The basic idea is that breakfast is supposed to supply your wretched, dead-eyed carcass with enough chemical energy to work itself up into a state vaguely similar to the authentic vitality of the functional, well-adjusted people edging away from you in half-concealed disgust on the bus. This is why we are instructed to fill our breakfasts with healthful, protein-dense, nutrient-packed foods like eggs, and fresh fruit, and yogurt, and whole-grain fiber, and so on: The thinking goes that a nutritious start to the day will lead to better, sharper, chipperer performance throughout the rest of it, or anyway will prevent you from turning anyone to stone with your miserable fixed grimace of all-consuming hate.
In this sense, home fries make for kind of an odd breakfast food—being, as they are, mostly just potatoes cooked in butter, which is to say that they are the nutritional equivalent of being run over by several dump trucks in close succession. There may have been a time in the fading past when eating approximately 14 trillion calories before sunrise made sense—when people typically spent the previous day, like, baling hay or bustin' up yon bureau or discovering fire or whatever, and had a serious caloric deficit to address as soon as their eyes cranked open—but those days are long gone, and they did not take home fries with them. In the present age, we mostly spend our days drinking mouthwash in the bathtub, or anyway I do, and the last thing any of us need is 13 pounds of potato anchoring us to our berths.
Then again, I mean, there are, what, like, 16 breakfasts per week or something, I mean I am not a Gregorian so don't quote me on that, but anyway they don't all have to be good for you, right? Home fries are delicious! And, that's not nothing: They make your senses and stomach happy, even as they make your aorta very bummed. So, this one time, you may have some home fries. Also you can have them, because here's how to make them for yourself. (And hopefully for some others, too, because if you eat all the home fries that will be produced by the steps described below all by yourself, you're gonna die very horribly and right away.)
(Also, yes, food stickler dweebs: Strictly speaking, you are correct that the addition of bell peppers means this preparation could be called Potatoes O'Brien. Shaddap. There's potatoes, there's frying, there's home: They're home fries. We're moving on.)
To begin, chop some stuff. One huge yellow onion, first of all. Don't mince the fucker or the teeny tiny little onion-particles will burn in the pan; go with slices or something that strikes you as fitting the descriptor "medium chop." Next, one bell pepper. You can decide for yourself whether to use red or green (or yellow or orange or whatever cutesy cultivar best expresses your precious artistic soul); generally speaking, the sweeter red is the tastier bell pepper, as well as irrefutable proof of the essential boundless goodness of life—but you may find you prefer the zippy, er, greenness of the green, here, where it can cut splendidly against the heaviness of the other stuff we'll be getting to in just a second, for chrissakes can you be patient for one goddamn second.
Also, while you're chopping stuff, rinse and peel and hack into cubes maybe six or eight or so Yukon Gold potatoes. Don't get out the goddamn tape-measure, here, but you want the cubes to be, what, maybe three-quarters of an inch or so, per side? Less than an inch, anyway. Cutting potatoes into cubes is annoying; certainly there are clever, infuriatingly specialized Williams-Sonomian contraptions which make this a snap, but just as certainly you will never know of them, so grab a knife and get choppin'.
A note, here. Two notes. Shut up. First, on potato selection. You don't have to use the Yukon Gold to make delicious home fries; it's a great, versatile potato, and probably the one the largest cross-section of the populace will already have hanging around, but if you want to go in another direction, hell, it's your food. Red potatoes can do the trick; so can most white potatoes; probably many other potatoes can, too. You probably have a bag of potatoes somewhere, hiding in some dark pantry corner or at the top of your basement steps or wherever, in accordance with the federal law requiring all homes to contain a deeply suspect half-empty bag of potatoes that none of the residents can remember purchasing; if they are not Yukon Gold, you can probably still make delicious home fries with them.
The second note pertains to the possibly ludicrous-seeming notion that all of this rinsing and peeling and chopping work is intended to produce something that can be called breakfast—rather than lunch or dinner or I mean I know it seemed complicated for a breakfast recipe but jeez it has been four days and I am delirious from starvation—by people with real adult lives. Yes, you can get the chopping out of the way the night before. Dump the chopped onion and pepper into a pair of sturdy sealed plastic bags and sock those into the fridge; put the potato-cubes into a big bowl or pot, submerge them in cold water, and cover them overnight. That way, you just have the cooking endgame to complete the following morning when you rise, bleary and grey and haggard, to decide that hot breakfast is a bunch of bullshit and choke down a dumb granola bar just to have something to sit on the coffee in your sad, desolate stomach and keep it there while you boot up your will to live.
Good morning! The sun is shining and hey whoa it is already going back down again because somehow the reversion to Standard Time cut the day in half, so you had better cook your breakfast quickly before returning to bed. Haul out your trusty skillet or saucier pan or flat-bottomed wok or whatever, melt a couple tablespoons of unsalted butter over low-medium heat, and cook the chopped onion in the melted butter until it is translucent and soft, but not caramelized, because there is literally not enough time remaining in the heat-life of the universe for that. Now, add the chopped bell pepper, toss the pan's contents around a couple of times, and cook this stuff for, oh, maybe seven or eight minutes; just long enough to make the bell pepper fragrant and however much softer it'll get in seven or eight minutes.
Now, let's pause a second for another note on the potatoes. Potatoes take kind of a long time to cook, even in cube form, or anyway they take more time than is required for the average human to lose patience and start cursing at them. Their cooking time can be shortened somewhat by microwaving them in a covered dish for a few minutes before you add them to the pan; this softens them a great deal and is a neat trick, but I find that the potatoes seem to lose a little something by spending such a smaller proportion of their cooking time in immediate contact with the onions and peppers. This may be a hallucination; God knows the robo-bats sure as hell are. Do what you like. We're going to proceed as though you're skipping the microwave.
Add the potato-cubes to the pan, and toss the contents around to get them more evenly distributed. If you should happen to [exaggerated air-quotes] accidentally [close exaggerated air-quotes] drop another tablespoon or so of butter in there, I mean, is that a crime? No it is not a crime. The crime would be not doing that, while also stealing a bunch of money or something. Stick a lid on the pan and walk away for, what, maybe 10 minutes or so. After that, lift the lid and poke the potatoes with a fork. Can you puncture them without much effort? Probably not. Re-cover them, and try again every five minutes or so until they're there, but no so there that they break apart when you stab them. Are they there? There. They're there. Therey there there.
Now, remove the lid from the pan, turn the heat up a bit, and cook the potatoes for another several minutes, turning them regularly, until they're browned and crispy and your arms are burned and blistering from where you tried, lovingly, to embrace the hot pan. Scoop its contents into a big bowl or serving dish of some sort. It is time to eat.
Serve your home fries in a heap, on a plate, next to bacon—and, most crucially, beneath over-easy fried eggs. Puncture the yolks with the bacon and let their liquid run down into the mound of food beneath them. And now, eat. Is this breakfast—the starchy heft of the potato, the lively onioniness, the quite indecent quantity of liquefied butter—supplying you with energy for a full and productive day? Shit no, buddy! Your body will be at near-terminal levels of physiological exertion for the next 27 hours just trying to digest this stuff. You're quite some time away from even being able to stand up without getting lightheaded. And, that's OK. Really, it is. Because, if maybe it's not the best thing for your productivity, it's doing wonders for your sense of well-being, and you can achieve things other than your own happiness some other time.
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Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His work can be found destroying everything of value in his crumbling home. Peevishly correct his foolishness at email@example.com, or publicly and succinctly on Twitter @albertburneko. You can find lots more Foodspin at foodspin.deadspin.com.
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