Thursday, February 3, 2011

No Recipe Hash Browns.

Remember that last post about summer? And I asked if we were there yet?


Ha. We are far, far from it.

Here is the nice thing about blizzards: Being inside. Especially when inside involves a fat brown cat, a fireplace, movies checked out from the library, and hash browns.


I've been making these hash browns a lot lately, without any real thinking -- just grabbing the ingredients, eyeballing measurements, telling doneness by the texture of the potatoes and the sizzle of the pan. I've been needing this. Not just the hash browns, but the whole process of making food from the senses, without following any directions. Because honestly, I'm getting sick of recipes.

Sometimes they just get in the way, I think. Making long grocery lists every week. Having to stop what I'm doing every few minutes to double-check measurements. Dirtying up way too many cups and spoons. Burning the onions because I spent too much time reading the next step. I started following recipes more closely when I got into counting calories and losing weight for various reasons (a trip to Mexico, a wedding or two, my own self-esteem). And now, two pants sizes smaller, and I'm tired of reading recipes. I'm ready to start cooking again, my way.

And it started with hash browns, which we've been eating around here for breakfast and for dinner. With eggs and with sandwiches. On Sunday mornings and on snowy weeknights. While other recipes are tried once and tossed, these hash browns are made over and over again, using nothing but sight, smell, touch, and feel. And taste, of course.

hash browns

No Recipe Hash Browns
I will, of course, continue to follow recipes, because I'm really not cool enough to make up all of my own dishes. But a recipe should be more of a guide, to be adapted to the cook's tastes and instincts. Below is not a real recipe. It's just how I cook hash browns.

potatoes, whatever kind I have, as many as I can eat
onions
green pepper, or red pepper, or no pepper
garlic, lots of it
olive oil and butter, or just butter

Chop up those potatoes in equal size pieces. Drizzle olive oil in a hot pan over medium heat, and add the butter. Toss in the potatoes, spread into a single layer, and don't touch them for five minutes. They'll start to sizzle and whistle and brown in the pan.

While I'm waiting, I chop up some onions and peppers.

Give the potatoes a good toss, then spread in a single layer again. Don't touch for five minutes. Add salt and pepper. Maybe even some seasoned salt.

While I'm waiting, I'll smash and mince the garlic. I use a lot -- about 4 big cloves. I love garlic.

Toss the potatoes again. They should be getting pretty brown. This is when I like to push them to one side of the pan, add my onions and peppers and garlic to the other side, let everything cook for a minute or two, then toss and let it all get good and brown for five minutes or so.

I know it's done when I pluck a potato (or two or three) from the pan with a wooden spoon, place it in my mouth , and it's just how I like it.

18 comments:

  1. a few things here:
    i love the winter shots. i am not envious of the snow dumpage you received, as MD barely avoided it.
    yay for going down two sizes! congrats!
    and recipes like these are the best, not having to think, but rather, feel, see, and taste as you cook. best

    ~Lan

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  2. Yum, garlicky potatoes! That has got to be the coolest cat picture I've ever seen.

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  3. I would just like you to know that one of the first things I thought about when this blizzard hit was how much I looked forward to your pictures of it. You didn't disappoint. Beautiful!

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  4. These look great. I love hashbrowns! =) That's a lot of snow!

    I completely understand what you mean about cooking from the senses, ( I call it cooking from the heart!) I do that myself. Infact, I mainly make up my recipes, so now that I am blogging it is difficult for me to put recipes that I made up down in specific measurements ..hahaha..but it's a fun adventure! I appreciate recipes though, especially when baking!

    Good for you, for listening to your heart and just cooking. That's how it all started before the recipes!

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  5. Love the cat picture!! Precious!
    These has browns look delicious- the perfect cold weather food!

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  6. I know exactly what you mean about following a recipe then never seeing it again. It seems like the dishes I make from memory or senses are the ones that stick around.

    Loved reading this post.. Hope you're staying warm!

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  7. Hey Jax -

    Recipe free is the way to be! (sometimes)

    I have no ability to follow a recipe exactly. In fact, aside from my attempts at baking, I don't think I ever have!

    Enjoy your snow! I like your kitty pic :)

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  8. Lan - Thank you! Yes, the snow is beautiful but it's a major pain. The huge piles of snow make it hard to drive around corners, and sometimes I feel like I'm living in the Ice Age. Also, I think not following recipes is the best way to learn.

    Nicole - Thanks. He's also the coolest cat ever. :)

    Shanna - You are so sweet! You can look back at these photos if you get tired of the weather in Nashville, and remember that heat is always better than winter.

    TheFriendlyFoodGirl - I feel the exact same way when it comes to following recipes and then not having any measurements to post on the blog! I end up writing a lot of disclaimers that warn the measurements are "very, very loose."

    Antonietta - Thanks! I think hash browns are the perfect anytime food! :)

    Laken - Seriously, there are only a handful of recipes that actually make it to the regular rotation of meals around here. And even then, they are always tweaked to our tastes. Thanks for the kind words!

    Les - I love how you can just make up recipes in your head and they turn out awesome! That is true cooking talent, chica. Stay warm! p.s. I think your blog needs more Troy pics. :)

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  9. So true - a guide. Coming from the land of sunshine, your weather looks exciting! Enjoy it!!

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  10. Sara - Ha, I never thought of it as exciting, but yes, there was a lot of excitement around here regarding The Blizzard. And can't complain about cozy snow days, I suppose! :)

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  11. I'm on a hash kick, which of course requires me to make hashbrowns. I generally use a technique that I heard on Splendid Table--I par boil the potatoes and then chop them up. Do you have any issues with the potatoes taking forever to cook all the way through? What would you say is the amount of time it takes to cook this way? Sorry for so many questions--I'd love a quicker way to make them!

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  12. Hi Jen! I'd say it takes me about 20-30 minutes to make these hash browns, and that includes chopping time. The key to getting the potatoes to cook quickly is chopping them small and in equal sizes -- that way they cook faster and at the same time. Also, I've found that spreading the potatoes in a single layer and only flipping them a few times really helps. Constantly tossing them can slow the process, since many pieces may not get enough heat for enough time. If you throw the potatoes in before your veggies, and chop up your veggies while the potatoes cook, it helps the time go by faster! Hope that helps!

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  13. These look delicious! Recipe-less cooking is the best way to cook during this kind of weather, I think. Next time there's a snowstorm, I'm making hash browns. xo

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  14. Looks so good, my wisdom tooth hurts so I can only eat liquid food...so I surf the web and salivate over delicious meals like this one LOL

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  15. Look delicious! I sometimes have a hard time veering off of exact ingredients so it's good to know a couple of things to use and then add as you go. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. Molly - Hash browns make everything better -- even snowstorms! Although, I certainly hope there are no more storms in your area, with all the pounding you've been getting this winter!

    ChocoBen - Oh that's a bummer! When your teeth are all better, be sure to have a feast! Thanks for stopping by.

    Ashlea - Thanks! The key to cooking as you go is to taste as you go. That's the best part. :)

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