When I’m looking for a quick side to go along with a steak, pork chops or any other protein I happen to be cooking, these home fries are my go to choice. The potates have a crisp outer crust yet are tender on the inside and paired with the sweetness of lightly caramelized onions are a total winner. The best part, I can make them in under 30 minutes.
The inspiration and method for this recipe came from my America’s Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2010 cookbook. Their secret? Parcooking the potatoes in the microwave. The microwave speeds up the cooking process and allows you to throw them in the skillet just to get the nice crisp crust on the outside. The original recipe uses lemon and oregano to mimic the flavors from a classic Greek diner and I definitely love that version, but find myself experimenting and throwing in what I’m in the mood for. This time I was feeling thyme. Feel free to be creative and use the potatoes as a canvas for whatever flavor you can dream up.
Here’s what you need:
The first thing you need to do is get the onions caramelizing since that will take the longest amount of time. Roughly chop the onions and add them to a 12 inch skillet with a little oil over medium high heat. Cover the onions and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until they start to brown and caramelize about another 10 minutes. Covering the onions during the beginning of the cooking time creates steam and helps speed up the softening process.
After you get the onions going, start on the potatoes. Cut them into about ¾ inch pieces. Place in a bowl and lightly drizzle with oil and toss. And while we’re on the subject of potatoes America’s Test Kitchen prefers Yukon Gold for this dish or red potatoes. Don’t use russets, their high starch content will have them breaking down and turning to mush in the skillet.
Now, here’s the part I was skeptical about, put them in the microwave. Cook them for about 8 minutes, shaking or stirring halfway through. If the potatoes aren’t tender allow them to go another 2-4 minutes. When I make them for a crowd my cooking time definitely increases.
By this point your onions should be cooked. Remove them from the skillet and set aside. Heat some oil in the same skillet and turn the heat up to medium. Add the potatoes and arrange as much of a single layer as you can.
Cook them without turning or stirring for about 5 minutes until browned. Then flip and flatten out again and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
Once the potatoes are browned reduce the heat to medium low and add back in the onions. Sprinkle with the thyme and some salt (I used my homemade smoked salt to get a smoky flavor in the potatoes). Cook for a couple minutes to rewarm the onions.
At the end of the day, how brown the potatoes get is up to you and the patience you have cooking. If your husband pulls the steaks of the grill a little earlier than you expect the potatoes might be a little blonder. And if the charcoal just won’t start they might end up a little on the crispy side. I’ve had them end up both ways and it’s always really good. It just comes down to personal preference.
I’ve made these several times at duck camp. When I’m out there I parcook the potatoes during the afternoon, so when I get back from hunting all I have to do is crisp them up.
- ½ large sweet onion, roughly chopped
- 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes
- Kosher salt (I used smoked kosher salt)
- Canola oil
- Heat a 12 inch skillet over medium-low heat with about a teaspoon of oil. Add the onion and cover. Cook for about 8 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Uncover and cook until they start to caramelize, another 10 or so minutes.
- Meanwhile, chop the potatoes into ¾ inch chunks and toss with a drizzle of oil in a bowl. Microwave for about 8 minutes until tender, shaking once halfway through. Continue cooking for 2-4 minutes if not tender.
- Remove the onions from the skillet and set aside. Add about a tablespoon of oil to the skillet and increase heat to medium. Add the potatoes and press down into a single layer. Cook for 5 minutes until brown on the first side. Flip and continue cooking for another 5 minutes until brown on the second side.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and add in the onion, thyme and salt. Continue cooking another 2-3 minutes. Season to taste and serve.