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Hash Browns [Split from Boston]

[Note: We've split this discussion about homemade hash browns from this thread on the Boston board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/607023 - The Chowhound Team

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Verging into Home Cooking talk here, but draining doesn't get grated raw potatoes nearly as dry as squeezing the heck out of them with a ricer. You want them as moisture-free as possible, which makes it much easier to get that golden crust that you want in hash browns. (They also discolor sitting in a strainer: you want them in the pan fast.) Doing good hash browns for my Sunday breakfast has been one of my cooking Grails for years now. I'm almost satisfied with my results.

http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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  1. OK - so draining on layers of paper towels wouldn't do the trick either? And wouldn't the ricer also squeeze the grated potatoes through the little holes so they wouldn't be grated potatoes anymore, right?

    9 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      I've done the kitchen-towel-squeezing method, and the draining-on-paper-towels method, and both are inferior to ricer-squeezing.

      Raw grated potatoes (quick work with my $25 Benriner mandoline -- thanks, Eastern Baking Co.!) will not go through a ricer, even the disk with the biggest holes.

      (This is why I don't parboil the potatoes: it's hard to get them to "cooked enough to meaningfully shorten frying time" AND "still firm enough that they don't go through the ricer".)

      Rendered bacon fat is my favorite fat for this, though more often I use a decent olive oil.

      http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

      1. re: MC Slim JB

        I'm thinking it's just easier for me to go out for hash browns. :-D But thanks for the tutorial!

        1. re: LindaWhit

          I agree, but good hash browns at breakfast are hard to find in Boston, which is why I've labored so long to perfect them at home. (Pet peeve: "hash browns" that turn out to be ordinary home fries.)

          So, bringing us back to Boston restaurant talk, where are the good hash browns? Been a while since I was back there for breakfast, but I recall Henrietta's Table doing good ones. Mul's Diner in Southie's taste like frozen hash browns to me. Oceanaire and Locke-Ober and luxury steakhouses like Grill 23 do fine versions, but those aren't weekend breakfast or brunch venues.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            That's a good point - perhaps a new thread?

          2. re: LindaWhit

            This whole subthread will get moved to HC -- as it should -- but here goes: it turns out there are several keys to perfect shreddy hash browns, some of which are extremely counter-intuitive. Here's what I do:

            1. Begin heating my Lodge two-burner griddle (flat side up) over very low heat on the stove.

            2. Run one large potato per person through the shredding disk on my food processor.

            3. Dump shredded potatoes into a mixing bowl and fill bowl with cold water. You want the water deeper than the level of the potatoes by a couple inches (they should float or come close), so that the starch on the shredded raw potatoes washes off into the bottom of the bowl. Swirl them about with your hands to make sure they're not sticking together from the starch.

            4. Line a colander with a cotton or linen kitchen towel and lift the potatoes by han out of the water and into the colander. (If you pour the water through the colander, you're just recoating the potatoes with the starch you've just washed off.) Pick up the kitchen towel, with the potatoes in it, by all four corners with one hand. Use your other hand to squeeze the bejebbers out of the potatoes. You will be amazed how much liquid comes out of them. By the time you're done squeezing the potatoes and tightening the towel, you will have something that looks like a fabric-covered water balloon.

            5. Dump the now perfectly dry potatoes into a different -- clean and dry -- mixing bowl and fluff them back into separate shreds. Toss with a lot of salt and pepper. I often add a dash of Penzey's toasted onion powder as well. Real onion has too much water in it for my purposes.

            6. Remember that griddle? It's hot enough now. I turn the heat down as low as it can go on both burners and drop the potatoes in two loose but compact piles. (Note: I'm usually making these potatoes for two people, though I've done them for four as well, just with larger piles of potatoes and longer cooking times.) The finished piles, for two people, tend to be about five or six inches across and maybe 3/4th of an inch high.

            7. You'll note that I didn't grease the griddle. That's because it turns out that the less oil there are on these potatoes, the crispier and tastier they are. (I told you it was counterintuitive.) Normally, I drizzle about a teaspoon of olive oil over each cake at this point: that's genuinely as much as they need, and honestly, you could leave that out if you wanted.

            8. Now I take a pair of lids from our Revereware saucepans and place them over the potato cakes. I learned this trick from a diner in St. Paul. While the bottoms of the cakes are browning on the griddle, the rest of the cake is steaming through and therefore cooking more quickly.

            9. After about eight minutes, I take off the lids and flip the cakes to brown the top side. At this point the potatoes are cooked through, so you don't want to put the lids back on: the key now is crispiness, and they'll only get that if they're uncovered. If the side that had browned first is a bit soft for my liking, I flip them back over for a couple minutes after the second side has browned.

            10. Serve to general plaudits.

            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              11. :::::::MASSIVE APPLAUSE:::::: for Barmy's instructions! I've saved your post to an Email so I have it to try - THIS sounds easy, Barmy - thank you so much!

              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                Clearly the work of much tinkering: thanks so much! Biggest surprise: no fat on the griddle! Can I safely assume you are using a starchy potato like a Russet?

                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Actually, usually either PEIs or Yukon Golds, depending on which looked better at Russo's that week.

                2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                  Guess what I'm gonna be doing on Sunday morning .... drool!

                  THANKS

          3. Here on the West Coast, "hash browns" are always, always, always made from shredded precooked potatoes. If you shred raw potatoes and fry them to a crisp, we would call that "potato pancakes".

            In any diner or cafe I have ever been in, I have never seen anything labeled "hash browns" made from raw potatoes.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Sharuf

              "Here on the West Coast, "hash browns" are always, always, always made from shredded precooked potatoes. If you shred raw potatoes and fry them to a crisp, we would call that "potato pancakes".

              In any diner or cafe I have ever been in, I have never seen anything labeled "hash browns" made from raw potatoes."

              -- Really! You must lead a very sheltered life here on the West Coast. And I have never seen "Potato Pancakes" as you describe on a menu on the West Coast. Also, just curious how you know that a breakfast side labeled "hash browns" was made from either raw OR cooked. You go back and intereview the short order cook?

              1. re: janetms383

                Janet, over the past six decades, I have been to a whole lot of breakfast places all over WA, OR, and No Cal. And the situation was always just as I described. I don't think any of them cooked and shredded their own potatoes. They always seemed to be pouring them out of a big plastic bag.

                You're right about not seeing potato pancakes on menus, other than German places. IHOP dropped them from their rotation a few years ago, unfortunately, (I love potato pancakes). The defining characteristic of potato pancakes is that they always start with shredded raw potatoes.

                How do I know when the fried spuds were made from raw or cooked potatoes? The texture is a dead giveaway. Cooked potatoes result in a lighter, starchier dish. Raw potatoes give a denser, more glue-ey texture. Both ways can be very good. I made my own idiosyncratic variant of corned beef hash tonite, using raw potatoes, which I prefer for this dish.

                1. re: Sharuf

                  Er...rinsing the starch off the raw potatoes, as described above, is specifically done to remove the "denser, gluey" texture you describe.

                  1. re: Sharuf

                    Sharuf, my experience with gluey potatoes has been when I've added flour to hold them together. I also found when I accidentally used the fine shredding blade on my food processor instead of the coarse they formed an unappetizing dense mass. I've had really good luck with raw potatoes that I've lightly salted and drained. I'm going to try rinsing them instead of salting before drying next time.

                    Barmy and McSlim, great tips. I'll have to open my mind a bit to oil-less hash browns, though. I'm usually a bit too generous with the good olive oil.

                    Also, I might try putting some shredded onion in the ricer to dry it a bit and then adding to the potatoes.

                    1. re: bear

                      I like the texture you get from frying a thin layer of shredded raw potatoes - the cohesive center and the crisp outside works well for me. I wouldn't dream of rinsing them. Squeezing them if they seem drippy, but that's it.

                      1. re: Sharuf

                        Certainly can't beat crispy, crunchy potato. I also really like the contrast with a creamy, moist center and crunchy exterior from a slightly thicker mound.

                        Wish I had made them for breakfast!

                    2. re: Sharuf

                      The cafeteria at work fries up a grill top full of hash browns every morning. They're made from fresh, grated raw potatoes. How do I know? I asked. And, they are not gluey.

                      1. re: janetms383

                        As long as they don't call them "hash browns" I've got no argument with that.

                        1. re: Sharuf

                          Everything I've seen/read has hash browns being made from shredded raw potatoes:

                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hash_browns
                          http://www.ehow.com/how_13821_make-ha...
                          http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives...

                          Even the Wikipedia article has it that *home fries* are often pre-cooked, but it says nothing about hash browns being made from pre-cooked potatoes.

                          1. re: Sharuf

                            well i guess you have a problem then cause yeah, they're hash browns. wtf you think they call them

                  2. I MADE HASH BROWNS USING BARMY'S RECIPE YESTERDAY AND THEY WERE DA BOMB!

                    The only things I did differently were:

                    #1 I soaked the shredded potatoes in water in my salad spinner. I used it to spin them dry and then further dried using clean kitchen towel.

                    #2 I gave in and used a small amount of melted smart balance on 2 of the 4 piles. IMO they ended up crispier.

                    I also used russet potatoes.

                    I will absolutely make thse again. They were delicious. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

                    I might experiment by salting the soaking water for more uniform seasoning, next time.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      LOVE the idea of using the salad spinner, CH! Thanks for the tip!

                      1. re: Lisbet

                        Here I go again, being a cranky semantic purist. The Fine Cooking recipe above purports to be Rosti. The author is obviously not Swiss, or she would know that you use all-purpose potatoes, you boil them til they're about 3/4 done, you put them in the refrigerator overnite, then you peel and shred them, and fry until crisp.

                      2. The NY Times published this recipe from Peter David at Henrietta's Table in Cambridge MA. The homefries at the restaurant are terrific...crispy, creamy goodness. I guess the secret is to use yukon golds and gobs of clarified butter.

                        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/mag...

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: bear

                          Those aren't homefries. They're classic hashbrowns.

                          1. re: Sharuf

                            Sorry about that. They are absolutely hash browns, and not homefries.