Let’s face it, home fries suck.
Now, before you scream at me, I’m not talking about the two out of ten times you get home fries with your breakfast (notice I said “get” not “order”) and they’re actually lovingly-cooked to order. Tender on the inside and crisped on all sides, maybe even incorporated into a nice hash with caramelized onions and peppers and herbs — I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the vast majority: flabby, half-raw, indifferently-cooked, dried out, sitting-on-the-flat-top-all-morning, standard cubes of cheap russet potatoes that some bored short order cook shoved onto your plate because they think they’ll get yelled at if they don’t.
I call these “F*ck You Potatoes,” and they’re terrible.
The only thing worse than getting F*ck You Potatoes with your omelette or Bene is getting a handful of barely-dressed mixed greens straight out of the Costco container (anyone trying to give you salad with breakfast should be shot). The worst food is always the kind that goes on your plate because the cook thinks it has to and not because he wants it to. Might as well give us an entire bowl of dried parsley.
Now, understand how we got here: you don’t see home fries on 85% of breakfast menus because 15 years ago, the public spontaneously decided that we preferred cubed potatoes to shredded. It’s this way out of convenience (read: laziness). With home fries, you can blanch your potatoes, maybe drop them in the fryer a bit or even microwave them, then stick them in a big pile on the corner of the flat top grill, and then when you need to make up an order just throw a handful of them on the hot part. “You want potatoes? F*ck you, here’s some potatoes.”
It’s easy, it just sucks. Eight times out of ten, the potatoes are some combination of soggy, lukewarm, undercooked, dried out (because, like I just said, they’ve probably been sitting on the corner of a warm flat top all morning), flavorless, or petrified.
Bring Back Hash Browns
The simplest solution to home fries is hash browns. Look, don’t start telling me about the mushy hash browns you had at Denny’s once and how they’re way worse than the $15 potato medley you got at the Ritz Carlton in Monaco that one time. Hash browns, by and large, are better than home fries for one indisputable reason: science.
Specifically, surface area. No one gives a sh*t about the non-crispy part of a potato (especially a russet potato, which are basically only good for french fries), which means the more of the potato you can get in direct contact with the grill, the better. A flat pancake of shredded potatoes has far more surface area to crisp up on a grill than big potato cubes. It was probably bad chains and diners screwing up hash browns for all those years that made people associate “hash browns” with bland cooking at greasy spoons and gave us home fries in the first place. Whatever the case, we’re better now, and it’s high time the humble hash brown be redeemed. I will go to bad diners if they have good hash browns.
Our Home-Cooking Suggestion
Maybe it’s too much to ask for some high-volume breakfast joint to take the time to cook you delicious, made-to-order hash browns. The world is always a few drinks behind, and we just have to live with that. The good thing about hash browns is, they’re easy to do at home, even if you’ve had a severe head injury. All you need is a grater and a pan.
My one big tip? Purple potatoes. Purple potatoes aren’t quite my favorite-tasting potatoes (Yukon golds, probably), but they’re low in sugar and less dense, meaning you can just grate them and chuck them straight on the grill without blanching, rinsing, squeezing, or microwaving, and they cook up crispy pretty fast. You can add shredded carrots and eggs and flour or whatever if you want to make latkes and you’re all fancy and Jewish, but I honestly think straight up plain purple potatoes shredded and fried are better anyway. I usually throw mine in the cast iron skillet I just finished cooking bacon in and fry them in the grease. Admittedly, that tip is only if you’re a decadent pig like me.
I don’t know if these look as good as they tasted, because I’m red-green colorblind, but they were damned delicious. Eat these once and you’ll never suffer F*ck You Potatoes ever again.