Hash Browns

I kept seeing complicated recipes that would be more trouble than they were worth.  I eventually worked out a very simple one that I find  satisfactory.

Makes one large serving.

To make multiple servings, I’d use a larger pan, and I’d try making the patty thicker (cooking covered should cause the part not in contact with the hot pan to still cook by steaming).


1 medium russet potato
1 pat butter
1T olive oil
salt and pepper

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Grate coarsely


Scrub, remove eyes and anything else you don’t want to eat, and coarsely grate the potato.





Butter should sizzle in pan
Butter should sizzle in pan

Pre-heat a cast-iron skillet of suitable size (I find 8″ works well for one serving). Must have cover. On my particular stove the cooking setting is #4 on the left rear burner, and I pre-heat at 6 or 8 because I’m impatient. I might call that “medium” heat?

Add butter to pan. It should sizzle a bit, right away, but not burn. Also add olive oil.

Flatten potato shreds in pan
Flatten potato shreds in pan

Dump the potato shreds into the pan, and arrange them flat over the entire bottom of the pan.  Pressing down a little doesn’t hurt.




Cover and cook
Cover and cook

Cover the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes (depends on heat, size of potato, etc.).




Flip the patty
Flip the patty

Flip the patty of potato. It should stick together well, not stick to the pan, and the bottom should be medium brown to golden.  Push down all over.

Grind some pepper and shake some salt over the cooked side.

Cover the pan again, and cook this side for 5-7 minutes. If you think it ends up too moist, omit the cover for some or all of the second cooking period.

You’re done.

Serving suggestion
Serving suggestion


Basic Texas Chili

Mostly I prefer real chili (a bean and pepper stew with tomatoes and often meat ranging from beef to pork to turkey), but there are also uses for Texas chili (a beef and pepper stew without beans or tomatoes).

This is pass two at that.

2 dried quajillo chiles
1t ground ancho chile
1t ground arbol chile
2t ground cumin seed
1 finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 lb ground beef (or something nicer)
1 cup beef broth
1 cup water
2T masa harina
2T olive oil

Toast the whole dried chiles for a couple of minutes each side over low heat. Remove seeds and chop into quarter-inch squares.

Heat olive oil in pan big enough to hold the whole mess. Saute onion and garlic. Add other spices towards the end. (Original recipe blends all the spices to a paste with 1/4 cup water. That’s actually beneficial in that the squares of chile skin are notable in the final dish my way.) (The use of whole dried vs. ground chiles was simply the luck of the draw in my spice cabinet today, not anything of artistic intent.)

Add ground beef and cook until brown, breaking up into smaller pieces as much as practicable.

Add water and beef broth, and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce to a very low simmer (occasional bubbles) and cook uncovered for two hours.  Add water and/or broth as needed.  Towards the last half hour whisk the masa with water and stir into the mixture to thicken.

For some uses, you’ll want to thin it out considerably at the end.  Not so much for others (for example, you want it pretty thin for making home-made chili cheese burritos, but not for using in an omelet or “skillet breakfast”).


One Mug of Cocoa

Cocoa from cocoa powder, quantity one.  Half the normal sugar, partly because “normal” is too sweet, but mostly because I add a shot of creme de menthe or something to it usually and that adds a lot of sugar.

Recording it here because it’s annoying to deal with reducing recipes for such small quantities.

1T sugar
1T cocoa
dash salt
2T water
1c milk

Mix dry ingredients in sauce pan. Add water and whisk while heating.  Heat to boiling, boil for two minutes.  Then add the milk while stirring.  Heat to just short of boiling.

Add liqueur to cup (1 to 1.5 oz is often good).  Pour in cocoa.  This all neatly fits in all my mugs (in my big mugs it’s considerably less than a full mug).

There’s probably an even easier way in the microwave, but I haven’t worked that out (the timing is rather critical, and specific to the microwave).

Italian Bread

Gave up on the previous recipe. Went back to the Sunset Italian Cookbook adobe oven bread, that Pamela used to make and Mark Richards used to make at Finagle’s Freehold (my first house in Minneapolis). Have yet to have results anywhere near as good as I remember, but getting better. One problem was clearly old yeast (the old jar was a year out of date, and the new jar performed better; I assume letting it reproduce with sugar for a while before adding the flour would have made up the difference, though).

And have tried a few experiments, which I haven’t been that fond of.

So, here’s the current version. This is actually 1/2 the quantity of the original, sized for our mixer (I’m going to try increasing this by 1.5x to make three loaves, though). Instructions are detailed for my kitchen; you’ll have to adapt it to your environment, same as me.


  • 2t active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
  • 2 t sugar
  • 2 c water at 110°
  • 5 c unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 T salt


Dissolve yeast and sugar in water.

In mixer (with dough hook) add salt and flour. Do not forget to add the salt! I find I have to intervene manually a lot to get it really mixed, including taking the dry scraps at the bottom of the bowl and burying them in the middle of the dough ball. (I’m starting to consider making a minor increase in salt, perhaps to 2t.)

Knead a minute or two in mixer, possibly adding up to 2c flour. (My experience has not yet involved adding more than ½c flour; perhaps in more humid weather?)

Form ball and put in oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and place in lower oven on “proof” (100° I believe; which is hotter than most recipes call for for yeast to rise; I’m considering trying a lower temp, but this one is very easy to attain with my equipment) for 75 minutes (until doubled).

Punch down, knead a bit (last chance to correct consistency), divide into two long loaves.  (Or you can make smaller rolls, etc.)

Shake yellow cornmeal onto ungreased baking sheet. Place loaves on sheet.  Cover with floured cloth. Place in oven on “proof” again to rise for 30-40 minutes. (Original recipe had cloth under as well as over, but I find handling the loaves that much is risky, so I’ve dropped the bottom cloth.) (I’ve tried a dual u-shaped pan which is supposed to make better crust, but it’s a very minor difference, and that pan doesn’t fit the upper oven either.)

Preheat oven to 350º. (I use the top little oven; but you could just take the sheet out of the oven and preheat it, wouldn’t hurt anything.) (I tried 400º, more in line with recipes in The Breads of France, but found it got too close to burning the bottom.)

Remove covering cloth. Slash the tops of the loaves with a sharp knife to release steam. Place in oven.

After 10 minutes, spray loaves with water.

After another 10 minutes, spray loaves with water again.

Bake for 40-60 minutes, until done.  (Total baking time is thus 60-80 minutes.)

Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing (although, with a really good bread knife, you can get away with earlier).

Pork Tinga Experiment

That is, a spicy pork filling for things like tacos.

Also, the second experiment in the little crockpot.


  • Small pork roast, 1.7 lbs with bone in my case, trimmed of excess fat and divided into natural pieces
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 roma tomato, minced
  • 1 ancho chile, cut up
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp powdered guajilo chile
  • ½ tsp chile arbol
  • ½ tsp cayenne (ran out of chile arbol)


Put the onion, tomato, and seasonings into a small crockpot.  Put the meat on top.

Add beef broth slowly (it takes a while to work its way down through the layers) until nearly covered (remember, crockpot should be less than ¾ full).

Cover and cook on high for 5 hours.

Take out the bone, picking off and returning any edible bits.  Mash the remaining meat with a potato masher (it should be cooked enough for this to work).


I served this in soft corn tortillas.  Adding crystal hot sauce made it considerably better, it was not sufficiently seasoned initially. There’s too much liquid to use directly, dish it up with a slotted spoon or have very soupy tacos.

We got 4 servings out of this, each of which filled three tacos decently. Adding some garnishes, chopped onion and sour cream for example, would probably help.

The original recipe called for tomato sauce rather than actual tomato, and had no cumin in it (shock, horror!). And had numerous other differences (and was for a much bigger batch).

I’d want to increase the chiles, the cumin, and the herbs.  And add something, beer or wine or vinegar, to move the flavor that direction a bit.