Saturday, February 12, 2011

Oven Home Fries

I can't make breakfast first thing in the morning.  I want to eat within an hour of waking up, but I can't cook then.  So I do other things, but that means that when I'm hungry, breakfast isn't ready.  This is why I never make crepes anymore.  The idea of mixing up ingredients while I'm still groggy, letting the batter sit for an hour and then cooking them doesn't work for me.  So during the week, breakfast is oatmeal, and on weekends we typically have eggs. 

But you know what's great with eggs? Home fries.  But the bitch about home fries is the same thing as with crepes.  They're not ready now.
But the beauty of home fries is that they freeze really well.  I've read that potatoes don't freeze well, and maybe the folks who say that are talking about potatoes you haven't already cooked the hell out of, because my home fries freeze perfectly.  So I make them up in big batches when I'm feeling especially patient, and yeah, today, breakfast had to wait, but next time, home fries are 15 minutes away.

Cut your potatoes into relatively evenly-sized chunks.  I don't like to go for a perfect dice here because if they're too small it's too easy to burn, and I think having some variety to the shape gives me additional crispiness.

I soak my potatoes.  People say soaking your potatoes make them crispier, and other people say soaking your potatoes leeches out all the nutrients.

I didn't think I was eating potatoes for the nutrients, I thought that was what bananas and spinach were for.  So I soak mine.  Thirty minutes in cold water, rinse, drain, dry.

Preheat the oven to 450.

Grease up your potatoes.  This is two pounds, and a tablespoon and a half (3/4 ounce) of oil works to coat this much.   If you're feeling luxurious, use bacon grease.  I keep bacon grease in the fridge, and use it for greens rather than oil a lot of the time.  Here's the thing - an ounce of oil has 28 grams of fat.  So does an ounce of bacon grease.  Grease/oil/fat is all the same thing, fat wise. (Ok, butter has a little less because some of it is water)  When you use bacon grease in lieu of oil, you're adding cholesterol - not as much as if you used butter, but more than if you used something without cholesterol.  There are other reasons to choose one fat over another, extra virgin olive oil, for example, has specific benefits but you're cooking this too hot to use extra virgin olive oil.  I'm no nutritionist, but bacon grease is yummy and canola oil is not.  I'm still marking this vegan because you can totally use oil and make it delicious.

You don't want them swimming, but you do want them shining.
Add some veg.  Ok, when I got started, I assumed we had veg in the house, like some frozen bell peppers and garlic and an onion.  Turns out we did not.  So I used shallots, because I had a ton of them.  

my cutting board is wet because I wash my shallots after peeling; they tend to be dirty.
If I had bell peppers I'd wait to add them til later (I'll note when, later), but anything oniony should go in now, and it'll have a chance to caramelize.

So I mixed in my shallots with my taters and some sea salt.

that's like 3/4 of a teaspoon of sea salt
I'm a big fan of the silicone baking mat.  I use these for everything, and never have to scrub a baking sheet.  They go right in the dishwasher, and keep everything from sticking. With other recipes, you can skimp on - or even eliminate - oil or other grease when you use silicone.  Not this one.  Spread your potatoes out into one layer (as much as possible).

Roast at 450 for 25 minutes.  After that, they should be starting to crisp a little bit but mostly still soft.  This is the time to add goodies.  If you have garlic or peppers to add, go now.  Also, spices.  I do onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne and black pepper (they're already salted).  Toss around with the stuff you just added and let them go another 15-20 minutes.

This is where you need to balance crispiness against blackenedness.  You may want them more or less done, so keep an eye on them.  This is how I like them.  I learned from my mother to order my potatoes burnt to avoid any possible sogginess.  You might want to take them out a few minutes earlier.

Serve, probably with eggs or whatever, but I'm not going to tell you how to scramble an egg - but if you really need to know there is a video on this awesome blog.   I will tell you that we use 5 egg whites and two egg yolks between us and we've never missed the extra yolks.  Besides, this is a good trade for that yummy (optional) bacon grease.

Freeze the leftovers.  For us, this means we got today's meal out of it, plus two additional meals, so yeah, today I had to wait an hour and a half for breakfast, but there will be two awesome days in the future when the taters are already made.  To reheat, take your frozen taters and shuffle them around on a dry frying pan to defrost, gradually increasing the heat to recrisp them.  Add a tiny bit of oil if they start to stick, but they probably wont.  They're done when they're hot.

You could change up the spices, maybe just use black pepper and fresh rosemary or thyme, and make these with dinner. 

Simplified Recipe:
2 pounds of potatoes, cut into small chunks, skin on
One small onion or a big handful of shallots, cut into bits
1.5 tbsp oil (or bacon grease)
Diced bell peppers (optional)
Paprika, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt

Soak potatoes in cold water 30 minutes.  Drain and dry.
Toss potatoes in oil, mix in onion and salt, roast at 450 for 25 minutes.
Add spices and peppers (optional)
Shuffle everything around on your baking sheet
Cook another 20 mins or so checking frequently

Send me your recipe ideas, leftover tricks, questions, complaints, etc, if you want to discuss.

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