Duck Fat Home Fries

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Weekday mornings are admittedly still a challenge for me on Whole30 - I usually grab dinner leftovers from the fridge rather than try to squeeze in time to cook. It's been a while since I've made a big breakfast, so I was excited to indulge this weekend. If you're a savory breakfast fan, it's actually pretty easy to keep things compliant with the program. Steak and eggs fit the bill perfectly, and since you can enjoy any kind of potato on Whole30, a side of crispy home fries was in order.  Crispy is the operative word here.  I can't tell you how often I've eaten out for breakfast and the potatoes seemed more like an afterthought on the plate. Soggy, pale, underseasoned home fries are not even worth the extra calories. But done right, home fries are damn near the star.

The technique here will be familiar if you've prepared my sausage hash recipe in the past. Steaming the potatoes first cooks them through so they're tender inside; a splash of vinegar helps the potatoes keep their shape when pan-fried. These days I've been using Russet potatoes instead of Yukon Golds because the texture gets so much more fluffy on the inside, but either variety will work. The real secret here is a couple tablespoons of duck fat incorporated into the oil. Besides the incredible flavor it adds, duck fat gets the potatoes super crispy without burning like butter would. (On that note, if you don't have any duck fat on hand, clarified butter or ghee will work. But you're missing out on the best part of the recipe!)

Duck Fat Home Fries

2 Russet potatoes (about 3/4 lb total)
1/2 tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white distilled vinegar)
1/4 cup neutral cooking oil (such as canola, safflower or grapeseed)
2 tbsp rendered duck fat
1 red onion, diced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Serves 2
Special Equipment: Microwave steamer basket, Large cast iron skillet or other heavy bottomed pan

A microwave steamer basket makes the first step incredibly easy. Simply scrub, peel and dice potatoes into 1/2" chunks. Toss in the steamer basket with a 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt and the vinegar. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

(If you don't have a microwave steamer basket, use a microwaveable container with the lid cracked open slightly.)

After 5 minutes, uncover the lid to allow steam to escape. Drain off any excess liquid. The potatoes should have softened, but aren't really tender enough to eat yet. You'll see a sticky layer of starch covering them, which is what will crisp up later. Let the potatoes air dry for a few minutes while heating up the skillet. If they're really wet you may want to spread them out on a plate to dry faster.

Over medium to medium-high heat, warm the oil and duck fat until shimmering. You may need to play around with how high to heat your skillet, but if you're using cast iron err on the side of caution. If the skillet starts to smoke it's too hot to cook the potatoes; they'll burn first. Once the oil is hot, carefully transfer the potatoes to the skillet to avoid splattering grease.

Spread the potatoes out in a single layer so that they all have contact with the skillet. Let them be for a few minutes to let one side crisp up in the oil. Don't try to move them around too early because they'll be stuck to the pan at first. When the potatoes release easily, they're ready to be stirred. Rearrange them again in a single layer to continue crisping the other sides.

Every few minutes, stir the potatoes again and repeat this process until you start to see more of a uniform golden brown color all over the potatoes. Do a taste test to check if they need any additional salt, adding a pinch if necessary. As you cook the potatoes, they'll absorb some of the fat in the skillet. This isn't deep frying, so they don't need to be swimming in oil, but you can add another spoon of duck fat if it's needed to keep things moving.

After ten to fifteen minutes, your potatoes should be looking more like home fries, with crispy edges starting to form. In a small dish, mix the smoked paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and garlic powder to evenly distribute. Add the diced onion and all the spices to the skillet. Season with a small pinch of salt. Stir to toss the potatoes until they're evenly seasoned.

Keep cooking the home fries for another five to ten minutes, until the onions have softened and potatoes have reached desired crispiness. Add the chopped thyme in the last couple minutes of cook time, and do one last taste test for salt.

Serve immediately! I love surprising people with these home fries, especially since most have never really had awesome breakfast potatoes. If you cook for a person who doesn't really understand the hype about duck fat, this is a great way to introduce them.

Oh and about my breakfast splurge? I did a coffee-rubbed strip steak, a sunny side up egg, lemon roasted asparagus, and these crispy duck fat home fries. It was glorious. 

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