The Hashbrown Chronicles, vol. 1

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that hashbrowns are one of my favorite foods.  I have fond memories of eating them as a child at my mother’s table: the golden crispiness side by side with the soft whiteness (she always used leftover baked russets and so do I).

Hashbrowns, fried onions, beans . . . these are a few of my favorite things.  To me they are ideal camp foods, not necessarily because I think they would be that easy to cook in camp but because I want to eat them outdoors surrounded by trees.  They also seem to me like very manly foods: flannel and beard kinds of foods.  I am not a conventionally masculine man, and so maybe eating these kinds of foods – and growing my beard – is a way to hold on to my gender identity.

During my adult life I’ve tried different ways of seasoning hashbrowns, since I love herbs and spices.  Our kitchen cupboards are full of jars from Penzeys, which we discovered in 2004 and of which we have been loyal customers ever since.  One of my favorite ways to flavor hashbrowns is with Penzeys’ Northwoods Seasoning, but I like to experiment.  This morning I cooked my hashbrowns on a normal electric stove.  But I’ll tell you what I put in ’em.

I started out with a little pinch of savory (for two medium russets) and ground it with some kosher salt.  Savory has a very distinct and assertive flavor, the kind of taste that threatened to give me a headache as a child, but which I’ve wanted to explore as an adult.  The leaves are tough and hurt my fingers when I try to rub them as I would sage or thyme, but ground with salt, they break down pretty nicely.

I added a bigger pinch of thyme and ground that in with the savory and salt.

I sprinkled this on the shredded spuds, along with a few dashes of powdered galangal – another flavor I might not have liked when younger, but lately I’ve been fascinated with it.

I grated some nutmeg over everything (a few rotations of the crank)

and sprinkled some powdered toasted onion.  I mixed it all up and fried them in butter as usual.

It was good: as I had hoped, the savory and galangal agreed nicely, and I couldn’t really distinguish the nutmeg, but it sure didn’t hurt.  The whole thing had an aroma that reminded me of pot roast, a dinner-y sort of smell with some sophistication.

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