It is always nice when people admire my cooking skills. I have to keep quiet when it happens because – if only they knew – I can make some very complicated dishes look simple and some bone-headedly simple stuff look way too hard.. If you had to sample the thin, burnt and rubbery pancakes that I turned out for too many years to mention, you would know that I can make a proper dog’s ear out of some of the simplest recipes. This is only true of American pancakes – my English pancakes have always been excellent. This is mostly because this was standard fare after a trip to the pub during my undergraduate days.
Home fries took me a while before I twigged to this – almost – foolproof method.
The secret here is to start with potatoes that are already cooked. I try to bake off extra potatoes to have on hand during the week any time that I am using my oven.
When you start with your potato already cooked, all you have to worry about is frying the outside and getting the middle warm. I like to have a variety of textures in my home fries. I want at least one side to be crispy, at least one side to be soft and for there to be a thick enough chunk of potato to be able to taste the soft potato in the middle.
The cut of the potatoes is going to give this mix of textures. The pieces are about 3/4″ thick. I love the skin, so I leave that on too. YMMV.
There are two variables left for perfect home fries. The oil, which needs to be hot enough to fry and cool enough to make that fry a slow one. It will probably take you about 15 minutes MOL to make your fries. Do no rush them or they will not be sweet and crispy.
A good test for oil temperature is the bamboo test. When the oil has come up to temperature, a bamboo chopstick or cooking utensil, will start to emit small bubbles. If it does so too quickly, the oil is too hot. If it does not bubble yet, the oil is too cool.
When the oil comes up to temperature, put in the potato and coat the pieces with the oil. If you have not added enough to coat the potato pieces, add more. Coating the potato with oil is what will prevent it from sticking to the pan.
Leave the fries to brown before you turn them again. You will be tempted to keep them moving. RESIST!
The final tricky bit is for those of you, like me, who like sauted onion in your home fries. The timing on this is important. The potatoes take about twice as long to cook as the onion. If you put the onion in at the same time as the potato, it will burn and the result will be dry burnt flecks of onion in your home fries.
Chop the onion fairly fine and sprinkle throughout the fries about half-way through.
At this point you may turn your potatoes and onion at will – GO FOR IT!
When the home fries are done, they will be crisp, sweet and have a soft potoato-ey center. The onions will be soft, caramelized and sweet.
Just add breakfast!