Any mention of “hash browns” brings to mind a clear image for me: a Waffle House with sticky counters and greasy floors, Garth Brooks playing on the old jukebox, and me reaching for the salt and smacking the sides of a Heinz 57 bottle to drown the saturated, starchy potatoes in some kind of flavor.
But sweet potato hash browns? Throw all preconceived notions out the window. Sweet potatoes are naturally better than their lackluster tuber cousins. Higher in vitamins and minerals and brimming with fiber and flavor, they offer an alternative that can’t be beat.
Waffle House memories offer a glimpse into my early years, shortly after my parents bought a bowling alley. The days were long and the nights were longer. Factory and homemaker leagues filled the mornings and the nights consisted of more full leagues and open bowling on the weekends.
Sometimes my brother and I got to stick around while the grown-ups cleaned and counted down the drawers. On the good nights and on the late nights, I remember a group of special people who stuck around after close. They had bowled, worked, and helped clean so that everyone could leave earlier and get to “breakfast.”
Those days seem so far gone but still so fresh in my memory. The people have changed, the bowling alley has changed, the economy has changed, our bowlers have changed, and our lives have changed.
For me, whether they’re regular or sweet, hash browns will always bring to mind memories of happy, late nights. As young as I was, I knew that other kids were not so lucky. They were fast asleep in their superhero and princess-themed sheets, ready to be well-rested for another day at school. But Jacob and I? We were hearing real-life stories from the day’s events and being exposed to a world unknown to most kids our age. Whether for better or for worse, we got a serving of reality along with our belgian waffles and scrambled eggs.
Clark and I enjoyed these hash browns á la carte before we headed out to explore Cobble Hill in Brooklyn one Saturday afternoon. Each crispy bite reminded me of those late nights at Waffle House. After the recipe was shot and the hash browns were gone, we had plenty of energy to last us the rest of the day.
These would be an ideal side for waffles, eggs over easy, pancakes, an omelette, french toast, etc. [you get the idea]. They’re savory, so they could even double as a side for dinner.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes [peeled and shredded]
- ¼ c. sweet white onion [chopped]
- 4 garlic cloves [minced]
- 1½ Tbsp. olive oil
- ¼ c. gluten-free flour
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
- olive oil for frying
- Wash and peel sweet potatoes, then shred them. Using a colander, rinse the sweet potatoes until the water runs mostly clear. Squeeze the rinsed potatoes to remove excess water and empty them into a medium bowl.
- Add onion, flour, garlic, salt, pepper, and 1½ tablespoons of olive oil to the sweet potatoes and mix everything well.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil to a cast iron or regular skillet and heat on medium-high. Test the pan by tossing in a couple of sweet potato shreds — if it crackles, the pan is ready. Use a ¼ cup to measure the sweet potato into the pan and then use a spatula to flatten them out.
- Cook for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2 more. You may need to vary the cooking time depending on your skillet and stove. Golden to medium brown and crispy is what you’re going for.
- As you finish the patties, remove them from the skillet and allow them to cool for a few minutes on a paper towel-lined plate.