Home fries

October 11, 2010 · 12 comments

Who named these? Must they be modified by that adjective in order to separate them from the usual — as in, restaurant fries?

This weekend — a first, I might add — the modifier was truer than usual. We made them from the sweet potatoes (the ones Tim dug from our backyard). A few waxy goldens were thrown in the mix too, as I couldn’t bear to eat all two pounds of the sweets in one sitting (also couldn’t manage to cut into the one that looks like something I should be scooping after walking a dog). But those were from our CSA, which means they were grown next to someone‘s home here in Indy. I think the 5-mile rule qualifies them.

Since we have proven ourselves more than once to be habitual people, I’ll confess that we eat home fries just about every time we grill burgers or dogs. And since we grill burgers or brats almost every weekend in the fall, suffice it to say we eat a lot of home fries. Cheap and easy, with only 20-minutes forethought required. A heavy cast-iron skillet is a big plus, and a tablespoon of duck fat is even better.

Excuse me, but did you just require that I have duck fat in my ice box?

I did. And while I do hate asking for obscure ingredients in recipes, my hope for all of you is that you can at some point find a provider of good-quality duck fat. We, of course, get ours from Chris at Goose the Market. He sells it by the pound, and I usually by a 1/2-pound tub of the pristine, creamy fat, and immediately freeze it in 1-Tbsp measures in an ice cube tray. When I’m ready to make home fries, I grab one lump, and add it to my pan to melt with the olive oil and butter. It really makes a difference — the fries are crispier, with a richer flavor (yes, even with just one tablespoon!). I learned this trick from someone French-like (probably David Lebovitz).

And don’t be afraid of all the fat. Most of it will be left in the pan after you scoop out all the fries, and goodness me, but how else are these things supposed to taste good without a heavy dose of it?

If you’re in need of spicy, toss the hot, still-greasy fries with an herb mixture (we like dried thyme, cumin, a little cayenne). Don’t forget plenty of salt, and of course, pass the ketchup.

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Home Fries

  • about a pound of sweet or waxy potatoes (or mixture), scrubbed well, unpeeled, chopped into bit-sized pieces
  • large, heavy-bottomed skillet (cast-iron works best)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil*
  • 2 Tbsp butter*
  • 1 Tbsp rendered duck fat (optional)
  • salt, pepper, other seasoning

* The amount of fat used can vary. You need equal parts butter and olive oil in enough quantity to generously coat the bottom of your pan.

Heat butter, oil, and duck fat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the potatoes (they should be in a single-layer in the pan) and cook, stirring frequently, for about 15-20 minutes. The potatoes are done when browned and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Using slotted spoon, scoop from pan and let drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Toss with salt and seasoning immediately, while still hot and greasy (fine-grain salt works best).

Serve with plenty of ketchup for dipping.

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This post is part of the Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS.

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{ 10 comments }

Marco W. October 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I love fries! I recently learned that french fries actually come from Beligum. Who knew? After eating fries there, I belive it! Your fries look tasty too! I`m not sure about finding duck oil but I would like to give your recipe a try. Thanks for the post.

katy October 11, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Marco, there is a place in Indy that makes amazing Belgian frittes — perfectly-cooked, perfectly-seasoned, and served with your choice of amazing dipping sauces. The entrées aren’t that great, but everyone is there for the fries. And beer.

The duck fat would be found from a butcher who sells ducks. So in many places, it’s probably not an option. I made them for years before I began adding duck fat, so they are still great without it.

Stefanii Ferenczi October 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Katy–friend of Jen Rader’s and fellow Redeemerite here. Can you strain the fat and reuse it? I do that when I pan-fry tofu or tempeh, but wasn’t sure about the duck fat…

katy October 11, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Hi Stefanii — glad to have you here!
I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for you. I’m not sure if something changes at the molecular level once the animal fat is heated and cooled. Good question though — I might try to look into that some more, and will let you know what I find.

SK October 11, 2010 at 8:36 pm

So the potatoes didn’t need any par-cooking? I’ve always run into the problem of the exterior finishing before the inside is creamy. Maybe the smaller size is key?

Can’t wait to try the duck fat. I’ve been experimenting with rendered pork lard (unsmoked kind — not bacon grease) in some traditional recipes with great results. And, as you said, you don’t need much to taste a big difference. Thanks for the recipes.

katy October 11, 2010 at 9:01 pm

SK, I’ve never had to par-cook, and in fact, when I’ve tried that method, the potatoes never crisp up. It could be that a smaller size is key — also, the pan needs to be pretty hot — I keep mine over a steady med-high flame. This also means you must stir persistently — not constantly, but I’ve served many a plate of fries where one side of each fry is almost blackened. This usually happens if I turn my back on them toward the end.

Are you rendering your own lard?

SK October 12, 2010 at 10:52 am

Good to know about not needing that extra step of par-cooking. Thanks.

I haven’t tried rendering at home yet. I just get a pint at a local taqueria.

DesignHER Momma October 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

I’ve never used duck fat, but I’m guessing it gives the dish a lot of flavor. At least I know where to find it. 😉

Angie @ Just Like The Number October 12, 2010 at 11:13 pm

We do home fries a couple of times a month here, too. Never with duck fat, though. I can imagine I’d be a big fan. Petit Chou fries their potatoes in duck fat and I’d fight you for the last fry. I do par-cook my potatoes, though (of course I do, Chris Kimball told me to do it). Nice to know it’s not totally necessary, though. We just had some local Yukon golds the other night that I cut into coins and roasted in the oven. They were out of this world. God, I love potatoes.

Barb @ My Daily Round October 13, 2010 at 5:41 am

Wow, I never thought of using duck fat, but of course, why not. I don’t know if we have a duck farmer around here, but being outside of Philly, it’s quite possible. I’m looking forward to the search!

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