Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What-To-Do-With-All-The-Potatoes Hashbrowns

I cooked Thanksgiving dinner this year and I thought it was generally a successful event. There were a couple of side-dishes, though, that had to be abandoned for lack of time and kitchen space. I planned to roast root vegetables (butternut squash and carrots) with potatoes and dress them with a balsamic honey glaze. It just didn't happen. So I had to figure out what to do with a five pound bag of yukon gold potatoes. As luck would have it, PBS aired an old episode of Julia & Jacques: Cooking at Home with potatoes as the star ingredient. They made a large hashbrown cake of leftover baked potatoes, cutting it into wedges and topping with sour cream and cheese to serve. I didn't want to make a whole potato cake because my husband would not help me eat it, but I loved the idea of hashbrowns.

I started with four or five small round yukon gold potatoes, washed and trimmed of any bad spots. I cooked them in my microwaveable potato baker (see earlier post) for six and a half minutes. Then I put them on a cutting board and chopped them with my large biscuit cutter. Julia Child would have removed the potato skins first, but I left them on. I heated about 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in my nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (with just a little olive oil to prevent smoking). When the fats were hot, I added my chopped potatoes and plenty of salt, gave them a quick stir to distribute the butter, then left them alone. To get a good crunchy, brown crust on the potatoes, you have to resist the temptation to stir them constantly. Once they were browned on the bottom, I gently turned the potatoes with a spatula and let the other sides brown. Then I scooped them straight to my plate with a little ketchup on the side (hey, I'm an American girl, what can I say)? I meant to take a picture of the hashbrowns on the plate, but I had eaten them all before I had a chance to!

This would be a great way to use up leftover baked potatoes, as Julia and Jacques did. Also, they used more potatoes and really pressed them into a cake. They cooked them on the stovetop, then transferred the skillet to the oven to brown on top. Then they were able to slice their potato cake into wedges for serving. I didn't have enough potatoes (or patience) for this treatment, so I just left the potatoes in larger pieces, loose in the pan, without flattening them into a large patty. As a variation, you could fry bacon in the pan first, then cook the potatoes in the bacon fat. Add onions or scallions. Top with your favorite cheese. Be creative and enjoy!

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