Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ranch Potatoes (Hashbrowns)

I'm a country girl.  Growing up on a ranch, we often had cookouts with all the extended family.  My great grandfather and grandmother would man the cooking stations, as they made country fried steak (we call it cube steak), biscuits, and gravy.  All of this was cooked in dutch ovens over the fire pit, and they had it down to a science.  Everything always tasted so good, but my favorite thing ever...the one thing I left lots of room for on my plate, was a big serving of ranch potatoes.

The anticipation of these ranch potatoes started days before, when a handful of grandkids would peel bags and bags of potatoes.  We were a large group of people, so we needed lots of food.  I remember sitting outside, with a potato peeler in one hand and a chunky potato in the other, with a milk bucket in front of me, to deposit the newly peeled potatoes.  Some of my siblings or cousins were always there too, for it took quite a number of us to peel 60 pounds of potatoes.  Most often, this chore was met with grumblings and complaining, but I remember being happy that I could do it.  First off, peeling potatoes for a cookout meant that we got paid!  Sometimes I even had a whole five dollars that I would get.  Awesome.  Second, I knew that peeling potatoes meant I would soon get to pile my plate with all the ranch potatoes I could eat.  It was a good thing.

Learning how to make these delectable dishes was passed down to each generation.  Even after we moved away from the ranch, we would still have our ranch cookout meals.  Every year that we went camping as a family, we would always have this meal as well.  I still love cube steak and gravy, and it's one of the rare times I buy steak.  I love love love eating our family's biscuts, but unfortunately that is something I haven't yet perfected how to make.  However, there is one thing I can do really well.  That is, of course, ranch potatoes!

These are well known by the name of Country Fried Potatoes, or Hashbrowns.  We call them Ranch Potatoes, and here is how you make them.

First off, you need enough potatoes for your family (make extra, because these are so good and you will want enough to satisfy every one's intense desire for M.O.R.E.!!  Peel the potatoes, rinse them, and dice them up into small bite-size pieces.

You will need a deep dish frying pan that has a lid.  The bigger it is, the better. You want as many potatoes layering the bottom of the pan as possible, so you get some nice browning color.  If you use a soup pot, only a small amount of potatoes will ever get browned.  For Ranch Potatoes, you need some nice crispiness throughout ALL the potatoes.  The more browned, the better.  Thus, you need a big pan, with a lid.  Having a lid is necessary.  If you cook these potatoes without a lid, the outsides will brown too quickly and the insides of the potato will still be undercooked.  Ok, so Pan + Lid.  Got it?

Next, you need some vegetable oil.  You need enough to coat the bottom of your pan, plus a little.  I used about a quarter of a cup of oil, maybe more.  When your oil is heated up in your pan, add in your potatoes.  Thoroughly stir your potatoes.  You should find that there is enough oil still on the bottom of your pan, and your potatoes should be nicely coated with oil as well.  If not, add more oil now.  Oil is essential to crisping up your potatoes, and having them not stick to the bottom of your pan.

Seasoning:  Now is the time to season.  I use a healthy amount of seasoning salt, lemon pepper, and black pepper.  Potatoes need to be seasoned well, so don't be afraid to shake shake shake.  You can always add more seasoning at the end, if you find that you didn't add enough now.  After you season, stir again to thoroughly combine.  Make sure the potatoes are nicely spread out along the pan, place your lid on the pan, and begin the anticipation.

Your heat should be on medium high.  Don't make it too hot or it will burn before it's done.  Likewise, if your heat is too low, you'll never get your potatoes browned.  My stovetop burner was on 8.  Now, watch the clock.  About every 4-5 minutes, you need to stir/flip your potatoes.

You will start to see some color, after a few flippings.  That's what we want.  Now, place the lid back on and don't touch for another 4-5 minutes.

Oh look, more color.  Nice beautiful potatoes.  Make sure to keep the potatoes spread around the pan, so they can get browned!  Put lid back on and wait some more.

Oh, now that's good.  You'll notice that the potatoes are starting to feel softer, with each flip.  That is the key to using a lid.  It steams and fries the potatoes at the same time.  Genius.  Put the lid on and cook some more.

Ok, now we are getting serious.  All of that lovely browning is looking good!  At this point, your potatoes should feel nice and tender, when you are flipping them over with the spatula.  If your potatoes are cooked through, you can keep the lid off now, but we still need more cooking time in the pan, to get more browned and crispy.

Oh look at  those beauties!!  One final round, and they should be done.  Another couple of minutes, and the underside of these potatoes will be nice and crispy. are done!

Remove your ranch potatoes into a bowl.  If there is a lot of oil left, you can drain the potatoes on a paper towel before transferring to your serving dish.  Taste a nibble, and see if you need additional seasoning.  Now is the time to add more, if needed, because it will stick to the oil on the potatoes.

Now, eat the perfection.  Yum.  Ranch Potatoes are a good thing.  Just remember that these bad boys can be served any time.  Besides breakfast, serve them alongside hamburgers, or some baked chicken, or with a steak.  They taste excellent with gravy as well.  If you want to go the extra mile, you can cook up some bacon, and use the bacon fat to cook the potatoes in, and then add the crumbled bacon at the end of the cooking process.  Delicious.


Shavonne said...

Oh yeah! Makes me want to cook myself up some ranch potatoes, cube steak, gravy and buscuits! I miss those cook-outs

Becky said...

ooohhh, now that looks delicious! I will be trying these very soon. Thanks for the recipe.