Wow, you guys. Never have I gotten so many desperate pleas for a recipe as I have in the past few days after the mere mention of hash browns. It's nice to know that I have such a discerning/obsessed readership. Now that we've had a chance to dig ourselves out of the foot and a half of snow that fell yesterday, I'm happy to share my technique. It produces a well-seasoned potato patty that's crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. In short: perfect.
Crispy Hash Browns
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes (or other starchy potato)
Kosher salt and black pepper
Peel and grate potatoes using the large holes on a box grater (watch your knuckles!). Line a colander with cheesecloth or non-linty dishtowel. Set grated potato on towel in colander and sprinkle with several pinches of kosher salt, tossing to distribute. Let sit 5 minutes.
Heat a large skillet (I like cast iron) with 2 Tbsp. olive oil on medium heat. (If you're making the hash browns to go with sausage and vegetable hash, you may have some fat left over in the skillet so you can use less oil). While the pan is heating, gather up the sides of the towel, twist, and squeeze the potatoes hard over the sink so all of the moisture drips out. Repeat several times. You want the potatoes dry, dry, dry before they hit the pan. You should be left with a wad of potato pulp about the size of a baseball.
When the pan is good and hot, take 1/3 of grated potatoes, pull apart, and spread out into a potato pancake no more than 1/2-inch thick. You want the potato loosely packed with lacy edges. Sprinkle with black pepper, press down with a spatula, then leave it alone for about 10 minutes. Time will vary depending on your pan and the flame. When you see the edges start to brown significantly, carefully loosen with the spatula and lift up an edge. If the hash brown is merely golden on the bottom and kind of sags, let it cook more time. What you want is a crust on the bottom that can withstand the weight of the hash brown itself. It's called hash brown for a reason (just take care not to make it a hash black). Flip and repeat on the second side. When nice and crispy brown, let drain on paper towels and season with salt. Repeat with two more batches of potatoes, squeezing any additional moisture that may have been drawn out by the salt, and adding more oil to the pan as necessary. Serves 2 adults and 2 kids (who split the third).
A few other notes: You could probably use a food processor fitted with the grater disk, though it takes less time to grate three potatoes by hand than it would for me to locate and later wash all of the parts of the food processor. Don't let your peeled/grated potatoes sit out too long before cooking or they will turn brown. Also, be sure to rinse out the squeezing towel with water soon afterwards so it doesn't stain brown. If you need to speed up the frying process, use two skillets simultaneously. Finally, if your kids turn up their noses at your beautiful hash browns, just say they're like hamburgers made out of French fries and suddenly at least one of them is chowing down.