Diner-style home fries are the ultimate breakfast-all-day guilty pleasure: perfect, impeccably crisp, home-fried potatoes. While the well-seasoned, flat griddle at the diner certainly helps, the real secret is pre-cooking the potatoes.
Element of Distress
We know that most restaurants use leftover roasted or boiled potatoes (preferably medium-starch potatoes that hold their shape well) to make their home fries. But who has precooked potatoes at home? Skip this step and you’ll end up with a greasy mound of crunchy potatoes.
Line of Attack
We’d employ the microwave to help us cook potatoes in a jiffy—because our idea of a good morning isn’t getting up at the crack of dawn to boil or roast potatoes.
Here we are in front of the microwave, bowl of raw potatoes at the ready, fingers hovered over the buttons. It’s time to zap! After just five minutes in the microwave (with only a touch of butter, which added a rich, nutty taste), the potatoes were parcooked and ready for the skillet.
Now for the frying—and keeping things crunchy. To replicate the heavy cast-iron tool used in many diners to press the potatoes flat against the griddle, we needed to weigh down the potatoes as they cooked in a hot skillet. We tried packing the potatoes down with a spatula and let them cook undisturbed. After five minutes, the potatoes began to develop a golden brown crust, so we tossed them around, packed them down again, and waited some more. After repeating this process a few more times, the potatoes were evenly browned and extra-crusty.
Sautéing onions along with the potatoes would seem harmless, but the onion’s moisture caused the home fries to lose their cherished crust. To keep the potatoes crispy, we browned the onions separately and added them to the pan just before the potatoes were finished. Taking a trick from our local diner, we tried sprinkling the home fries with a bit of garlic salt just before serving. Its deep, savory flavor nicely balanced the sweetness of the onion and potatoes.
Finally—hassle-free home fries worthy of their name.