know what they're NOT!
    B) Your soaking method is the best way to stabilize the starch in the potatoes. Cold water and squeeze 'em dry.
    C) Adding the onions (or bell peppers for that matter) on the second side insures they don't over-cook.

    Another point is that high-starch potatoes are the best to use. Russet (aka Idaho) potatoes have the most starch and a robust flavor. Yukon golds are a close second with a smoother, buttery taste profile.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. With coaching from Lori, I cooked these hashbrowns last week, this recipe actually works. Even I could do it!