Wednesday, June 1, 2011

1 potato, 2 potato, pan fried potatoes, more!

Let's get this party started with my favorite versatile ingredient (albeit an ingredient I should use in moderation) the humble potato. It's delicious in every form be it baked, fried, roasted, mashed, pureed, whipped, shredded, and on and on. And as a side dish the potato is awesome at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. For today's blog I'm going to go over my favorite preparation and that's pan fried potatoes. Now, some will say "hey Rich, this sounds and awful lot like home fries". Well, you'd be correct. This really is a classic home fries preparation but I like them as a side for dinner as well. They come together faster and with less steps then mashed and taste better and doesn't require turning on the oven then baked. French fries rock but the whole pulling out the deep fryer thing on a random night is just too much effort (and my place ends up smelling like a Speedy Change Oil for a week). No, I choose pan fried potatoes because they're crispy outside and silky smooth inside and are really a breeze to make

So, this is going to be a loose preparation without a precise recipe (this will happen a lot). This is mostly because this is supposed to be versatile and to be versatile it means using what's on hand. The great part about this type of potato is that because of out secret weapon (read on) the insides will be cooked perfectly without the outside burning from over cooking as is often the case.
So, for the ingredients we will need:

potatoes- I prefer russets or something with a sturdy skin as we're leaving the tasty skins on. I'm using 3 large potatoes as that's how much my pan will hold. Whatever is left over will become, well, leftovers
fat- butter, olive oil, corn oil...whatever you have. I use a combination of butter and olive oil myself
Dry spices- Whatever you have on hand but at the very least salt (kosher or sea salt) and black pepper (fresh ground). But whatever else you have (within reason) works. I typically use seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and onion powder. I've been known on occasion to use bacon salt or a little cayenne depending on my mood but again, use what you have

For the hardware:

frying pan with lid- Size doesn't matter (that's what they all say) but a proper fitting lid is integral. If you have one I recommend using an electric skillet with lid as the thermostat keeps the heat constant so you won't have keep messing with the oven knobs
sharp knife- Please, no steak knives. Just grab the largest knife you got with that block of knives you bought
Slotted spatula or spoon
cutting board
plastic bowl w/lid
Strainer or colander

Step 1- Prep the potatoes- A small (but not tiny), even cut is critical to even cooking. I start by halving the potatoes, then cutting the halves in thirds lengthwise, then crosscuts in about 1/4 segments. Throw the cut potatoes in the bowl and fill with cold water. Let them sit in the water for at least 15 minutes before draining off the excess water in the colander or strainer (in water in the fridge the potatoes will still be awesome the next day). This will take care of any excess dirt from the potato skin and it washes out some of the starchiness.

Step 2- Season the potatoes- Add your seasoning to the bowl (in this case about a tsp of seasoned salt and garlic powder, 1/2 tsp or onion powder and 1/2 tsp half hot paprika) lid up and shake to coat. In an ideal world let the seasoned potatoes sit for about 10 minutes but if time is of the essence, rock-n-roll

Step 3-Get your fat hot. If using an electric skillet set to 350. If on a stove top set to medium high heat. I'm using a 14" electric skillet so I use about a quarter stick of butter and approximately 4 tablespoons of olive oil (not extra virgin). These measures aren't exact but basically you want to coat the bottom of the pan. I like butter for the taste and olive oil for the frying and it keeps the butter from browning too much. When the oil/butter comes to heat (drop one small piece in, listen for the sizzle) CAREFULLY add the potatoes to the pan and distribute them evenly on the bottom of the pan

Step 4- Let the potatoes sit for around 5-7 minutes (don't wander too far as depending on the actual heat of your pan and size you cut the potatoes this will vary) then take your spatula or spoon and turn them over. You will never get them all turned over perfectly but that's ok. Give them about 5 minutes on that side. Next comes our secret weapon...steam

Step 5- Move the potatoes around again with your spatula/spoon. Grab the did remember to use a pan with a lid, right? OK, lid in hand add a couple tablespoons of water to the middle of the pan and put the lid on. The steam will expedite the cooking of the inside of the potatoes giving you the fluffy inside to contrast the crispy outside. Steam is a great secondary cooking method for anything you want to ensure doneness on the inside while not burning the outside (chicken, sausage, etc). Leave the lid on for 3-5 minutes. When you remove the lid be careful as there will be condensation. Move the potatoes around one more time and let cook for a few more minutes. Test a piece. They should be fork tender. If not give them a couple more minutes continually moving them around

Step 6- Remove from the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy

I love the taste and texture of potatoes cooked like this. Yes, they are pretty much home fries but with the savory seasoning they work as a great side for beef, chicken, anything. And if you're cooking for one they hold up very well as leftovers (I love using leftovers in a nice ovenbaked frittata but that's for a future blog). Want to kick this up another tasty and sinful notch? Take a pound of bacon and cut it into one inch pieces. Render these down in the pan you're going to cook the potatoes in making bacon bits (or lardons). Remove the bacon (you know where I'm going) and use the bacon fat to cook your potatoes in the method described above. Awesome!! Another notch (sorry Emeril)?? When cooking is complete, add back the bacon and a healthy fistful of shredded cheese, lid it for just a minute to melt the cheese and you have a heart attack in a pan...but in a good way

Try this one and tell me what you think. With the hot weather here it's a delicious side dish without having to turn on the oven (or crank up the grill for those lucky enough to have a yard). If you try this let me know the results. If you have an interesting variation to the ingredients or methodology, let me know

You can make this dish, no excuses!

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