What are the secrets of good homefries?
December 16, 2007 6:24 PM   Subscribe

I love homefries. Omigod I love homefries. What are your secrets?
posted by unSane to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 108 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Use cast iron, real butter, and high heat. Let them sit for a while between stirrings. I like seasoning mine with garlic and fresh rosemary, and plenty of salt and black pepper.
posted by contraption at 6:30 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by OldReliable at 6:42 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Fry them in leftover bacon (or duck) fat.
posted by cog_nate at 6:56 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

I particularly love my Mom's version of homefries... Once you've started frying the potatoes, sprinkle several spoonfuls of onion soup mix (to taste), stir well so they are all coated, continue frying until done and voila! Oh, and I second the use of a cast iron pan if you have one...
posted by Jade Dragon at 6:57 PM on December 16, 2007 [3 favorites]

- Boil, nuke or bake your potatoes first until they're almost but not quite done. Adds a really nice nuance to the texture and helps avoid cooking the exterior too much before the interior is done.
- Fry in vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet
- Plenty of diced onion and slivered - not finely chopped - garlic, sauteed for about five minutes before adding your potatoes.
- Plenty of salt and pepper, smoked paprika and cayenne.
- Chopped fresh parsley right at the last.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 7:08 PM on December 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

i like my potatoes crispy, so i roast them skin-on with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic powder and mix them with sauteed onions and peppers (they're moist and slippery, which contrasts nicely with the crisp of the potatoes...). cayenne pepper to taste.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:08 PM on December 16, 2007

Best answer: Actual onions in with the potatoes are lovely too.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:08 PM on December 16, 2007

Well-caramelized onions.
posted by desuetude at 7:08 PM on December 16, 2007

Best answer: I consider myself to be a homefry connoisseur and rarely encounter homefries better than the ones I make at home. My secret it, I only flip the potatoes one time during cooking - you must let them sit for a while in the oil/butter in order to build up that delicious crunchy coating. I actually flip them individually, with a fork, to ensure maximum evenness of delicious crunchy coating. I use a generous amount of oil, salt, and black pepper, and after I flip 'em, I add about half a chopped white onion. One more tip - I find the potatoes fall apart easily if you chop them immediately after boiling, so I let them sit for a few minutes before cutting into them so I can make even chunks. Oh my, can you tell I love breakfast?
posted by tatiana wishbone at 7:13 PM on December 16, 2007 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Interrupting my own thread, I 'm a big fan of finely chopped fresh jalapeno chillies in with the onion.

Great thoughts, keep 'em coming.
posted by unSane at 7:17 PM on December 16, 2007

Use red potatoes or Yukon gold (not russets) to help them keep their shape. Sweet potatoes are good in there too. Ditto par-boiling or nuking; frying in butter, duck, or bacon fat; and the mandatory use of a cast-iron skillet.
posted by ottereroticist at 7:19 PM on December 16, 2007

Best answer: I chop the potato into 1/2-inch cubes and start with the partial pre-cooking approach with maybe a 10-12 minute boil. Then I saute them with chopped shallots, morels, and garlic. I also try to limit the turns to get a nice browning. Just before they're done, I toss in a touch of fresh minced sage, Italian parsley, and smoked paprika. And for that extra kick, I toss the mess with a few teaspoons of freshly grated pecorino chees and truffle oil. Finish with freshly ground pepper and fleur de sel.
posted by drpynchon at 7:26 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Why is a cast iron skillet mandatory?? Just wondering.
posted by pwally at 7:28 PM on December 16, 2007

I also use onion, and also add paprika, and also refuse to let any non-cast-iron pan into my kitchen.

Just piling on.
posted by rokusan at 7:35 PM on December 16, 2007

Well-seasoned and maintained cast iron skillet + bacon grease + whatever spices/additions (onions, fresh ground pepper, Tony Chachere's, garlic*, jalapeño, celery salt, Old Bay, paprika, curry, etc.) suit the mood + kosher salt + a bit of sugar + a lid on the pan for about the first 2/3 of the time + a little real butter near the end.

*If using chopped garlic, I tend to use it in the latter stages--it gets bitter when crisped.
posted by bonobo at 7:35 PM on December 16, 2007

Best answer: I recently made this home fries recipe from Cook's Illustrated and they were the best I'd ever had. The recipe, I notice, incorporates many of TryTheTilapia's tips above:

Diner-Style Home Fries
If you need to double this recipe, instead of crowding the skillet, cook two batches of home fries separately. While you make the second batch, the first can be kept hot and crisp by spreading them on a cookie sheet and placing them in a 300-degree oven. The paprika adds a warm, deep color, but can be omitted. An alternative is to toss in 1 tablespoon minced parsley just before serving the potatoes.___Serves 2 to 3
2 1/2 tablespoons corn oil or peanut oil
1 medium onion , chopped small
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (2 medium) or all-purpose potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon paprika
ground black pepper

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer onion to small bowl and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, place diced potatoes in large saucepan, cover with 1/2 inch water, add 1 teaspoon salt, and place over high heat. As soon as water begins to boil, about 6 minutes, drain potatoes thoroughly in colander.
3. Heat butter and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until butter foams. Add potatoes and shake skillet to evenly distribute potatoes in single layer; make sure that one side of each piece is touching surface of skillet. Cook without stirring until potatoes are golden brown on bottom, about 4 to 5 minutes, then carefully turn potatoes with wooden spatula. Spread potatoes in single layer in skillet again and repeat process until potatoes are tender and browned on most sides, turning three to four times, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add onions, paprika, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; stir to blend and serve immediately.
posted by not that girl at 7:36 PM on December 16, 2007 [7 favorites]

Sidenote: As much as I love cooking with cast iron, it can be not-so-good for folks with heart problems who can't donate blood or post-menopausal women, according to some studies. For those times, I have another heavy-duty deep pan I use.
posted by bonobo at 7:43 PM on December 16, 2007

Truffles! A few drops of white truffle oil transform our already wonderful homemade fries into pure bliss.
posted by halogen at 7:57 PM on December 16, 2007

Best answer: OMG OldReliable, paprika represent!

I usually do yams or sweet potatoes instead of just plain potatoes (but russells or yukon golds are pretty good, too - I've always been disappointed with the standard "brown potato that you buy in bags").

Cut them up into homefries-sized bits (about 1.25cmx1.25cmx2.5 to 3cm), throw into a bowl, add enough water to cover, dump in a little salt. Microwave until they're 60-75% "done." Drain immediately (you don't want them to keep on cooking) and rinse with cool water. Drain some more.

Prepare 1/2 corn starch 1/2 white flour mixture (the corn starch makes for crispier outsides), add paprika, salt, white pepper, garlic powder, onion powder - all in a large tupperware thinger with a good lid. Course or sea salt can be nice, too - it gives a little bit of texture to the eventual crunchy outside. If you like savory, you can add a bit of cumin. If you like a bit more zing, add in course chili powder.

By this time the bits should be pretty well dried out. Dump them into the tupperware containing with your dry batter. Close lid, do a shakey dance with it to even coat the tater bits. They should come out with a thin, even layer of dry batter. There should be no clumps and everything should be dry.

Heat skillet to high (cast iron is great) with about 1/4-1/2cm of oil. While this is heating, pick out the dry-battered tater bits into another clean container (large bowl). Dump carefully into the hot oil, stir occasionally with a wooden spatula. Let them sit a bit so they'll crisp on a side before you stir them up to do another side. Don't overload the skillet - the tater bits should take up only slightly more than 1/2 of the surface area of the skillet. It should golden-brown and be crispy on the outside in about 5 to 10 minutes (and the inside is sweet soft gooey goodness - if you want less "gooey goodness," then when you're microwaving the tater bits, only do them up to 50% "done" or so). You might want to lower the heat at some point - you'll have to use your judgment here.

Use a strainer-spatula (metal, preferably - with the round holes in it) to scoop up the tater bits into a clean bowl lined with a paper towel to sop up the excess oil.

If you have more tater bits than will fit on the skillet, you can do them in batches. If you're doing a lot, you may end up with dry batter cruft in your skillet. Just drain the oil through a metal mesh tea strainer into a thick ceramic bowl, wipe out the flour slurry from the skillet, and pour the strained oil back in.
posted by porpoise at 8:14 PM on December 16, 2007 [20 favorites]

Also, while I agree cast-iron is great, fan-fucking-tastic home fries can be made in pretty much any skillet.
posted by desuetude at 8:43 PM on December 16, 2007

Salt, dammit! Salt! Most home cooks fail to season food appropriately. Get thee some kosher salt and apply liberally before cooking potatoes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:04 PM on December 16, 2007

Most home cooks, IME, use too much damn salt. Probably in trying to approximate fast food. :/
posted by rokusan at 10:25 PM on December 16, 2007

Best answer: Add some beets and you have red flannel hash.
posted by LarryC at 10:48 PM on December 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Red potatoes. Dice smaller than 1/2", but bigger than 1/4".

Heat pan (I use anodized aluminum, which keeps them from sticking.) Add olive oil. Add potatoes to pan in a quantity small enough to ensure that they remain in a single layer. Cook well on the first side -- until almost brown. (The first side never browns all that well, so let it go.) Salt, pepper, stir, lower heat.

Continue to cook. When the potatoes are roughly half-browned (as in, browned on two sides), add a diced onion. When they're browned on 3 sides, add a couple cloves of chopped garlic and a jalapeno. Also, about 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds.

Keep cooking and stirring until the potatoes are browned on all sides and the onion is carmelized.

Made some for lunch today, along with some scrambled eggs. Mixed together with some grated cheese and hot sauce, tossed onto a warmed corn tortilla, you've got yourself a bet.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:02 PM on December 16, 2007

heehee =) thanks unSane! - problems I've run into:

microwaving for too long - after the shaking-in-tupperware; the taterbits should still have edges. If they're rounded, they've been pre-cooked too long. It really depends on your microwave and how well you know it. For starters, 30 seconds of high - check by touch/chopsticks followed by another 30s &c. is a good way to start. I've found that as soon as the water starts bubbling/boiling, stop, check, and rinse in cool water.

how much dry batter - I've got small man-fists but one fistful-equivalent of tater bolus = 1 moderate tablespoon of corn starch + 1 moderate tablespoon of white wheat flour. Too much isn't a problem, too little - well, not so much of a problem either but it'll put a crimp into crispy coating.

If your skillet isn't anodized aluminium or really well cured cast iron, then using more oil will help (and make sure it's hot); otherwise the taterbits will stick and you'll end up with a mess. Having the oil be hot before you put the dry-battered bits down will help, too. If the bits are too wet, they'll stick a LOT more than if they're dry battered. When you're draining the bits after the microwave part (I throw them into what I drain spaghetti in), toss them up and down and do that again before you throw them into the tupperware. During the last toss, there should not be any droplets of water coming from the bottom of the sieve. If you're paranoid, you can do the paper-towel thing but it might make the bits too dry and not pick up enough dry batter.

If you're worried about dietary fats, the 'bits'll be sopped off on the paper towel (and since the batter is dry, it's not like it'll glom into the fries) so the amount of oil injested would be the same whether you use lots or a little oil, so if you aren't using a really trusted cast iron or anodized aluminium, use a little bit more oil and don't worry.

If you like fried potatoes; the next time you cook bacon, save the bacon grease - peel a potato or two, cut into 1cm-or-so slices, then take a peeler to them on the long way so you end up with thin potato "linguini." Toss, mix, gather a handful and fry in the bacon grease while smooshing it down with a spatula. Flip after one side gets golden brown. Take it out quickly and blot of paper towels if you like soggy hashbrowns; leave frying in bacon grease longer until golden if you like crispy hashbrowns, then blot on paper towel before serving.

Serve with maple syrup or or honey or icing sugar or vegemite/marmite or jam.

posted by porpoise at 11:19 PM on December 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Hi mudpuppie! Long time! So you like the anodized aluminium too, eh?
posted by porpoise at 11:20 PM on December 16, 2007

A variation on the homefries idea, I've been meaning to try this simple but delicious looking recipe for skillet-smashed potatoes.

Oh, and nthing carmelized onions, yum! What I do is carmelize, set 'em aside, and use the same pan to cook the potatoes that you used for the onions (reintroducing the onions a bit later). delicious!
posted by ethel at 2:08 AM on December 17, 2007

The result is very very greasy, but if you cook on extremely low heat for a long time, you get an almost "confit" effect, with the oil slowly penetrating the outside potato and making it crispy and sweet. In this case, use raw potatoes, not boiled, and cut into relatively small pieces. You can add a bit of ketchup to the oil as the potatoes cook, creating an even more intense flavor.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:48 AM on December 17, 2007

I notice no one has mentioned potato varieties. Unfortunately I'm not enough of an expert to know, but for sure some potatoes fry better than others. All I know about potato varieties is that Yukon Gold are extremely good for mashing, while redskinned are best for potato salads, which leads me to believe they probably aren't your first choice for home fries.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:50 AM on December 17, 2007

This may sound unusual, however, no matter what ingrediants/recipes you choose to use, make sure to throw a liberal amount of chicken stock powder over your potatoes (when cooking)--it's magic!
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:22 AM on December 17, 2007

Dice some pickles real small. Throw them in about half-way through.
posted by creasy boy at 7:24 AM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I grate them with the big grater, start them in water and oil, or bacon fat if available. They cook in the water, and when it's gone, they fry in the oil. Resist the urge to stir frequently. If at all possible, let it become quite crusty and turn all at once. Use a cast iron skillet. It's hard to over season home fries. Rosemary, roasted garlic, roasted onions are all excellent. Serve with salsa.
posted by theora55 at 9:11 AM on December 17, 2007

pwally asks: Why is a cast iron skillet mandatory?

Simply because it's thermally massive. Pre-heating stores up heat energy in the pan, and adding the colder potatoes causes the pan to dump some of that energy into them. But browning (a.k.a. the Maillard reactions) only takes place above 120C/250F, and even crisping the surface requires maintaining a temperature above the boiling point of water, so however much heat the potatoes take up, you'd better have enough left in the pan to maintain that temperature. Otherwise you get soggy pale potatoes.

(Actually, potatoes do this weird thing: If you cook them at too low a temperature for long enough, they get hard without getting brown or tasty. But anyway.)
posted by eritain at 12:57 PM on January 19, 2008

my recipe for homefries is super simple and i always get requests for them:

-slice 5-10 unpeeled potatoes into 1/4 inch thin slices (the larger they start out, the better as they break down)

-dice one large sweet onion like a vidalia

-toss potatoes and onions in a large microwave safe bowl with salt, pepper, and a few tablespoons of light olive oil (rosemary too, if you're being fancy)

-microwave covered for approximately 5 minutes or until onions are translucent and potatoes are softened, yet still firm

-dump the whole bowl, oil and all, into the largest skillet you have, turn the heat to medium high and resist the urge to stir for a few minutes

-flip large sections over with a spatula, rather than stirring with a spoon, to get the most crispiness possible
posted by evalenza at 7:29 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: From a Mechanical Engineer's perspective...

*I prefer slicing the potatoe raw for better control over the cut.
*Slicing finer means means a higher crisp to non-crisp ration. I prefer crisp.
*Cast iron does allow you to crank the heat, which I prefer.
*I use canola oil for the high temperature, which seems to do better than olive oil.
*Use a lot of oil, enough to coat the bottom by about an eighth of an inch.
*Apply medium to medium low heat.
*Place potatoes in the oil, adding no more than one layer.
*Allow them to cook thoroughly. The potatoe should be the texture of a baked potatoe.
*Crank the heat as high as you can.
*Add Garlic, Oregano, Pepper and Salt, to taste. Allow it to cook a bit, before tasting.
*Optionally, you can place a lid on the pan to prevent grease splatters. The water dripping off the lid will kick up the splatter, so just turn down the heat for a minute to allow the splatter to dial down.
*One side should be crisped before turning. If so, turn the individual pieces using a spatula. You may want to check seasoning at this point.
*Heat on high for another few minutes until the other side crisps.
*After the splattering stops, get them out of the pan quickly, and absorb excess grease with paper towel.
posted by kellyrickert at 9:04 AM on May 23, 2008

« Older Help me make good tahini custard.   |   Algorithm Challenge! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.