From JEFF COX
Your Local Market Blog
My mom made the best has browns ever, but the recipe passed on when she did many decades ago. Since then, I have been trying to recreate her hash browns. After many, many years, much trial and error, and lots of failure, I’ve finally been able to produce Hazel Cox’s hash browns from my very own kitchen, and they are as delicious as I remember them from my childhood.Here’s how to make them.Start by filling a large saucepan with water and add a scant teaspoon of salt to the water. Turn the heat to high and let it reach a full boil.
Use Yukon Gold potatoes. She probably used Russets, a floury type, simply because they were the only potato variety available back then, except for red starchy potatoes. Yukon Golds are choice because they are sweet enough to brown up nicely. Start with about three pounds. Cut them into small, 1/3-inch cubes. I set a potato on its side and cut 1/3-inch rounds to the middle of the spud. I set these rounds, largest cut side down, on the cutting board. There will be three or four rounds, depending on the size of the original potato. Then, very carefully, I cut down through the stack of rounds at 1/3-inch intervals, turn the stack 90 degrees, and cut again at 1/3-inch intervals across the stack. I repeat this with the second half of the potato. It yields a nice pile of small, raw potatoes. I repeat the process with all the potatoes.
Now scoop up all the potato cubes and place them in the boiling, salted water. Stir every minute or so to prevent the potatoes sticking to the hot bottom of the saucepan. In about five minutes, each little cube will be al dente—done “to the tooth” as the Italians say, meaning that they are cooked but still retain some firmness. Remove the saucepan to the sink, pour off most of the water, and fill the pan with cold water to stop the cooking. Set the pan with the potatoes and water aside.
In a large iron skillet over medium heat, lay four slices of thick, applewood smoked bacon. Turn the slices frequently to encourage the bacon fat to run. While the bacon is cooking, dice a small onion. I cut off the root end and the top end, then make a score on the skin from one end to the other and remove the outer layer of onion skin. Then, using a sharp knife, I make slices about ¼-inch wide down from the top end toward the root end, side by side, but not all the way through the onion. I turn it 90 degrees and again make ¼-inch slices from the top end down toward the bottom end, but not all the way through. Now I set the onion on its side and make ¼-inch slices from the top end toward the bottom end, resulting in a cascade of ¼-inch dice. When I reach the part of the onion that hasn’t been cut, I turn the onion interior side down, cut ¼-inch slices across this butt end, turn the end 90 degrees and make a second row of ¼-inch slices. Now the whole onion is diced.
The bacon should be sizzling and yielding up its fat to the skillet by this time. When the bacon has started to become brittle and rendered out most of its fat, remove the slices to paper towels. Use this meat for salad dressing, BLTs, or what have you, but it’s the fat in the pan that you want. Now drain the potatoes and add them to the skillet set over medium high heat. Turn the potatoes every couple of minutes with a spatula, lifting then and turning them over so a new side will start to brown.
After 15 minutes, add the diced onions, and continue turning every two or three minutes. Right about now, add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. This is a personal preference, so I’m not going to suggest amounts of salt and pepper. Personally, I like lots of pepper and less salt. But add the amounts you like.
Turn and cook the potatoes until they achieve a speckled brownness, but don’t let them burn black, even a little, for that means they are becoming bitter. This may be another 20 minutes of so. Serve immediately. I guarantee the potato lovers in your family will bless your name.