The Secret to Great Home Fries? Patience.

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With summer fruit season behind us, I’ve started in on my weekend winter breakfast menu.  Heartier fare, such as oatmeal and bacon and eggs, gets you ready for heading out the door in cold weather and still makes use of local ingredients.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve abandoned local fruits entirely.  We’ve put away a pretty good selection of dehydrated strawberries, frozen raspberries, and fruit preserves in an impressive number of flavours.  Sumac jelly anyone?  I’ll be showing you how to use some of these saved summer fruits throughout the winter, with recipes for frozen fruit smoothies and homemade granola with dehydrated apples and strawberries.  And I’ll definitely be using some of our various jams whenever I serve up a plate of bacon and eggs.

It’s bacon and eggs that I want to cover right now.

More specifically, it is the home fried potatoes that make or break a bacon and eggs plate.

Just about everyone on the planet can pull off acceptable bacon and eggs.  Sure, the eggs may be more mangled in some restaurants and households, but they are almost always good enough to be appreciated.  But home fries?  A different story altogether.

Many restaurants deep fry their home fries.  This is an unforgiveable breakfast atrocity.  Serve me deep fried home fries and I will never, ever, eat in your establishment again.

Other folks will serve up potatoes that are browned on the outside, but still hard on the inside.  While I appreciate the use of frying pan or griddle, I’m still left unimpressed.  This is usually a case of not pre-boiling the spuds.  And another case where I’m unlikely to return.

As you can see, I’m picky about my breakfast potatoes.

As should you be.

After all, when it comes to a great bacon and eggs breakfast, it is the home fries that will make it memorable.  How many people walk away from a restaurant saying, “wow, that fried egg was sublime!” or “That dude really knows how to cook a slice of bacon!”

No, it is the home fries that people will notice.

So, let’s teach you how to make home fries that people will notice.  For all the right reasons.

Let’s start off with choosing the ingredients.

Local potatoes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours.  And while a waxy potato with a firm flesh and high moisture content will hold its shape the best, any potato will do.  Home fried fingerlings?  Yes please.  Red potatoes?  Blue potatoes?  Why not?  These heritage varieties can make your breakfast plate more visually interesting.  I suggest experimenting with different potatoes.  You may settle on one, or you may enjoy the constant variety.

You can – and should – experiment with onions as well.  I use everything from a green onion, to a shallot, to a leek, to a red onion, to a cooking onion.  Again, they’ll all work, and you’ll come to choose your favourite flavour.  For day-to-day cooking, I stick with a plain old cooking onion.

I get my butter either from Stirling Creamery in Campbellford or Kawartha Dairy.  If you are using bacon, you may not need butter at all.

Really, with potatoes, onion, and butter, you’re pretty much set.  A dash of salt and pepper and you have home fries from heaven.

That doesn’t mean you can’t add other ingredients.  You should experiment here as well.  Here are a few ideas that I tend to use.

Bacon.  Make it double-smoked for extra smokey goodness.  I have a couple of sources for bacon, including several at the Farmers Market (off the top of my head, the Polish butcher – whose name I forget right this second, but he’s the one with the big glass display – and Evergreen Farms from Bailieboro).  Most often, I pick up some from Franz’s on Lansdowne on Friday night.  We make our own pizzas on Fridays, so the bacon serves double duty.  Franz smokes his bacon in house.  It is divine.

Peppers.  Red peppers add a dash of colour.  Hot peppers give you some good heat.  I’ll throw in some finely chopped cayennes on occasion – they look pretty and taste great.  Use sparingly.

Spices.  I’ll add a dash of either paprika or cumin in when I’m in the mood.  Heck, sometimes I’ll add both.  But, then, I’m a rebel.  Smoked paprika will have people wondering what the heck kind of magic you’ve worked in the kitchen.  Don’t tell them.  Just smile and say “my secret ingredient is love.

So, recipe time.

Farm to Table Home Fries

Ingredients

Potatoes – cooked and sliced into 1/8 to 1/4 inch rounds – you can either boil them or nuke them before chopping.
Onion – finely chopped – you decide the ratio, lots if you like onions, little if you don’t.
Butter – just enough to coat the bottom of the pan when melted.
Bacon (optional)
Peppers – finely chopped (optional)
Cumin (optional)
Paprika or smoked paprika (optional)

Procedure:

  1. I start by cooking the bacon that I am using for bacon and eggs.  By saving some of the fat, you have a great browning agent/lubricant for your potatoes.  I’ll pull a few slices of the bacon out early and roughly chop them for adding to the potatoes afterwards.  You can also just chop up a few slices of raw bacon and cook it over medium heat until the fat starts to melt.  If you are not using bacon, add a spoonful of butter to your frying pan.
  2. Toss in your onion, coat with whichever fat is in the pan.
  3. Add potatoes, toss well to make sure they all get a smearing of your fats.
  4. Reduce heat to medium/low and let cook.  Toss them around a bit every few minutes to make sure they brown evenly.
  5. Add peppers, cooked bacon, spices, or other ingredients.
  6. Fry until the potatoes are golden brown.   The peppers should maintain their bright colour.  I sometimes wait until the potatoes are almost done to add the peppers.  They don’t impart as much flavour that way, but they’ll look prettier.
  7. Serve hot with a dash of salt and pepper.

It is the low, slow heat that makes these potatoes so great.  The long cooking time – they usually take 15 minutes or so – allows for even browning and a good blending of flavours.  Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat when the first few minutes pass without any browning.  They’ll get there.  And you will be rewarded by your patience.

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