What I am about to say may shock you-
I love winter.
I know, I know, I’m a freak! But I love the harshness, the stark contrast of dark barren trees against pure white snow. I like sweaters and layers and scarves. I get a masochistic surge of energy from wind so cold it hurts to breath. While most people are complaining about yet another snowstorm, I am quietly thrilled. (I also want to quietly remind them they live in MAINE for cryin’ out loud, and that yes, it tends to snow here sometimes…)
My birthday was a few weeks ago, and my mother came up from Massachusetts to visit for the weekend. We had a lovely time, just chatting and enjoying sassy drinks
. And yes, I made my own birthday cake. As the resident baker, it kind of went without saying. I also made brunch that Sunday, and couldn’t help skipping ahead a few chapters in Joy of Cooking to make this recipe again. On a snowy, blustery day, there’s nothing quite like the smell of bacon and fried potatoes to warm you up. It makes me feel like I’m in a mom and pop diner joint, the kind of place where the waitresses are all named Betty or Doris, the condiments are in color-coded plastic squeeze bottles, and the menu is a laminated piece of cardboard, slightly greasy and wonderfully familiar. It’s the kind of place that feels like home.
Hash browns are the ubiquitous brunch food, and have more variations than the weather in New England. Some people consider it to mean diced potatoes, lightly seasoned and fried on a flat top grill or skillet. Others think of shredded potato, mixed with onion, maybe a little garlic and chopped bacon. The purists will insist on just the potato, seasoned only with salt and pepper. Whether or not you consider the following version to be real ‘hash browns,’ I highly suggest giving them a try. A little salty, a lot savory, and a great balance of soft and crunchy. The golden brown crust seems to take forever to develop, and then bam! You turn your back for a minute and they’re done.
The greatest aspect of this meal is that it’s a one pan deal. Fry up the bacon, remove with a slotted spoon, and then toss in the hash. When the hash browns are just about done, drop a few eggs on top, place the cooked bacon strips around the edge to reheat, and cover the skillet. (Making slight indentations in the hash with the back of a spoon helps to keep the eggs from sliding everywhere.) Turn the heat down to low, wait until the egg whites turn opaque, and voila! Breakfast is served.
Hash Brown Potatoes
adapted from Joy of Cooking
3 tablespoons bacon drippings, oil or other fat
3 cups peeled and shredded raw potatoes (such Yukon Gold)
1 medium yellow onion, shredded
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Heat the fat in a skillet over medium heat. (A non-stick pan is preferable here.)
Combine the remaining ingredients with a fork.
Press potato mixture into a large cake and sauté slowly, adjusting the heat if necessary. Shake the pan frequently to keep from sticking. When the bottom is browned, about 10-15 minutes, cut the potato layer in half and flip using 2 spatulas. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes or until second side is browned. Cut each layer in half again and serve.
Toss potato mixture into the skillet and stir often over medium-high heat until mostly, but not entirely, browned. This produces a fluffier, free-form hash brown that is a little simpler to cook, but less elegant. I use Method One for formal brunches and Method Two on lazy Sunday mornings.