Photos by Zachary Cross
I remember the first time I made hash browns at home. Actually, a friend that was staying with us offered to make them just like his mom did. He confidently shredded them and prepared to fry them, then was horrified to find that they had turned pink! Who knew that one of our common foods, that seems so simple, could be so complicated?
Potatoes are often considered comfort food. Starchy and mild, they can be baked, fried, or boiled; whole, sliced, or shredded. They are yummy fairly plain, with some salt and butter, or as a complement to more complex flavors.
Potatoes are native to South America in the Andes but have been a staple crop around the world for over 400 years. They’re members of the nightshade family, and potato vines resemble tomato vines, at least from a distance. We tend to associate the potato with the russet, a mealy potato with a brown skin and white flesh. But planting a single variety of potato is boring, and, the Irish found out in the 1800s, downright dangerous. The Lumper potato was as unappetizing (to modern tastes) as it sounds, but, more importantly, put most of the Irish’s caloric eggs in one basket. When it was hit with a blight, more than a million people died, and many who were left emigrated to America. It, too, was a white potato, and is the reason white potatoes are referred to as Irish. But potatoes in South America are are not merely white, or even smooth, or one shape or size. We’re seeing a variety of shapes and sizes coming to market: red, yellow, and blue, large and small, fingerlings and round. But there are even more variations: multicolored, knobby, and even black. Maybe one day we’ll see them here in Chattanooga!
Although there are flavor and texture distinctions among various potato varieties, many are interchangeable in recipes. In addition, recipe authors online are divided on the best potato for hash browns. Some say to use dry potatoes like russets, others that newer, wetter and waxier potatoes have better structure. So that’s going to be a personal preference. If you find your new potato hash browns to come out too wet, you can try russets. Or you can spread the hash browns thinner. Or, maybe you don’t mind a wetter texture to the finished product and they’re great!
Color is definitely going to be a matter of personal taste. I have not made hash browns with all red or blue potatoes. I love their colors, though, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to try it! It can be disconcerting, however, to find your white potatoes turning pink as you work with them. As it turns out, they oxidize, just as other fruits and vegetables do, only they turn pink instead of brown. If you’re making a single serving of hash browns, or having very fresh potatoes, you’re probably fine. Otherwise, dump your grated potatoes in water as you go and then drain well when you are ready to mix them up and cook them. Then squeeze out all the water as best you can, either using a potato ricer or (as I do) squeezing them in a dish towel.
This recipe was originally written for frozen, grated potatoes. That’s what I used at first, but I realized it’s quicker to grate them in my food processor than wait for the frozen ones to thaw. Now I can use market potatoes as well. Win-win! The frozen potatoes are nice and dry, though, so it took a couple of tries for me to get the recipe right with fresh potatoes. Squeeze them well!
I really like the seasonings that are in this recipe. I tend to eat my potatoes fairly plain, albeit salty, but this seasoning combo works out well. As usual, we don’t have garlic powder around so I’ve used garlic oil (reduce the butter), pressed garlic, or garlic chives (at the end) instead. I also use fresh thyme instead of the dried, adding a little more on top after baking. Definitely top this with something green: parsley, chives, thyme, a combination, or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand and like. Cilantro would work well with the cumin and garlic, maybe leave off the thyme.
Adapted from Zesty Baked Hash Brown Recipe on A Spicy Perspective
2 pounds potatoes
1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)
2 large eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
Peel potatoes (optional). Shred on a box grater or food processor, adding shredded potatoes to a large bowl of cold water as you go. When all of your potatoes are shredded, drain, then squeeze dry in a potato ricer or kitchen towel. (see Simply Recipes for visuals and tips)
Whisk the eggs in a small bowl then pour over the potatoes. Add the shredded cheese, salt, cumin, thyme and garlic powder. Toss to coat. Then pour the melted butter over the top and toss to coat again.
Spread the potato mixture evenly over the baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes. Cut and serve warm.
Printable recipe here
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