The joys of home fries and wine

Two characters from "The Achewood Cookbook" offer recipes and their opinions about fine food and drink. Bon appetit!

Published April 10, 2007 10:30AM (EDT)

A Meditation on Home Fries
Thoughts & recipe by Roast Beef

I think all of us are kind of on a life-long quest for a breakfast restaurant where the home fries ain't completely horrible. You know what I'm talkin' about. I know cooks at breakfast restaurants ain't usually too well trained but dang I have seen some messed-up home fries in my day.

Major Problems of Restaurant Home Fries

1. There is no commonly agreed upon definition of "home fries"
2. There is no agreed upon size for "home fry" cubes
3. Some people apparently think home fries need to be extremely gray and soft
4. No one seems to agree what should be thrown in with home fries (i.e. onion, bell pepper, garlic, etc.) or how they should be spiced
5. I have even seen home fries where the potatoes were somehow chewy. Once you make a potato chewy you are doing things so wrong that you would be better off just not touching the potato at all, and instead giving it to the customer so that he could take it home and try to make sense of it himself.

The Right Kind of Potato

Red potatoes (which are a "waxy" type of potato) can be cubed and throw directly into the pan. Russet potatoes ("starchy") need to be soaked and rinsed a few times before they can be fried, otherwise all their starch gums up the process. I prefer the ready-to-go potato for morning cookery.

The Right Cut

The home fry potato should be cut into uniform cubes about the size of computer keyboard keys. This makes them big enough to get a crispy surface while just turning creamy soft on the inside. It also makes them easier to pick up with a fork and stick some eggs with. Much smaller and they'd be trouble to a fork.

The Right Cooking Method

The best thing you can do to a cooking home fry is leave it alone. Constantly flipping them all around just keeps them from getting that nice golden brown crust. Trusting yourself enough to leave frying food alone is a major milestone on the way to learning how to pan fry. Only undisturbed food can form a great golden crust.

Put a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to just coat the entire bottom. When a drop of water thrown into the oil sizzles, throw in your potatoes to make one even layer. Don't stack -- use multiple pans if you need more potatoes. Toss a few times in the oil and then just leave be. In a few minutes of sizzlin' you should see some brown creepin' up the bottom edges of the potato cubes -- that's how you know when to flip them. Let them fry several more minutes after flipping so that multiple sides get that nice golden brown. Taste a cube every now and then to see when they're creamy inside. When they are, you're done. Slide them onto your plate and sprinkle lightly with salt.

The Right Seasoning

If you salted the potatoes a few times during frying and then once more lightly at the end when they were removed from the pan, you don't need a bunch of crazy seasonings. The potatoes themselves have a beautiful flavor and don't need a bunch of miserable onion powder or celery salt. Don't get bogus with your potatoes. I have seen a lot of breakfast restaurants try to make up for all of their other shortcomings (lousy tea, filthy bathroom with a safe in it, waiters with dreadlocks) by putting like ten spices on the home fries.


Usually home fries cook the slowest of any item in your breakfast meal. Eggs, bacon, ham, pancakes -- these all cook faster. So cook off your home fries first and put them in a bowl in a low-heat oven. Put foil over 'em if they're gonna be in there more than a few minutes. This will keep them from drying out.

There you have it, perfect home fries every time for pennies on the restaurant dollar.

Oh yeah:

Ingredients for One Serving
1 baseball-sized red potato
Oil (olive oil preferred, vegetable oil OK)

How You Gotta Enjoy Wine
Technique by Ray Smuckles

What's the big deal with wine?! I think in the 80s and 90s people thought it was kind of a complicated thing. You know, like how you had to have the perfect wine to go with whatever food you were eating, or you would look like some kind of clown with a problem in his mind. Man, that is ridiculous. You ain't gotta be careful about wine. You just gotta have some. On that note, here are some tips on the basic enjoyment of wine.

Stick with bottled wine.

Basically, don't get the stuff that comes in the box unless you're just plannin' on goin' crazy for the night (gonna jump on the hood of a friend's car that's peelin' out, etc).

All whites: keep in fridge. All reds: room temperature.

Beyond that there is a whole other world, but all you gotta know is this: there's reds, and there's whites. You always serve a white wine chilled (fridge temperature) and a red at room temperature. I don't need to explain why this is. It is basic.

Don't worry a bunch about matching wine to food.

"How do I match my wine with the food that I made? Can you tell me?" people ask. Ain't no one cares if you match the wine to the food! You know how some people got perfect pitch, and always like wince and complain about whatever you play on your musical instrument, or point out how the music you listen to isn't actually "correct"? And they only listen to classical music? They are like the people who worry about wine matching food. Everyone hates them.

You should not hate the way a wine tastes.

If you take a sip and you completely hate it because it is awful, then there is a problem with the wine. Sometimes wine interacts with the cork and tastes like a swamp. You can return that wine to the store for a full refund. If they say you've had too much of it, maybe go through the produce section and kind of knock some fruit down on the floor.

Sometimes decanting and breathing a wine can soften its strong original taste. What is all that mumbo jumbo? It is a way of mixing the wine with more air so that all the nasty stuff takes off into the environment. To decant and breathe a wine, simply pour it into a decanter and leave it open for a half hour or so. If you never got a decanter from anyone, just pour the wine into a big bowl and then put a turkey baster by the bowl so that people can serve themselves some perfect wine.

There are different ways to hold different wines.

You know stemware? Glasses with stems? Then I got two tips to help you not make a tacky mistake next time you are at a party. It is real basic:

Is there white wine in the glass? Hold it by the stem.

This way your hand does not heat the wine. Yes, the situation is really that delicate. And people will notice. There is nothin' more trashy than a lady holdin' white wine by the bowl of the glass. I immediately leave the party if there is a lady like that there.

Red wine in the glass? Hold it by the bowl.

By Chris Onstad

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