Perfect Fried Potatoes

I love just about any kind of potatoes. Always have, always will.

That said, I think my favorite might be mashed potatoes, especially when they’re served with turkey, homemade dressing and gravy at those holiday get-togethers such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. But if I were to choose another, pan-fried potatoes would be a close second.

While I don’t often make fried potatoes, the opportunity does arise every once in a while, especially if we have some leftover bakers. But what I’d really like is to master the kind of potatoes that my dad made or the ones my cousin, Dick Tiedeman, has perfected.

What made me think about fried potatoes was an e-mail I received from a reader, Chuck Gooden. He was wondering if I could help him out with a recipe for fried potatoes that would turn out like the ones his grandmother used to make.

Chuck said his grandmother, who lived in Grand Forks, used to peel and cut the potatoes in small slices and fry them in a pan on the stove in a little Crisco. The potatoes would be fairly soft, and the the ones next to the pan would be brown and slightly crunchy but not burnt. He thought she may have boiled the potatoes first.

Chuck said he’s attempted to duplicate her efforts, but whenever he tries, the potatoes usually start to brown and burn before they become soft. He’s tried tried low heat, high heat, cast-iron pans, different type of potatoes, all to no avail.

For what it’s worth, I think my dad used slices of raw potatoes and fried them (without covering the pan) over medium heat in a little bacon fat, which always could be found in a small container that sat next to the stove. And if I correctly recall, he used to turn the potatoes only once or twice. And if he added onions, it was at the end, so they wouldn’t get done before the potatoes.

That’s kind of like the way my cousin makes his. Dick told me he always uses oil — never butter — when frying potatoes (either leftover baked, small new red ones that have been boiled and cooled or raw — all cut into cubes). That’s because you can’t cook as hot with butter, he said. And Dick uses a heavy pan because the heat is more evenly distrubuted.

I recall eating fried potatoes several times while staying at his home in Walker, Minn., after a day of ice fishing for walleye on Leech Lake. His meals of fried fish and potatoes, along with some homemade baked beans, were better than any shore lunch I’ve ever eaten.

All this talk of fried potatoes and fish kind makes me want to head out for the Minnesota opener this weekend.