Everyone I treat with these bomb-ass potatoes always tells me how amazing they are and it’s a bit of an elaborate process to describe, so I decided to write it up here. There are actually two recipes in this post and one is (kind of) a prerequisite for the other, but if you’re vegetarian/vegan or don’t eat pork for religious (or other) reasons, feel free to skip to the second stage.
Stage 1: Bacon (Optional)
As with many great meals, the process starts with bacon. I don’t fry or microwave my bacon: I bake it. The key is to get thick cut bacon – not the regular kind – and then lay it out on a grill rack. You can use a pan to catch the grease, but I usually make one out of (recycled) alumnium foil because even though I end up saving most of the grease, I still don’t want any leftover grease going into the drain and clogging up the pipes.
Once I have the thick cut bacon laid out, I sprinkle it with garlic powder and crushed red pepper flakes before putting it in the oven at 375F for 20-30 minutes (depending on the thickness of the bacon). About 15-20 minutes in I flip the bacon to get both sides crispy. This not only yields perfectly crisped (not too dry) garlic-infused bacon with a slight kick, it yields amazing grease for frying. I keep a cup in the fridge with the saved grease and use that instead of butter or oil when I fry eggs and potatoes.
Stage 2: Potatoes
You’re gonna want to use a mandoline slicer because while cutting by hand with a knife is totally fine, a dedicated tool definitely helps get nice, even, thin slices. Depending on what kind of potato you use you may not need to peel them but once they’re ready, slice those bad boys up and submerge them in a saline solution. I put the sliced potatoes in a big bowl first, fill it up with water so they’re fully submerged, dump a bunch (a couple of table spoons) of salt in there, and then mix it with my hands. Then I cover the bowl and let it sit for at least 45 minutes, but preferably 1-1½ hours.
This is the key step and it relies on osmosis. Basically, the salt water solution extracts moisture from those potato slices and enables them to get a real good crisp when you fry them.
Once the potatoes have soaked in the solution long enough, the trick is to transfer the slices to a salad spinner, run them under regular water to wash away the salt on the surface (otherwise you’ll get extremely salty ’tatoes), and then use the spinner to remove that excess moisture. For me this is enough but if you want to go the extra mile (why not at this point, right???) you can also dry them on a paper towel.
Now you’re ready to use that garlic-infused bacon grease with a kick (or vegetable oil) to fry those potatoes. The bigger the frying pan you use the better – you don’t want layers upon layers of potato slices as that will mess with heat distribution – so as a rule of thumb I’d say make sure the pile of potatoes you end up with isn’t taller than 3-slices high. Then 15-20 minutes of frying (with a lid covering them for the first 5-10 minutes) on medium-high heat should be enough for a perfect, not-too-dry crisp; and as always: monitor, stir, and taste often so as to not under- or overcook. (Just don’t taste in the first 10 minutes because raw potato is toxic.)