There is something incredibly comforting about potatoes. If potatoes were a type of clothing, they would be an oversized, well-worn college sweatshirt. If they were shoes, they would be fuzzy tan-colored moccasin-style slippers. If they were a day, they would be a rainy Sunday where the house smells likes coffee and cinnamon rolls.
That was fun, wasn’t it.
My favorite way to prepare potatoes is in the form of hashbrowns. There is something about the salty, crispy exterior and fluffy garlicy inside that completes breakfast.
You can always count on my recipes to stem from a nostalgic eating experience. In an attempt to keep these extraordinary food moments alive, I use these childhood stories to recreate my own updated versions of these dishes. Case and point…
Each summer when I was a kid–my family would pack our bathing suits, some painting supplies, an Enya CD, and the contents of our kitchen into a cherry tomato-colored Volvo.
Who can say where the road goes?
Well for us, it was to Wrighstville Beach.
It’s no surprise that I ended up choosing to live in Wilmington, as many of my most treasured childhood memories are from summer vacations at Wrightstville Beach. There were always several highlights of this annual trip for me, one of which included the infamous back-to-back picture ritual my sister and I performed each year. As you can tell, this is still an ongoing tradition.
Other than all of our homemade meals, when it came to food there was nothing I looked forward to more than our breakfast trips to Causeway Cafe. As we would step inside the noisy restaurant, dishes would clatter and the aroma of fried bacon and sugary syrup would hit me like a ten foot wave. I remember sticky, overflowing mugs of hot chocolate. I remember infinite stacks of sweet malted pancakes studded with everything from bananas to M&M’s.
But most of all, I remember the homefries. A buttery mix of fluffy and crunchy golden potato bits which had been seared to perfection on a flat-top.Luckily I didn’t just enjoy mind-blowing hashbrowns once a year. When our two sunshine-filled weeks at the beach were up, I didn’t return home to Raleigh empty-potatoed. Just ten minutes down the road was Brigs–a local breakfast cafe with every early morning craving I could dream of. However, it wasn’t the pancakes or omelets that did it for me. At least once a weekend, I would make sure that a large order of their crispy, onion-scented roasted breakfast potatoes made their way into my belly. It was like a warm hug from a good friend.
So now that I’m
an adult all grown up, it’s no surprise that I have a passion for creating potato-filled breakfasts in my own home. At least once a weekend my boyfriend and I skip the 50 minute wait at Dixie Grill and create our very own home-style brunch.
Now let’s talk about your kitchen. Have you ever cut up a potato, put it in a pan, called it hashbrowns, and then realized it was completely undercooked?
One word: PARBOIL.
Parboiling an ingredient literally means partially cooking it. This MUST be done first with a potato if you’re end goal is hashbrowns cooked in a pan. Potatoes are starchy and take a long time to cook, even if they’re cut very small. Once you’ve parboiled them (cooked them about 75% of the way), you can then finish them in a pan. That’s how you achieve that crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle kind of texture that you get at a restaurant.
My other secrets? Using half butter and half oil (butter for flavor and oil for a higher smoking point). Shallots–the red onion’s younger, milder cousin–which caramelize and become both sweet and savory. Garlic and red pepper flakes to create an extremely aromatic base. Lots of paprika. And of course, bright fresh herbs for color and flavor.
And if a little spice doesn’t scare you, grab your favorite hot sauce and go to town.
Full recipe at the bottom.
A tip about timing: If you’re making eggs to go along with your homefries, you want everything ready ahead of time so that those hot, fresh eggs are the last thing on the plate. Brew the coffee, slice the fruit, and get out the plates FIRST. As for the potatoes, wrap them in foil and keep them hot in the oven until you’re ready to ring the breakfast bell. These should be done long before the eggs hit the pan.
Spicy Garlic and Herb Breakfast Potatoes with Caramelized Shallots
4 medium Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Butter
2 medium Shallots, diced
2 small cloves Garlic, minced
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
Splash of White Wine (or substitute Chicken Stock)
2 teaspoons Paprika
1 tablespoon Hot Sauce (I use Texas Pete or Cholula)
2 tablespoons Chopped Fresh Herbs (like Rosemary, Dill, Oregano, or Parsley)
Salt and Pepper
Fill a medium size pot with approximately 3 cups of cold water. Wash potatoes, slice in half, and add to water. Turn water to high heat, and once boiling—turn heat down to medium. Simmer potatoes for 6-7 minutes until a sharp knife slides easily through the largest one. Drain. Let cool and slice into small hashbrown-size pieces.
Add oil and butter to a sauté pan on medium heat. Add shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Add potatoes to pan and a splash of white wine. Scrape up the garlic and shallot from the bottom of the pan. Season potatoes with a generous pinch of salt, pepper, hot sauce, and paprika. If using fresh rosemary, add now. Cook on medium for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until potatoes are golden brown and shallots are caramelized. Right before removing potatoes from the pan, add fresh herbs and stir.
Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Transfer contents of pan to a large piece of tin foil and fold the edges up creating a package for the potatoes—leaving an opening at the top. Place in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking potatoes. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.