There’s something about hash browns that always makes me smile. The mere thought triggers a warm vision of a bustling breakfast counter, crisp striped napkins all in a row, potatoes and eggs sizzling on the griddle. With their golden crust and fluffy core, hash browns are a feat of cooking magic. But can you pull them off in your own kitchen?
Upon coming home from a family vacation to an empty refrigerator and a couple of old root vegetables in need of attention, I decided to find out. After several attempts, I learned there are two tricks to flawlessly crisp hash browns of any variety. One is to heat your skillet until it is ripping hot (thank you, Alton Brown). The other is to forget about them as they cook. Once your vegetables are on the heat, go do something else for a spell so that you are not tempted to flip them prematurely. Then come back, give the pan a shake, and flip them over. Return a few minutes later and your humble root vegetables will have transformed into earthy, golden-crusted heaven.
Let go of the urge to produce a perfectly intact pancake. Slide a fried egg atop each portion or sprinkle with a little smoked cheddar cheese and finish under the broiler. You could even turn them into latkes and top them with a dollop of sour cream and caviar. If you ask me, any time of day is right for hash browns. Besides, it’s that time of year to start being your own short-order cook.
1-1/2 pounds assorted root vegetables (at least 50 percent Russet potatoes, plus celeriac, sweet potato, parsnip, turnip, or rutabaga), trimmed, peeled and cut into long pieces
4 scallions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons clarified unsalted butter or grapeseed oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Feed the potatoes and root vegetables into a food processor fitted with the grater attachment (or shred them on a box grater). Transfer the grated vegetables to a dish towel, gather the edges, and squeeze out as much water as possible (This will discourage sticking and help them crisp up). In a large bowl, toss with the scallions.
2. Heat a very large cast-iron or heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add half the butter or oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Scatter the grated vegetables loosely over the bottom of the pan, not more than an inch thick, and press them down into a pancake (You may have to divide the vegetables into two batches, depending on the size of your pan; crowding will cause the hash browns to steam and not brown properly.).
3. Season the hash browns with salt and pepper and allow to cook, undisturbed, for at least 5 minutes, until well-browned and crispy on the bottom. Loosen the bottom with a spatula and flip them onto a large plate. Add the remaining butter or oil to the pan and heat. Slide the hash browns back into the pan and continue cooking the other side until browned and crisp.
4. Divide into portions and serve immediately.
Why wait for the weekend to treat yourself to breakfast? Prep the night before so you can have time to enjoy hash browns and Bulls-Eye Eggs.
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Photo credit: foodnetwork.co.uk