Sofya’s Russian Fried Potatoes

January 23, 2010 § 5 Comments

If you love this noble tuber, you are in luck! Today we are going to make pan-fried potatoes, Russian style. You could almost call this a Russian national dish, so popular it is with the Russians and everyone who was at one point or another colonized by them. I usually make these to serve with steaks to give the traditional American steak-and-baked-potato a lift.

And let me tell you one more thing: these are absolutely delicious, so try making them ASAP!

What you’ve got to do is this:

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Cut your potatoes kind of like so.

A small note: back in the Old Country we lived under the delusion that potatoes had to be peeled before frying, but after I came to America, the spirit of the new-found freedom whispered into my ear that this was unnecessary, since the peel becomes nearly non-discernible after cooking.

Heat vegetable oil (I like sunflower) in a cast iron skillet over high heat, and wait until the pan is really hot – even to the point of starting to smoke slightly. This is crucial – if your pan is not hot enough, the potatoes will tend to stick to the pan, losing the precious golden crust when you attempt to stir them, and the whole thing will be ruined. So be patient. Let the pan heat all the way.

Add the potatoes. They must sizzle cheerfully. Either stir them immediately, or leave them undisturbed for a couple of minutes, and then stir, making sure they are well-coated with oil. Keep the heat on high. What I am saying is, if you forget to stir them right away, like I did because I was taking pictures, that’s a O.K.

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Continue cooking over high heat, stirring and scraping every couple of minutes. Thanks to the high heat, the potatoes will begin to brown pretty much right away. This is good.

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In the meantime, chop a medium to large onion, or two small ones. You can slice them too.

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By now your potatoes will start looking kind of like this.

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Add the onions to the pan.

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Stir them in.

Sprinkle with the desired amounts of salt and black pepper, and stir everything around. You might want to add some more oil at this point, if you feel like there’s no oil left in the pan and the stuff is starting to burn.

Important: do NOT add salt until this point – adding it early causes the potatoes to release unpleasant slime that will cause them to stick to the pan, not brown property, lose their crust when stirred, and, ultimately, fall apart.

Turn the heat to medium.

Continue stirring and scraping frequently until the potatoes and the onions are tender. You may have to turn the heat to low if you find that the onions are burning too much. But some degree of onion-burning is welcome! Cause it’s tas-tey. The entire operation shouldn’t take longer than 30-40 min.

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They will look like this when they are done.

I like to cover my potatoes with a lid after turning off the heat, to keep them warm and to allow for some additional steaming and further softening.

Russian-Style Fried Potatoes

  • 1-1.5 lb potatoes (I prefer Yukon Gold, but Russets will work too, and so will red potatoes)
  • 1-2 onions, depending on the size, chopped
  • vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Wash and scrub the potatoes. Cut them french-fry style (the smaller you cut them, the faster they will fry). Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over high heat until almost smoking. Add potatoes. Be sure not to add them too soon – they must sizzle vigorously at this point. Stir them with a spatula, scraping the bottom, until well coated in oil. Continue frying over high heat, stirring and scraping frequently, until they begin to brown. Add onions, salt, and pepper, and stir everything again. Add more oil if none left in the pan. Turn the heat down to medium, and continue frying. Don’t forget to stir frequently! Turn the heat to low if the onions are burning too much. Continue frying until the the potatoes are soft and the onions have caramelized. Turn off the heat, and cover with a lid until ready to serve.

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