Crispy Hash Brown Cake with Provolone

Crispy hash brown potato cake!

My explorations of the mighty potato continue with this fantastic crispy hash brown cake. This is the ninth in my series of favorite potato dishes, and this is a versatile and delicious entry. It’s great as a side dish with a roast, perfect with eggs at breakfast, excellent with applesauce & sour cream. And it’s not too hard to make. Indeed, the only challenge is flipping the potato cake in the pan. If you’re not a confident flipper you can always place a plate upside down over the potatoes, invert the whole thing pan and all, and then carefully slide the potato cake back into the pan. Me, I like to flip, but I’ve been doing this for years and I still screw up the flip on occasion. My heart still skips a beat when I commit to the flip.

I like to add a thin layer of cheese in the middle of the potatoes which melts into the cake, adding an ineffable flavor but not really resulting in a gooey, cheesy thing. I just like a hint of the cheese. I like cheddar, jack, gruyere, parmesan, manchego; use whatever you have handy. I had a little provolone in the snack drawer of my fridge, so that’s what ended up in the recipe.

Crunchy exterior and creamy interior. 

Of course I recommend starting with fresh russet potatoes, although to be totally honest, I’ve used frozen shredded potatoes from Ore-Ida. I’ve even used Simply Potatoes brand “fresh” shredded potatoes in a plastic bag from a company called Crystal Farms. Either one is a decent cheat (all chefs have their secret shortcuts), but you’ll never get that fully rich, wonderfully “potatoey” flavor from some pre-packaged stuff preserved in nitrogen to prevent oxidation.

Four cups of shredded pre-cooked russet potato.

You’ll need two large russet potatoes, at room temperature. Peel them and place them whole in a pot covered by cold water two inches over the level of the potatoes. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt and turn on the heat to high. When the water boils, reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Check potatoes with a paring knife — the knife should penetrate easily to the center of the potato but it should still be somewhat firm. Remove potatoes and drop them into an ice bath — a big bowl of ice water.

After the first half of the potatoes begins to crispy, add the cheese in a single layer.

Your potatoes should be cool in ten minutes or so. Take potatoes out of the water and dry thoroughly. Now, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the potatoes. You’ll need approximately four cups of shredded potatoes. Toss the shredded potatoes with about a half teaspoon of kosher salt and a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. And heat an 8-inch non-stick (and oven-proof) saute pan over high heat. When hot (two minutes or so) add two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Carefully add half the potatoes to the hot oil, being careful not to spatter the hot grease on your precious hands. Using a heat-proof rubber spatula spread out the potatoes evenly and allow the bottom to crisp for several minutes. Shake the pan gently a few times to ensure that the potatoes aren’t sticking and are starting to fuse together on the bottom.

Now, cut up two slices of provolone (or other) cheese and spread out over the potatoes in a single layer. Top with the remaining potatoes. Using the spatula gently compress potatoes into a cake-like form, being sure to use the spatula to “tuck in” the edges and round them off. Put a heaping tablespoon of butter on the top of hash brown cake. Pop the pan in the oven.

Add the remaining potatoes and form in a nice cake. Top with a dollop of butter.

Bake hash brown cake for 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and using the spatula again gently form and compress the cake into a nice, cohesive round. Grasping the handle firmly (wrapped in a kitchen towel since it’s HOT) slide the potato cake around to make sure it’s well lubricated and moving easily. Now, with a single, confident motion quickly push the pan forward and slightly up, tossing the hash brown cake in the air, flipping it over once and jerking the pan back toward you, exactly where the cake is in mid-air, catching it perfectly with the uncooked-side-down in the pan’s center.

That’s a beautifully formed hash brown cake!

Put the saute pan over medium-high heat and brown the bottom side for about six minutes. Pop the pan in the oven for another ten minutes to finish fully. Remove from the oven and serve hot!

Your end result should be crisp on the outside and soft and yielding on the inside. You may find small pockets of melted cheese. You will be amazed at how delicious this simple dish can be!

Gorgeous and delicious!
Okay, this is the last pic.

Further study

Potatoes Dauphinoise:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/gratin-dauphinoise.html
Pommes Anna:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/perfect-pommes-anna-is-awesomely.html
Potato Wedges:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/crispy-potato-wedges.html
French Fries:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/pommes-frites-french-for-french-fries.html
Potato Chips:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/09/light-crispy-homemade-potato-chips.html
Tater Tots:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/08/homemade-tater-tots-yep.html
Garlic & Lemongrass Home Fries:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/06/crispy-garlic-lemongrass-home-fries.html
Baked Mashed Potato Casserole:
http://www.spencerhgray.com/2011/04/pommes-regina.html

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