Pan-frying is the second best thing you can do to potatoes, so it’s frustrating to get all worked up and excited about them only to discover that the cook has done it all wrong – and it happens more than you’d think.
Frying potatoes is so easy, but like anything worth fussing over, there are steps one must take to do it properly. There’s this place near where I lived when I first moved to the city that does a $2.95 breakfast that will cure any ill you’ve managed to bring on yourself, but nostalgia has me remembering it better than it was. You get fried potatoes with the breakfast, and I remember dousing them in ketchup and being so happy to shovel them into my mouth with a breakfast beer and a pair of runny eggs.
But you see, there’s the first problem. Good fried potatoes don’t need ketchup. Ketchup is the saving grace of sub-par food; if something’s really good, it doesn’t need it.
To properly fry potatoes, you have to take the French fry approach and cook them twice. In the morning, chop your potatoes to a uniform size. I like to be able to eat mine in two bites, for reasons that are complicated but which I cannot tell you about without coming across unstable in the worst case, or anal-retentive in the least.
The little yellow new potatoes are best, but little red ones will work too. If all you’ve got are russets you can still make fried potatoes, but they aren’t going to be as lovely. A slightly waxy potato will hold together more nicely in the pot and in the pan.
Boil your potatoes in salted water until fork-tender. Drain, do not rinse, and then lay them out on a plate or baking sheet. Leave them on the counter or kitchen table for a few hours, preferably all day. You want them to dry out a bit. The second problem with a lot of fried potatoes is that they’re plopped into a hot pan still wet. Moisture is the enemy of frying. I like to boil my potatoes in the morning, go about my day, and then come back around dinner time; the edges get rough and dry, which is perfect for a hot pan – you won’t find yourself splattered with smoldering grease.
And you’ll need duck fat. Or bacon fat. Butter or olive oil or whatever oil you have will work fine too, but if you have duck fat, this is its best application. Use a fat you like the flavour of. And use a lot of it – a tablespoon of fat per person should do it, but use your best judgment. For four servings of potatoes, I used three tablespoons. I might have used more if I wasn’t being stingy with my duck fat reserves.
You’ll also need time. Heat the fat until melted and hot over medium heat in a large pan. Add your potatoes, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Cooking these over medium heat for a long time will mean that your potatoes will crisp up and turn golden and lovely. Don’t rush this. Add salt and pepper, and if you’re feeling fancy, lemon zest or fresh herbs are also nice.
If you’re attempting to seduce someone with roast chicken, these potatoes will seal the deal. And they’re infinitely variable, so long as you pre-cook, dry, and cook low and slow.
There’s room for creativity. Dress them with vinaigrette and scallions for a warm potato salad, or cut into wedges before boiling to make jojo fries. If you’re all by yourself, make just a few and squish a bit of fresh lemon juice over top and eat them in front of the TV with a dollop of mayonnaise for dipping. But no ketchup. You won’t need ketchup for these.
Unrelated to potatoes, my friend Tracy has been actively campaigning on my behalf, as this blog was nominated in a couple of categories in the Canadian Food Blog Awards. I find the attention both extremely flattering and slightly embarrassing, as to be honest I am more comfortable being in trouble than being recognized – at least when I’m in trouble I know for certain I’ve done something to deserve it. One of the conditions of Tracy doing my dirty work is that I am supposed to be more active and shameless with my self-promotion. I’ve mentioned that you can vote for Well fed, flat broke in the People’s Choice category a few times in recent posts, but never so blatantly as this.
I realized after a whole bunch of people on Facebook made profile pictures of this that I look like the hungry version of Simon’s Cat. Also, I think the tiny URL is dead. Please don’t let any of that stop you from voting. Also, when you’re done, go look at the list of other blogs nominated in a range of edible, drinkable categories – they’re all Canadian and really very good. At this point if we were chatting in person, I’d lower my head and try to scurry out of the conversation or make an awkwardly “hilarious” joke to distract us both so we could move on. Imagine that happening right about here.
9 thoughts on “Fried potatoes. Mostly.”
I take full responsibility for your not-very-shameless self-promotion, Emily. YOUR READERS NEED TO KNOW! And hidden at the end of a post isn’t always the best way to reach them you sly fox.
I ❤ you!
PS Thanks for explaining why my hash browns NEVER WORK (it's been one of my life's mysteries. I'm not being sarcastic).
You’re funny. It’s like an anchor, down there at the end! But, like, the good kind of anchor!
You can come here for hash browns anytime 🙂
i think next sunday when we get to “cheat” on our healthy eating plans again, we’ll be having a good ol’ english breakfast with these potatoes!!yummmmm. thanks for the tips. why is sunday so far away?!
Six more sleeps! I count everything in sleeps – makes the time go faster.
They won’t let me vote more than once, or I’d be sniping their site every time I sit down at the computer. 🙂 Sending waves of energize-ment at the rest of your fans!
Thanks, Linda! I feel your energizement waves. They’re buzzy 🙂
My name is Nicole and I live in Victoria. I think your blog is AWESOME, so I voted for you 🙂 I found you through Duran Cheung’s FB page, when he did a photo shoot for you. I’ve read every entry, tried tons of your recipes and I have to say, you’re my food inspiration! Thanks you to, I actually cook at home! (Which has saved my boyfriend and I from being very very very poor). I grew up in Vancouver, so I really enjoy how you blog about lots of local places, and I really appreciated your shout out to Wanna Waffle – I tried it because of your blog and I’m glad I did!
Anyhow, this was very long winded, but the point is that I think you should do lots of shameless self-promotion because you are an awesome blogger 🙂
Hi, Nicole! Thanks for voting, and for saying hello, and for the compliments! I’m glad you’ve tried the recipes and have liked them. I totally hear you about cooking at home – we would be way poorer if we didn’t eat in so frequently. Also, I’m glad you liked the waffle place! We don’t really have anything like that here, so I’ve been trying to figure out their recipe at home; no luck so far (seriously – the sweet/savoury/chewy ones?! Genius!), which may just be an excuse to take the ferry back to Victoria for a weekend.
I voted for you!