Recipe from Maryellen Parker
3 Russet potatoes, scrubbed and rinsed but not peeled
Pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lots of bacon fat or real butter (if serving vegetarians)
Optional: Onions, Peppers, Fresh Garlic, etc.
Scrub and rinse your potatoes. There’s no need to get rid of the skins if you don’t want to. (Cheat: can substitute Frozen Ore Ida shredded potatoes, if doing this, do NOT thaw, place frozen potatoes directly on the hot skillet, take about the same time to cook as raw potatoes. Raw potatoes keep their crunchy texture better and less likely to get mushy, but when in a pinch, Ore Ida comes to the rescue!).
Shred your potatoes. (hand grater or food processor, not too thin)
Immediately put the potatoes into a bowl of cold water. Soaking the potatoes in the water removes some of the starch (keeps the potatoes from turning an unappetizing color and sticking to the skillet).
Once the potatoes have soaked for a few minutes, squeeze them out and put them on a clean dish towel. Getting rid of the liquid is key to getting a crispy potato. Wrap them up in a clean dry dish towel and squeeze out any excess water or put them in a cheese cloth, wrap it in a ball, and start twisting the water out.
Now preheat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. You want to make sure the pan is very hot. Add a good (way more than you probably think) amount of real butter (or bacon fat, which I prefer, if not feeding vegetarians). Add the shredded potatoes, turn the heat down to medium-high, and spread them out in an even layer. It’s important to choose a large enough pan so that the potatoes can cook in a thin layer. I only used 2-3 potatoes for a 12-inch skillet. (Can also add onions, peppers, whatever else here if you’d like).
Now you wait. It will be tempting to turn the hash browns as soon as you see some color on the bottom. Resist the urge! When you think the hash browns MUST be ready to flip, wait a bit longer.
When you’re absolutely sure that the potatoes are crispy enough on the bottom, it’s time to turn! Take a butter knife and cut it in half or quarters. Make sure you cut all the way through. Loosen the hash brown all around the edge. Use a metal spatula to carefully get all the way under, beginning at a cut surface, and flip. This is one way to check the done-ness. If it looks good, flip the rest. Add more butter (real butter) along the sides and seams. The second side will take about half as long to cook.
Season the potatoes generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.
The second side will cook faster than the first, so keep an eye on it! You can also put the whole skillet in the oven and broil at the end to get them extra crispy. I usually do this.
Ps. if using bacon fat, start the bacon in the cold cast iron skillet, laying the strips in the skillet before you turn on a low to medium-low flame. Soon the bacon will begin to release some of its fat. When it starts to buckle and curl, use the tongs to loosen the strips and turn each slice to cook on the other side. Keep flipping and turning the bacon so that it browns evenly and cook to desired crispness. Lay the cooked pieces on a paper towel, brown paper bag to dry. And voila, you have some tasty hot bacon fat in your skillet ready to cook some taters! Depending upon how much bacon you could, you can pour out some of the fat before putting taters in the skillet. You don’t need them swimming, but close to it.