“What is the big deal about this?” My mom wanted to know about the cast-iron fried
potatoes. She asks me that question a lot when it comes to food—and my writing. She doesn’t like me writing about her or her food. But as all good daughters and writers must, I write about what I want. “You just put the oil in, slice up the potatoes, and put them in the skillet. Voila,” she
says. (Photo credit.)
I had a cast-iron-skillet fried potato conversation a few years ago with my dad and I called him
to ask a few more questions, left a message, and am still waiting for that return call. Despite my parent’s protests—my mom’s exasperation over it and my dad’s typical aloofness, I forged ahead…
Many readers contacted me last week and asked about taking care of the skillets. There’s a lot of information about that all over the web. My favorite post is here.
When approaching this culinary exercise (a-hem), it’s best to keep it as simple as possible and to forget any concerns about fat or clogging arteries. (Remember the Kitchen Queen Rules.) Thickly coat your skillet with vegetable oil and heat it until a spray of water sizzles off—before you place potatoes in the grease. The oil has plenty of time to heat while you’re slicing the potatoes, which should be chopped as evenly as possible. My parents both slice them lengthwise—they are not cubed. They are thin, but not thin enough to be a potato chip.
You fry the potatoes for a good 20 minutes. It’s not a good idea to wander off (as I am wont to do). The potatoes need turning and fussing over. You know when they are done because the whiteness turns darker and slightly translucent—and some potatoes will get nice and brown. I even like a little bit of burned potatoes. They need plenty of salt and pepper and fried onions to enhance.
“I smell something good,” my husband announced when he walked in the door last night.
And they were delicious, reminding me of home, but they were not exactly as I remembered.
In truth, I don’t think I will ever capture the cast-iron fried potatoes of my youth completely.
It strikes me again how fluid memories are, how sometimes we twist them and shape them to
suit some psychological need. Were they ever as good as my memory suggests?