I’ll just start out by saying, this is not a fancy recipe. These are the fried potatoes I grew up eating; made in a cast-iron skillet and fried in bacon grease over controlled heat. The recipe isn’t complicated, but mastery of it takes time. A lot of time.
In my case it took somewhere around 10 years.
There are no times associated with this recipe. In all actuality, it’s more a set of guidelines. You have to be able to feel when it’s time to move on to the next step. It’s not hard, but it’s not easy, either. It’s kind of like walking, simple as an adult, but it was a bugger when you first started doing it!
The first time I tried to make fried potatoes my mother’s way it was a total disaster. The potatoes stuck to the pan. Once I’d pried them loose, they burned almost immediately. The onions were nothing but black bits.
It was horrible.
And she just smiled.
I was 16 at the time. Relegated to kitchen duty because it seemed that my sister and I had taken my mother a bit to much for granted. Our penance for this oversight (and it was one!) was that each of us was to take charge of the house for one week. I will admit to failing miserably at it, but mom got her point across.
I never quite got over the burnt potato bit. I would try to make them, but if they looked perfect on the outside, they were raw in the middle. If they were done in the middle, they were either steamed instead of fried, too greasy to eat, or blackened beyond recognition. The heat was either too high or too low, or something else.
I remember that when they came out properly, my mother would always say.
“Granny was with us, they’re perfect.”
I tend to say something like
“Mom musta’ been here, these are perfect!”
These spuds are my ultimate comfort food, especially when paired with beans and cornbread.
I will share with you what I can of the magic that is Dorris’ Fried Potatoes, and I wouldn’t suggest you give up if the first attempt fails. The result, when it comes out properly, is nothing short of amazing.
- Four to seven russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. (This depends on the size of the potatoes and the size of the skillet. My skillet is 11 1/2, so I can generally fit 6 medium sized russet’s comfortably. A different sized skillet means a different amount.)
- 3-7 Tablespoons bacon grease (or butter, or olive oil, or Crisco… I’d go with the bacon grease if possible)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add fat of your choice allow to come to a shimmer. (Just before smoking.)
Add potatoes to skillet as quickly (and safely) as possible in a single layer. If you’ve cut too many to fit in the pan, make them in batches.
Reduce heat to medium low, then walk away. Do not attempt to move the potatoes around, they’re stuck to the pan like cement at this point, and that’s exactly what you wanted to happen. Hang out, have a cup of coffee and use your ears and nose to guide you.
When there’s nearly no sizzle left in the pan and the potatoes start smelling almost sweet, it’s time to stir it up. Use a stiff spatula and carefully dislodge the potatoes from the bottom of the skillet (if they’re sticking at all.) then walk away.
Moving things around in the pan too often will irrevocably damage the process. Wait about 5 minutes and stir the potatoes again. Take stock of the amount of grease in the pan. If it looks dry, add another tablespoon.
Salt the spuds profusely. Don’t worry, they’ll soak almost all of it up without a noticeable effect on taste, but now is the time we want them to start letting go of the moisture we’ve trapped inside. Wait about 5 more minutes and toss the onions into the skillet. Add pepper.
By now it should be safe to keep them moving more often, and you’ll need to do so if you want to keep the onions from burning. Caramelized is fine, burnt isn’t.
When the onions are cooked to your liking and the spuds are fork-tender, you’re done.
(you’ll probably want to add more salt at this point, so give ‘em a try)
Serve with beans and cornbread, or just toss some cheese over the top and drizzle with your favorite hot sauce and Enjoy!
We all have our own “Ultimate comfort food.” What’s yours?