Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Making 'Wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee' Hash Browns from Charlotte's Web.

Breakfast is the first scene in Charlotte's Web. In fact, the drama of saving Wilbur's life faces Fern before breakfast is even ready, giving rise to her father's advice to her snoozy brother, Avery, that only the earliest risers get themselves a pig. 

That American Farmhouse breakfast consisted of all good things. Coffee. Eggs. Bacon. And Hash Browns. I love hash browns but have only ever had them from a factory-sealed packet. I was very excited at the prospect of eating them again, and of making them myself. Beforehand, though, I did a bit or research as there seems to be divided opinion on the method. I've linked to two good but widely differing recipes here, from BBC Good Food, and The Guardian. The main variants are whether to use raw or pre-cooked, floury or waxy potatoes and whether to chop them or grate them. 

According the the very thorough and enlightening Guardian article, the version with raw, grated, waxy potato is a Swiss thing. For the authentic American experience, the name 'Hash' comes from the French verb "hacher" - to chop up. It seems that it was usual to chop up leftover, cooked potatoes. It's an interesting article, so do have a read and decide for yourself what most suits you. Both seem like goers to me, and although I think the latter are what might have graced the table of the Arables, the recipe in my challenge bible is more along the style of the Swiss idea, and one I'm keen to try, so this is where I start and then I can play around from there. This recipe doesn't include onion, where many do. And it is cooked as one, rather than the individual, triangular things I am used to!   Like so many things, it's not truly about being right or traditional. It's about finding out what you like and what works well.

So here is my first try. 

This recipe is very simple....

..... containing merely grated potato and salt and pepper. 

 Oh, and leftover bacon fat. I didn't have any of that, so I cut off some bacon rind and rendered the fat out of it in the pan, to give me a nice load of bacony oil. 

I grated extra potato and mixed half of it with a bit of grated onion so that I could experiment with both. The generously seasoned grated tato all went into the hot pan and I prodded it all flat and let it cook for about 7 minutes, til it was brown and crispy.

Then I cut it in half and flipped it, letting the second side brown too. Then I served it with the bacon, (re-hotted back up in the pan and a little ocean of baked beans.) By the way, this was not breakfast, it was our Sunday lazy teatime, instead of beans on toast.

I then cooked up the oniony version and tried that with a morsel of bacon and eggs. I think it was a bit too oniony and although fairly enjoyable to eat, it's not my preferred idea of a hash brown. I know now that I should have grated the potato using the big holes. The fine shred meant that once the potato was pressed into the pan it formed more of a pancake. Nice and crispy, and tasty, but a bit strange. I will try it with the thicker grater and then I will try the other method, of using pre-cooked, chopped up potato. I think this will be more my cup of tea, both to make and to eat. I love corn-beef hash, so I think this will have some of that appeal. Plus, I personally wouldn't be up for grating potatoes first thing in the morning if I already had some cooked and chopped and ready to go. I can imagine Mrs Arable would be more of that school of thought too. Also, grating the potato creates a lot of juices which you have to absorb into kitchen roll. I'm thinking that I'm more of a sauteed potato girl. In wedges or in round slices, I just love them. They are easy and delicious and are perfect with bacon and eggs. 

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