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Hash Browns Gone Awry

March 21, 2010

Reading through Twitter updates this morning, I came across one from Cheryl Tan.

I have always, always wanted to learn how to make fantastic hash browns. This recipe (and piece) by @SamSifton
– @CherylTan88, March 21, 2010

And with one simple tweet, Cheryl gave me flashbacks.

I can only just wish they were pleasant. They’re (sort of) funny now, but the memories still give me a dull twist of pain in my gut.

As background, I’ve hosted several Easter Orphan Dinners for friends who, like me, weren’t going home to celebrate the holiday with family. Some years, the meal was a traditional ham and all the fixin’s. Another year it was enchiladas and all the fixin’s.

The Easter celebration in question was a brunch complete with a mix ’em yourself mimosa bar. Also on the menu was a Farmers Casserole from Better Homes & Garden’s ubiquitous red and white checkered cookbook. The dish was an easy, make-ahead recipe that fit perfectly with my menu and featured a base of hash browns.

The recipe called for the frozen, pre-made kind. I turned my nose up at that. Instead, I made my own hash browns. I then spent Saturday grocery shopping, cleaning the house until it was spotless, making all of my make-ahead Easter brunch dishes and feeling superior for being so well organized.

The Fates then decided to have a really good laugh at my expense and stupidity.

Because, apparently, making hash browns isn’t as simple as just grating some potatoes and mixing them into a dish. I learned this lesson when I came home at 3am after having been out on the town with my friends.

My formerly pristine kitchen floor was flooded with brackish water. All of it emanating from the bottom of my refrigerator door.

My lovely Farmers Casserole of hash browns, eggs, ham, cheese and other assorted ingredients had flooded with blackened water and the whole casserole was ruined.


After panicking, fighting back tears, cleaning the refrigerator, mopping the floor and tossing the whole casserole out, I consulted the checkered cookbook. This time, I actually read the directions for making hash browns.

Uh. Yeah. Apparently, when you make hash browns, you have to do more than grate the blasted potatoes. You also have to rinse the grated potatoes and then pat the grated potatoes dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. So much for hash browns being “easy” or “simple.”

So, at 4am, I stood in my kitchen and started the whole process all over again.

I can count my lucky stars that I have a tendency to buy too much stuff for parties. Thanks to this quirk of mine, I had exactly enough ingredients to make a second batch of Farmers Casserole.

In the end, the Easter Orphans Brunch was a success, and I had a funny story to share with my friends when they arrived. And now, thanks to Cheryl’s tweet and Sam Sifton’s article, I now feel a little less stupid for having had so much difficulty making a dish that seemed so easy.

We’ll have to wait and see how long it takes for the dull twist of flashback pain to fade away though.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 21, 2010 6:47 pm

    Brackish water!! That sounds like it would have been a fantastic scene in a romantic comedy or a funny cooking movie. Thanks for sharing … I’ll think about that the next time I tackle a hash brown recipe!

    • March 21, 2010 10:34 pm

      You are so right! I can totally see some starlet crumpled on the kitchen floor trying not to cry over a failed casserole meant to impress friends and loved. Then you can cut to the utter mess of the starlet trying to clean up all the brackish water that managed to find its way into the hardest to reach nooks and crannies.

      Hmm… Do you think I might still be bitter about this whole thing? =)

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