Potato Hash with Bacon and Melted Onions

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I love hash so much I've even served this diner staple at The French Laundry. It's a great Sunday brunch dish, with poached eggs, but could also be served as a side dish at dinner. Don't hold the cubed potatoes in water—cut them just before cooking so that they are very dry and will become very crisp. The cooked potatoes are tossed with bacon and melted onions.

Ingredients

Hash:
 

  • 12 ounces applewood-smoked slab bacon
  • Canola oil
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 thyme sprig, leaves only
  • 1 cup Melted Onions (see below)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives

Melted Onions:

  • 8 cups sliced onions (about 3 large onions)
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick; 4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 Sachet (see below)

Sachet:

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F.

2. Cut the bacon into lardons about 1 inch long and 1/2 inch thick. Set aside.

3. Pour about 1 inch of oil into a large saucepan and heat to 300°F. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet and line the rack with paper towels.

4. Meanwhile, square off the sides of the potatoes to give them a rectangular shape and cut into 1/2-inch dice. They may not all be perfectly square, and a bit of skin left on the cubes is also fine.

5. Add half the potatoes to the hot oil and cook for about 8 minutes, until tender and a rich golden brown; they will not be crisp. Remove from the oil with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon and drain on the paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.

6. Pour 2 tablespoons water into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat (the water will keep the bacon from crisping as the fat begins to render). Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the bacon render its fat for 30 minutes. The bacon will color but not become completely crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Drain the excess fat from the pan, leaving just a film of fat to cook the potatoes; reserve the extra fat.

7. Add half the potatoes to the pan, sprinkle with salt, and add half the thyme. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes to crisp the potatoes and heat through. Add half the onions and fold in one-quarter of the bacon. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining potatoes (add some of the reserved fat to the pan if necessary) with the remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl, add the minced chives, and garnish with the remaining bacon.

Melted Onions

1. It's difficult to overstate the power of this simple preparation. Onions, aggressively flavored when raw, acquire a wonderful creamy sweetness when they're cooked slowly, until they're so tender they virtually melt into one another. They can be added to almost anything and make it better. Their sweetness will enhance soups and stews, they can be a garnish on any meat or fish—monkfish, skate, and salmon are especially enhanced with melted onions—or, at room temperature, they can top a lamb sandwich, be added to salads, or stirred into a sauce. Butter is added to these to make them very flavorful and creamy.

2. Put the onions in a large sauté pan, set over medium-low heat, sprinkle with 2 generous pinches of salt, and cook, stirring from time to time, for about 20 minutes, until the onions have released much of their liquid.

3. Stir in the butter, add the sachet, cover with a parchment lid (see page 120), and cook slowly over low to medium-low heat for another 30 to 35 minutes. The onions should look creamy at all times; if the butter separates, or the pan looks dry before the onions are done, add a bit of cold water and stir well to re-emulsify the butter. The onions should be meltingly tender but not falling apart or mushy. Season to taste with salt.

Note: Once cooled, the onions can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Sachet

1. Sachets are used to flavor cooking liquids. A cheesecloth sachet encloses small herbs and spices such as peppercorns and cloves, and works like a tea bag. Once the contents have added their flavors to the cooking liquid, the sachet can easily be removed and discarded.

2. Lay out a 7-inch square of cheesecloth. Put the bay leaf, thyme peppercorns, and garlic near the bottom of the square and fold the bottom edge up and over them. Roll once, tuck in the two ends of the cheesecloth, and continue to roll. Tie the cheesecloth at both ends with kitchen twine.

Reprinted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller. Copyright © 2009 Published by Artisan. Featured on the December 12, 2009 episode

Yield: 
Serves 6

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