Saturday, January 10, 2009

Breakfast potatoes

While I was in India last month, one of the things I liked to order for breakfast was eggs and "finger chips." It was on almost every menu and was as simple as it sounds: a fried egg or two with a pile of piping hot French fries, accompanied by a bottle of Indian-style ketchup. There didn't seem to be much in the way of Indian food for breakfast (I gathered that breakfast was not the most important meal of the day there), as most of the breakfast items seemed to be created for Westerners: porridge, pancakes, omlettes.

On my last day there, the Anthropologist and I were going to have breakfast in Paharganj, the neighborhood where the hippies and backpackers hang out, so I could have some eggs and fries while I people-watched. It didn't end up happening, alas, and I returned home craving a plate of potatoes with ketchup. For breakfast the day after I got back, I made my own version of eggs and chips: one fried egg and a large helping of pan-crisped potatoes. With ketchup, of course.

I discovered this method of making home fries through trial and error. With the guidance of Dad's Own Coookbook, I'd made home fries several times, but every time, the potatoes ended up soft and not crispy at all — and if they did crisp a little, the good part would end up adhering to the bottom of the pan, breaking off from the rest of the potato, and burning. I eventually figured out what I was doing wrong: using a pan that was too small and that was not non-stick. I now make my potatoes in a non-stick griddle plan, which has lots of surface space for one or two portions. I also use plenty of olive oil, so that each side of the potato has some fat to fry up in.

Crispy potatoes
serves two

four to six Yukon Gold potatoes, depending on their size
olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut the potatoes into quarters (or sixths, if they're very large). Place in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Parboil for 10 min. Drain.

Heat a non-stick pan large enough for all the potatoes to have plenty of breathing room. Add a little oil, then the potatoes. Move each piece so that a flat side is resting on the pan, and leave until the potatoes turn golden on that side. Repeat with all remaining cut sides, adding a little more oil each time you turn the pieces. Move the potatoes around slightly so they don't stick and also so that they get coated in the oil.

When golden and crispy, season with salt and pepper and whatever spices you like: paprika, chili powder, or even cumin.

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