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Diner-Style Hash Browns

Diner food epitomises quick, greasy, satisfying cuisine. You can get scrambled eggs, meatloaf and black-and-white cookies all at the same meal at any time of day. The first thing I always go for is the black-and-white, personally, but I know that the thing people love most abvout diners is breakfast food. Eggs, hash browns, pancakes, bacon and toast, in some combination with a side of orange juice and bad coffee is something that just can’t be improved upon. If it progresses beyond the adjectives simple and adequate, with some optional greasy-ness thrown in, it isn’t diner food anymore.

Now, don’t misunderstand me: I love diner food. I wouldn’t stop going to diners just because they aren’t the French Laundry. Cookies aside, there is one main reason for this: hash browns. I don’t make them at home and I don’t usually see them on menus anywhere else.

I decided to make these at home because there aren’t too many diners out here on the west coast. I’d prefer to wait until I’m visiting relatives in New Jersey, the diner capital of the world, than visit a sub-par establishment. The hash browns are buttery and crispy and simple. You can make them smaller if you wish, but in a diner the portions will be big.

Diner Style Hash Browns

2 medium baking potatoes

1/2 onion, diced (optional)

4 tbsp butter

salt and pepper

Wash the potatoes and coarsely grate them. Toss onion in with potatoes, if using. Divide into 6 even piles.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tbsp butter, swirl to coat and drop in three mounds of potatoes. Press them down/spread them out until they are about 1/2 inch thick each. Cook for about 5 minutes. Potatoes will start to look a bit dry on top and will be golden brown on the bottom. Drop in 1 tbsp butter into the center of the pan. As it melts, carefully flip each pancake. Cook 4-5 minutes, until bottom is golden brown.
Repeat with remaining potatoes and butter.
Makes 6 large hash browns.

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  • nico
    October 9, 2005

    Ever since I’ve lived in the US, I’ve made the leap towards diner food brunch (usually when people are visiting). Not something I could do any day of the week though. Hashbrowns, on the other hand, are popular in Europe too, not as a breakfast item, but rather as a starch side for many Swiss dishes. There it is known as rösti, such as in: Zürcher Geschnetzeltes mit Rosti, or Alperrosti (with cheese and bacon, topped with a pair of sunny-side up eggs).

  • Rainey
    October 9, 2005

    My husband & I are from NYS. We had many, many meals in diners. Warming ourselves over coffee and soup after a freezing day on the ski slopes. Late night eggs after partying (yes, with those crunchy hashbrowns or the coarsely chopped homefries). My husband’s favorite — french fries with gravy after a football game. But what I really owe to the wonderful diners of the Mid-Hudson area is my introduction to Greek food. We had great Italian food from all the stone masons who worked during the recovery after the Depression but diners were where you found exotic and delicious Greek food. I didn’t even have the concept of a Greek restaurant until I moved out here. I just thought you went to a diner to find it… OK, I’m simple but I know good when I taste it. ;>

  • Stephanie
    October 9, 2005

    Diner food is fantastic!

    And my hometown of St. Marys, PA? Crammed with little places like that…everywhere you go, grilled sammys, fried potatoes. Serious coffee.

    On the other hand, good luck finding anything fancy/good to eat while there. And as a vegetarian, dining out meant creating a meal out of a side salad and a baked potato!

    Really…you’re making me hungry. Shouldn’t have skipped breakfast!

  • njchef
    October 9, 2005

    but the diners in new jersey beat them all!

  • Nic
    October 10, 2005

    Nico – I don’t think that diner food should really be an everyday thing, either. Though I know plenty of people who swear by it as a hangover cure (hopefully not every day either).

    Rainey – You definately lose the diner scene by moving to the West Coast – but at least you got a few more restaurants! I used to love (and still do, much of the time) the fact that you can get *any* kind of food at a diner, but now I would rather seek out the dishes at a specific resaturant.

    Stephanie – I know what you mean. It’s tough to go the non-meat route at a diner. Mmm. Iceberg lettuce.

    Njchef – I agree!

  • Lori
    October 12, 2005

    When I go back to the US, eating at a diner is definitely at the top of my list. I think we have 1 diner here in Manila, but it’s far from authentic.

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