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Home Fries are Good Again!!!!

Jim Leff Jun 10, 2008 09:04 PM

This may be the most important posting I've made in years to Chowhound.com. I am ecstatic with this news, and awestruck by the sense of uplift and liberation it will surely trigger in my fellow food-lovers. I know it sounds a bit zany and overblown, but it's true, every word of it. Really true. I've detected a tectonic adjustment in the space/chow continuum and...home fries are good again.

I mean it. After decades of horrendous decline into vestigiality, delicious pure home fries are starting to blossom, like post-apocalyptic wildflowers. Everywhere I go these days, it's as if the tuber fairy has waved her mottled wand over the grill. Home fries are good again.

Yes, during the preceding Dark Ages there were regions where home fries never got that bad. In such places, home fries are now nothing short of galvanizing. In the NY tristate area, where home fries had metasticized into a cruel joke - a needless, gratuitous tamping down of the inherent goodness of fried spuds, they are resurrecting. They are shaking off their cynical debasement with bell pepper chunks. They are divesting themselves of their fake orange hue. They are casting aside their sog and their funk. Home fries are good again!

They're even good at night, now! They're just good! Go see if it's not true. I'm not saying that every plate is perfectly socko. No, as we transition from those bad, bad times, and rub our eyes in the newfound sunlight, there will remain pockets of unrepentant badness. These pockets will, soon enough, be illuminated. It's only a matter of time. It is inevitable.

It's safe, everyone, really. It's been like a bad dream, but it's over. Yes, I know you haven't ordered home fries in years. In diners and coffee shops, you have been meekly accepting the freezer-burnt mealy steak fries with your burgers, because there is no longer reason to request home fries, which would likely be worse still, in their stead. You have forgotten all the ways in which you may have once sought out home fries, back so very long ago. You have closed that book. You have turned your back. You have moved on.

But just as Quisp came back, so have home fries.

Home fries are good again.

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  1. vvvindaloo RE: Jim Leff Jun 10, 2008 10:38 PM

    Well, I know I'm excited. I've been following an extended detox regimen after I overdosed on that nasty orange glow substance.
    I love potatoes. Especially home-fried potatoes... I'll have to order them again soon.

    1. l
      LStaff RE: Jim Leff Jun 11, 2008 06:58 AM

      >Everywhere I go these days, it's as if the tuber fairy has waved her mottled wand over the grill. Home fries are good again.

      Can you send that fairy over to the metrowest Boston area please?

      1 Reply
      1. re: LStaff
        Jim Leff RE: LStaff Jun 11, 2008 07:50 AM

        Have you TRIED home fries there? I mean recently? Or are you just coasting on opinion inertia from years and years of bad experience?

        We're all going to have to unlearn so much.

      2. TonyO RE: Jim Leff Jun 11, 2008 07:57 AM

        Agree. One of the simplest yet most rewarding forms of The Exalted Spud have embraced their former glory. In interior that is light and fluffy with a golden cripsy exterior. Who needs ketchup ?

        1. lisavf RE: Jim Leff Jun 11, 2008 12:39 PM

          What to your taste makes the perfect home fries? Just curious.

          2 Replies
          1. re: lisavf
            Jim Leff RE: lisavf Jun 11, 2008 07:54 PM

            lisavf, I've been praying all this time not for "perfect", but for decent. You may be too young to remember when home fries were things people actually ate with gusto.

            As to my aesthetic, I'm pretty open. anything spuddy that's chunky or sliced and fried, with both crusty and moist components.

            But, man, I hope this thread doesn't degenerate into a sprawling thread where 500 people chime in on what their idea of perfect home fries is! :)

            1. re: Jim Leff
              KevinB RE: Jim Leff Jun 13, 2008 04:11 PM

              Mr. Leff,

              You do realize how ironic your post is, given that the recipe teaser immediately next to it is for some "Southwestern Chile Home Fries"?

          2. BarmyFotheringayPhipps RE: Jim Leff Jun 11, 2008 12:44 PM

            I need a ruling from the judges on this. Canonically speaking, what ARE home fries?

            Where and when I grew up, home fries were the subset of hash browns that were neither shredded nor cubed, but made from sliced boiled potatoes, usually with the skin on. Not everything I've seen on a menu that's called home fries fits under this description.

            5 Replies
            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps
              KevinB RE: BarmyFotheringayPhipps Jun 11, 2008 06:24 PM

              You are close, but home fries are definitely not a "subset" of hash browns any more than scrambled eggs are a subset of omelettes. You have described the basic ingredient correctly - cold boiled spuds (usually cooked the day before), sliced irregularly, fried on a griddle or in a skillet (most authentically in bacon fat or butter), with optional additions such as chopped onions, chopped up (real!) bacon, and Jim Leff, I'm sorry, but Mom would put in some bell peppers if she had them around. (Hey, I put beans in my chili too; sue me.) The thing that distinguishes good home fries from their imitators is a slightly crispy crust and lashings of fresh cracked pepper.

              Home fries are *NEVER* deep fried, and I get deeply offended when I go in for breakfast where they advertise home fries, and I get receive some previously frozen, deep fried waffle chip/tater tot/etc. Feh.

              Now, if I could only get more places to carry HP sauce to go with the eggs, breakfast could be perfect again...

              1. re: KevinB
                TongoRad RE: KevinB Jun 11, 2008 06:50 PM

                Hmmm...the ones I recall from the past few years have all been cooked on a flat top, but have tended to suffer from the 'whiter shade of pale' syndrome (or 'not enough oil'). Pretty flavorless stuff, obviously made in too large of a batch and piled too high on the griddle. I suppose one that could make a batch too greasy, but the ones I have encountered have been the opposite. Oddly enough I was just ruminating about this very topic this past weekend when I made up a batch and tried to get the perfect texture- it takes just the right amount of oil and just the right amount of heat to get the magic to work- maybe that's why they have rarely been as good outside of the home.

                I'm also with you and your mom, Kevin- I consider the bell peppers an added bonus (but certainly not necessary.)

                1. re: TongoRad
                  KevinB RE: TongoRad Jun 11, 2008 07:43 PM

                  Totally agree with you that home fries cooked with a "neutral" oil, such as corn or canola don't get the same crispness and colour that fries done in bacon drippings and/or butter do.

                  And I also agree the onions/peppers/bacon are all optional add-ons. Mom also used to go out to the garden, and come back and fry up a sliced green tomato to serve next to the fries and eggs (and the fresh perch I'd just pulled out of the lake). I never liked the tomatoes as a kid, but actually find them tasty now. Go figure.

                  1. re: KevinB
                    grayelf RE: KevinB Jun 12, 2008 05:32 PM

                    My at-home home fries work because of a combo of half oil, half butter IMO -- allows that crust to form that is one of the hallmarks of home fries for me and Kevin B above :-).

                2. re: KevinB
                  chazzerking RE: KevinB Jun 12, 2008 08:21 PM

                  Kevin; I would agree totally with your recipe, but would add that apparent bane of Mr. Leff; paprika. Not the dull tasting food coloring that is sold in most supermarkets but the spicy flavorful stuff that comes form Spain or Hungary that adds just the right kick to the taters. I could eat a whole skillet full. but they need to have that burned starchy crust to really be right.

              2. The Dairy Queen RE: Jim Leff Jun 11, 2008 12:45 PM

                Excellent news! Perhaps I should put away the catsup, now.

                I know there are at least two places around town I've been enjoying the home fries lately--I just didn't know it was part of a trend.


                1. JonParker RE: Jim Leff Jun 11, 2008 03:22 PM

                  But... but... what do I do with all these potatoes I bought now?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: JonParker
                    allieinbklyn RE: JonParker Jun 12, 2008 07:13 PM

                    It's funny - i was just complaining to a friend yesterday that all the home fries I've had recently have been awful. Albino, tasteless, etc. If any of you find good ones in NYC, you let me know.

                    IN the meantime, what are the cubed versions technically called?

                    1. re: allieinbklyn
                      Jim Leff RE: allieinbklyn Jun 12, 2008 07:33 PM

                      By "recently", do you mean NYC home fries seemed better before? Or is this your first time eating homefries here?

                      If the latter, you should have seen 'em before!

                      1. re: Jim Leff
                        allieinbklyn RE: Jim Leff Jun 20, 2008 07:46 AM

                        Well, I was born and raised here and frankly don't ever remember them being very good. (But I'm only 24).

                        1. re: allieinbklyn
                          Jim Leff RE: allieinbklyn Jun 20, 2008 08:41 AM

                          Per my OP, they've been crappy for decades.

                  2. s
                    soupkitten RE: Jim Leff Jun 12, 2008 07:53 PM

                    omg i am *so* confused. wtf is quisp? and when exactly did fresh skin-on wedges or rounds of potato, fried in duck/goose/bacon fat in a cast-iron skillet, s&p-- or in *whatever* fat medium, EVER become something that was bad, necessitating becoming GOOD again. with. all. due. respect. and all. when did this travesty of "bad" home fries happen? and where? who defiled the home fries, making them orange somehow? is this some macrobiotic freaking *joke*?

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: soupkitten
                      Jim Leff RE: soupkitten Jun 12, 2008 08:28 PM

                      Soupkitten, I'm talking about restaurants. You can figure that's the case for postings on Chowhound that aren't on Home Cooking.

                      Most restaurants have for the past few decades, in my opinion (and that of many others), been making exorable home fries. And many diners die their home fries orange (I guess with achiote or something).

                      1. re: Jim Leff
                        TongoRad RE: Jim Leff Jun 13, 2008 07:01 AM

                        I've actually seen them use ketchup (I'm pretty sure it was at Thomas' Ham and Eggery, where you could see them cooking, but that was a long time ago...)- I'd take achiote over that any day ;)

                        1. re: Jim Leff
                          Boccone Dolce RE: Jim Leff Jun 16, 2008 06:56 AM

                          It shocked me that a small, local breakfast place here in Central FL makes perfect home fries. There are VERY few plces that I have noticed here in the land of no diners that even have those words on the menu. Usually it's a choice of hash browns or grits.

                          1. re: Boccone Dolce
                            Jim Leff RE: Boccone Dolce Jun 16, 2008 07:11 AM

                            It's all coming together.

                        2. re: soupkitten
                          KevinB RE: soupkitten Jun 13, 2008 07:19 AM

                          First, Quisp was a breakfast cereal in the 70's; the usual crunchy, sugary concoction whose marketing gimmick was a little spaceman.

                          And, as far as the demise of home fries, at least in Toronto, many places advertise "home fries", but then serve you some kind of deep-fried previously frozen mush that resemble real home fries to the extent that Adam Sandler resembles a comedian. The orange tint Mr. Leff refers to comes from over-used, under-filtered oil that imparts neither the flavour nor the authentic crispy brown exterior of the real thing.

                          1. re: KevinB
                            Jim Leff RE: KevinB Jun 13, 2008 08:19 AM

                            So it's an international problem!!

                            Adam Sandler....guffaw.....

                            1. re: KevinB
                              soupkitten RE: KevinB Jun 13, 2008 08:35 AM

                              i figured that out about the "home fries" -- we're hitting a regionalism i think, because around msp most/a lot of places never stopped making real home fries-- fresh, skin on potato, cooked in veg oil (not bacon grease or duck fat-- that *is* more home cooking as JL says). you also won't find chopped peppers in home fries around here, unless the cook has a death wish.

                              the orange, once-frozen things you don't see in restaurants at all-- you see them *only* in the mid-tier grocery store deli (cub, rainbow, super valu). they are next to the premade corn dogs in the steam table, they are packaged in a white bag with silver thermal liner, and they are called "jo-jo potatoes." i agree, these in no way resemble home fries.

                              1. re: soupkitten
                                chazzerking RE: soupkitten Jun 13, 2008 11:27 AM

                                I would reiterate my point above. the orange color is added to make them look like paprika has been used, which in my opinion is an important ingredient in good home fries. But it must be good, real paprika, not the orange food coloring that is sold in commercial vats(Sysco and its ilk) or in most supermarkets(mcCormick's etc)

                                1. re: chazzerking
                                  soupkitten RE: chazzerking Jun 13, 2008 11:57 AM

                                  forget the paprika-- are we talking about jo-jo's standing in for home fries in the ny/toronto region, or not?


                                  1. re: soupkitten
                                    chazzerking RE: soupkitten Jun 13, 2008 12:05 PM

                                    Well, I was just kinda disregarding that aspect of the problem, to bore(!) ino the other part. But I know what you mean. I generally won't order home fries until i see some going by on a plate and can see that they are real ones. Unlike some of the other posters her, I like O'Brian potatoes(with red & green sweet peepers diced into it. I also believe that oniions are required for home fries to pass my "authenticity" test.

                              2. re: KevinB
                                Scargod RE: KevinB Jun 16, 2008 11:01 AM

                                Are you suggesting that paprika is coloring the oil, so they get orangier and orangier?
                                I want my home fries "quisp" on the outside.

                                1. re: Scargod
                                  chazzerking RE: Scargod Jun 16, 2008 02:57 PM

                                  I think in the case that thet are talking about, the coloring agent is achiote, and it definitely will color the cooking oil. When you go to a supermarket and see the fried chicken drummies in the meat case and they are the color of a HoJo roof, achiote is usually the culprit. not much flavor, but pretty intense color.

                            2. Passadumkeg RE: Jim Leff Jun 16, 2008 08:03 AM

                              Maine is a rural potato producing state, home fries are part of the culture and have always been great. Red potato ones yesterday, nice and crispy with Eggs Chester (spinach, crab cake, poached egg, and Halland. sauce) with a side of superior corned beef hash.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Passadumkeg
                                Jim Leff RE: Passadumkeg Jun 16, 2008 03:34 PM

                                Where??? I could be there by morning!!

                                1. re: Jim Leff
                                  Passadumkeg RE: Jim Leff Jun 16, 2008 04:50 PM

                                  At Chester Pikes Galley, on rt. 1 Sullivan, just N. of Ellsworth a 1/2 hr detour if one is headed to Acadia Nat'l Park. The lobster Benedict otta be illegal and the corned beef hash is far and away the best I have ever had; 3/4 corned beef, 1/4 potato. Sometimes I just get a side of home fries, a side of corned beef hash w/ a fried egg on top. The women that run it got tired of the Bar Harbor touist scene and moved N. across Frenchman's Bay. The pies ain't too shabby either!

                                  1. re: Passadumkeg
                                    Jim Leff RE: Passadumkeg Jun 17, 2008 08:40 AM

                                    Crap. If only I'd known during my Chow Tour: http://www.chow.com/tour/1761

                              2. Scargod RE: Jim Leff Jun 16, 2008 11:25 AM

                                I think someone recently slipped something into your spuds, Jim. Perhaps it's that you don't get out much like you used to. Or, perhaps it's because I don't ever get home fries with my meals in the CT or NY(NYC, mostly) area. My last half-dozen times of visiting Texas and eating at the local cafes have all produced the magnificent spuds which you are saying just re-surfaced. And no bell pepper, either.
                                But hello home fries! As long as you are happy, or deliriously happy, that's fine!

                                1. mayiomoula RE: Jim Leff Jun 20, 2008 06:57 AM

                                  I'm joining this discussion late, but I would like to chime in about my experience of home fries in the Philadelphia area. I regret to say that there has been no home fries renaissance here. I would say that Pam cooking spray has been the death of them. I have always loved home fries, and until the past few years never doubted that the home fries I ordered at a diner or a coffee shop would be good. Now, what I get is practically just the original boiled potato, pushed around on a grill with some other boiled potatoes, then slapped on a plate. It's all because they're using that blasted cooking spray on the grill. Once they go back to using good old fat, home fries will be what they once were.

                                  1. n
                                    Naptown Nosher RE: Jim Leff Jun 20, 2008 07:04 AM

                                    Now, when you say home fries, are you referring to good ol' fried potato slices or potato wedges? I like both, and I will say that there's been too big of a deficiency of them in my diet over the past 20 years. Mom used to make fried potatoes and onions, eggs and bacon for breakfast, but I could never get anything like that in a restaurant. Plus, I used to be able to get potato wedges everywhere when I was a kid. Now, I'm forced to indulge my wedge cravings at grocery store delis (when I'm lucky enough to find one that has them!). It's high time for the return of the noble home fries. I'm ready.

                                    1. Greg Strong RE: Jim Leff Jun 20, 2008 08:03 PM

                                      I would concur that there has been a sea change in the home fries offered by some of the influential restaurants here in the NYC area. In our neighborhood(Morningside Heights), a place called Community Food and Juice has been offering a great plate of home fries with about 1/10th of the potatoes replaced by carrots. Fun and worth trying. Also, yes, the sickly orange pallor has faded from home fries in greasy-spoon diners and high-falutin' restaurants alike.
                                      My greater concern is that not a single restaurant (and I've had this conversation with several dozen cooks and waitstaff around New York) serves hash browns.
                                      In the Midwest, shredded potatoes fried to a large, loose but crispy cake are a way of life. Here, I repeatedly see the words "hash browns" on menus, and when I order them, I get home fries. I appreciate the Jim Leff-inspired movement away from dull, lumpen pasty home fries, but I still miss hash browns.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Greg Strong
                                        Scargod RE: Greg Strong Jun 21, 2008 06:09 AM

                                        Shakespeare's The Tempest:

                                        Full fathom five thy father lies:
                                        Of his bones are coral made:
                                        Those are pearls that were his eyes:
                                        Nothing of him that doth fade
                                        But doth suffer a sea-change
                                        Into something rich and strange.

                                        Shakespeare meant the transformation by death. While common usage allows this expression for any kind of change, it is fun to reflect that the original meaning was so serious and mystical.
                                        Home fries have't died. They've been alive and well in some parts. They may have been abused, tortured or metasticized in some parts of the country, but they didn't die and come back as something new. More like "born again".

                                        1. re: Scargod
                                          Jim Leff RE: Scargod Jun 21, 2008 06:39 AM

                                          Thank god they didn't come back as something new (like Quisp, now missing its brown sugar)!

                                          Were they preserved as spores, do you think? Or were Benedictine monks patiently transcribing and retranscribing recipes?

                                        2. re: Greg Strong
                                          Jim Leff RE: Greg Strong Jun 21, 2008 06:37 AM

                                          I'm not sure I've personally inspired any movement aside from peristalsis. But consider: you wouldn't even be talking hash browns if home fries hadn't come back. The very fact that you hold this bittersweet hope is a sign of a break in the clouds.

                                          Who knows, Greg. One day perhaps even Rösti. Dare to dream.

                                        3. t
                                          Toni6921 RE: Jim Leff Jun 20, 2008 10:30 PM

                                          I haven't ordered them out in a very long time. I've always been disappointed. When I cook them at home, I slice the potatoes thin, and fry them with onions in bacon fat. That's how I was taught by my Mother. I fry them until they get crisp on the bottom, flip them over with a spatula, when they're almost done, add a little water to allow the steam to cook them though.

                                          Home fries are not deep fried. And they're not grated either.

                                          1. Kholvaitar RE: Jim Leff Feb 17, 2013 06:17 AM

                                            Here's a recipe--

                                            Sweet Potato (w/ Apple & Rosemary) Home Fries


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