Is Brown a Noun?

The humble Hash Brown.  Or is it Hashed Brown.  Hashed Browns?  No matter.  This humble dish is taken for granted in just about every restaurant that serves breakfast.  Entire 6’x4′ griddles are devoted entirely to hashed browns, and, even with Sous Vide, they are a little time intensive.

At home, pancakes are frequently substituted; hashed browns may require too much effort that early in the morning. Like dairy farmers, most professional cooks don’t really know what “early in the morning” means, but let’s not digress. Cooked potatoes cannot be depended on to grate in a consistent way, and frequently just turn to mush.  Like onion rings and french fries, most restaurants buy them frozen to avoid the labor and the annoyance.

But, WAIT!

Who would have thought?  Sous Vide makes a huge difference in the texture of potatoes, Russet or otherwise.  Not being exposed to water or steam prevents the dissolution and discoloration that plague us.  Also, pasteurized potatoes will keep a LONG time in the fridge, for those of us that like to buy them in bulk.

potatoes sous vide

Ingredients/Procedure:

  • Russet potato, one each, 12-16 oz., processed via Sous Vide @183Fx1 hour

potatoes sous vide

  • Peel, and grate,or “hash,” the potato.  I like the old fashioned box graters, but you gotta watch your knuckles.  Let that last little nub of potato go…

potatoes sous vide

  • Chives are a great addition, when they are available.  I deep fried these in advance, but they’re good raw in there, too.

potatoes sous vide

Hashed, but not Smashed

  • 1 oz. neutral oil in a 300F pan–infrared thermometers are great investments.
  • Gently sprinkle the potatoes and chives into the pan, and even out with a fork so they don’t get compressed.
  • Let them sizzle, be patient.  You can actually see them browning around the edges; you don’t actually have to lift up the potatoes to gauge color, but you can.

The pan is the thing, the thing is the pan…

The anxiety most frequently associated with making hashed browns is “will they stick?”  I don’t use Teflon pans at home, I always seem to burn them up. But there’s no shame in using a Teflon pan, they work, they are safe.  If you don’t use Teflon, it’s important that your pan (or griddle) be thick enough to conduct evenly.  Cast iron is wonderful, but you occasionally see them in other substances these days.  There is no shame in spray release (Pam) either.  It’s oil, with a little bit of lecithin, which helps prevent sticking, and is nutritionally neutral.

potatoes sous vide

  • Pinch of salt, pat of butter will melt down.  It’s not a low fat thing, but, if they appear too oily, put a paper towel on top after you flip and it will absorb quite a bit.

sous vide hash browns

Flipping without a spatula is daunting to the novice.  It’s just a matter of practice that most of us don’t get.  You CAN slide the potatoes out onto a plate with a piece of waxed paper on it, invert the pan on top, and then flip the pan and the plate at the same time.   This is also a complex, dangerous maneuver.  Soooooo…

Here’s what you do!

By now, the potatoes have shrunk in height considerably. Without turning them over, slide them on to a plate, and fold them in half, so there’s crust on both sides.  They will look like this:

take one

That’s what I call “one from the vault”

take two

I hope this little lesson was helpful.  Like I said, hashed browns are an ancient and ubiquitous item, at least in restaurants.  But, Sous Vide really helps us re-imagine methods that we have abandoned for being too much work to do at home.