I do not go out to breakfast without ordering potatoes in some form. Home fries, tater tots, and of course classic shredded hash browns. Likewise, I have eaten an immeasurable amount of homemade hash browns. Most of the homemade hashes hardly ever compare to the perfect griddled hash I order at greasy diners.

Homemade shredded hash is always plagued by the same flaws. The potatoes tend to be undercoked yet burnt. The flavor doesn’t match the classic diner seasoning. And the shreds often clump together.

But, worry no longer! The Handy Chef is here to make your next at-home Brunch just as good as the restaurant version.

1. Shred your own potatoes

Handy Chef Breakfast Recipes
Pictured: Handy Chef Lex spreading the openings of a traditional cheese grater.

I like the convenient, pre-packaged potato shreds as much as any online food writer. But shredding the potatoes yourself is not only more fulfilling, but also cheaper. Just take a normal cheese grater and a chopstick (or something of similar shape.) Use the chopstick to spread the wide grates even wider. This create rounder, and more classic shaped shreds.

2. Wring those potatoes

Homemade hash browns crispy
Wring the moisture from the shredded potatoes in a tea towel.

This is the most important step for achieving crispy potatoes. Fortunately, it’s a step that most home cooks are aware of. Place the shredded potatoes into a tea towel then wring them with your hands. As you learned from the roasting guide, moisture is the enemy of crispiness.

3. Cover the skillet while cooking

Without covering the hashbrowns, the potatoes only cook when in direct contact with the skillet. This will lead to the potatoes on the bottom burning before the potatoes on the top can cook all the way through. When you cover them, the skillet fries the potatoes on the bottom and the steam trapped inside the skillet cooks the potatoes on the top. This step is the difference between hashbrowns that are crispy but fluffy inside, and hashbrowns that are crispy and undercooked on the inside.

4. Salt after cooking; don’t season before cooking

An honest misstep many home cooks make is using multiple spices on hashbrowns before cooking. Once finished, the hash taste like the spice cabinet instead of tasting like hash. Instead, simply salt the hashbrowns immediately after removing from the pan. You truly only need salt. Think about it hashbrowns are just fried potatoes. Would you put that chilli powder on your french fries? Probably not, so put that back in the cabinet for this dish.

Handy Chef Perfect Hash Browns

What do you usually make for breakfast at home?

This weekend, I had several friends in town to celebrate Howard University’s Homecoming. And as a Howard alum, I was excited to attend the festivities. I was especially excited to feed and entertain my friends!

Remember that antique cutting board? Well, this was the perfect opportunity to christen that newly restored board with a full spread of assorted cheeses and breads.

Cheese board vegetarian Handy Chef Lex
Cheese Board featuring: cheddar cheese, Honeycrisp apples, goat cheese, grapes, pepperjack cheese
cheese board handy chef lex

Tips for Creating a Cheese Board

1. Select cheeses with varying textures

I typically include 1 soft cheese, a Cheddar cheese, and 1 hard cheese. This can be soft goat cheese, smoked white cheddar, and aged parmasean (hard.) This will provide some variation as your guest eat their way around the board.

2. In absence of meats, load up on extras

Charcuterie boards are traditionally prepared with meat as the main feature. But you can create a great spread with just cheeses, breads, vegetables, and fruits. To satisfy guests, without serving meats, be sure to add hearty extras. Examples:

  • Olives
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Apples
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Figs
  • Bread & Olive Oil

3. Jam!

Many people are unfamiliar with the magical union of cheese and fruit. So they wouldn’t think to combine cheese with fruit jam, but they absolutelty should. Every cheese board can be elevated with a dollop of jam made from fruits like raspberries, apples, or figs. Advise guests to try smearing the jam on a cracker and laying a piece of cheese on top; a guaranteed “Wow!”

4. Group complementary items together

Group together the “perfect bites” so your guests can easily enjoy your board. See examples of “perfect bites” below:

  • Cheddar/Apple
  • Goat Cheese/Jam/Cracker
  • Feta Cheese/Watermelon

5. You don’t need rules

There is an endless list of rules when it comes to making this hors d’oeuvre. But the true reward of making a cheese board isn’t a picture perfect spread, instead it’s the joy of eating tasty cheeses with friends. For you rule-followers: here is a more comprehensive guideline for crafting cheese boards.

What appetizer do you usually serve to guests?

There’s no better way to start your morning than with some hearty eggs. This protein-packed ingredient can be prepared in about a dozen different ways: fried, boiled, poached, etc. But the most contentious iteration of the egg is easily the scrambled egg.

Like many people, I grew up eating my eggs scrambled hard…harder than hard. My mom would scramble eggs into small, yellow bits. I grew a distaste for scrambled eggs, which I realized later in adulthood was really just a distaste for over-cooked eggs. Growing up, eggs that were runny or generally soft were deemed undercooked and inedible. If I had only known then what I knew now.

Handy Chef Lex Make Perfect Scrambled eggs
Left: Over cooked eggs
Right: Soft scrambled eggs

In adulthood, I found that many of my friends were also accustomed to the ultra-hard scrambled eggs that I grew to loathe. But once I learned to scramble my eggs more softly, I was determined to change their minds. Now this isn’t a manifesto against well-done eggs, though I do not personally classify well-done eggs as good eats. This is proof that eggs can be well-done, and not hammered beyond recognition.

1. Turn down the heat

Handy Chef Lex gif
Turn down the heat!

The single biggest reason cooks over-cook eggs is the temperature of the stovetop. Eggs will become tough when cooked over HIGH heat. So, if you only take one tip from The Handy Chef, turn down the heat when you scramble eggs! Use MEDIUM to MEDIUM-LOW heat when scrambling eggs.

2. Salt after cooking, not before

Most home cooks prep their eggs in this order: crack eggs into a bowl, add salt and pepper, mix in the bowl, then dump the eggs into the hot skillet. I recommend delaying step 2 in this process. Adding salt to the raw eggs draws moisture out of the whites, resulting in a drier finished product. After scrambling yours eggs, sprinkle them with salt. You will taste the difference.

3. Add fat at the end of cooking

This tip is optional, but adds a delicious element. If you want creamier, silkier eggs, then add a small dollop of fat near the end of cooking. Butter is a great option, but goat cheese, creme fraiche, or olive oil work well too!

4. Remove from heat, as needed

Again, this is about temperature control. During the cooking process, if you notice your skillet getting too hot, or you notice your eggs sticking to the pan, don’t be afraid to lift the pan away from the heat source. Once the temperature is manageable again, you can place it back on the heat source. This will prevent over-cooking.

5. Stop scrambling

Eggs have a hefty amount of protein in them. Because of this, the proteins retain heat and continue cooking after the you turn off the stove. So, final tip, stop cooking the eggs a few seconds before the eggs appear “done.”

Conclusion

With these tips, you can enjoy scrambled eggs in a whole new way! Instead of dry, yellow bits, you can have soft, fluffy eggs every time.

Scrambled eggs, fit for a Handy Chef.

How do you like your eggs? Hard, soft, medium?

Roasted vegetables are a staple in my kitchen. But that perfect char evades many home cooks. I had a reader tell me they couldn’t re-create my Cauliflower Steak recipe. Their cauliflower came out tasty, but not quite roasted. Here are the tips I gave them for better roasted veggies:

1. Dry Them Thoroughly

Of course you should rinse the food before roasting it, but be sure to dry it completely. Water left on the vegetables will produce moisture inside the oven, thus steaming the vegetables. Skipping this step will result in vegetables that are soft and might as well have been cooked on top of the stove.

2. Space Them Apart on the Baking Sheet

When roasting a large amount of vegetables, it’s tempting to crowd the baking sheet. But you must resist the urge! Roasting requires direct contact between the food and the baking sheet in order to create a crispy surface. That crispy surface will never happen, if the vegetables are in one big heap.

3. Never Use Frozen Vegetables

While frozen veggies are a reliable shortcut in most cases, they’re not suited for roasting. As they melt on the baking sheet, they will produce liquid. Similar to tip #2, the liquid will cause them to steam in the oven instead of roasting.

4. Salt After Roasting

So you have the correct oven temperature and completely dry veggies, but your roasted dishes still lack oomph. Often times home cooks will season vegetables only before roasting. But for optimal flavor, you should apply non-salt seasonings (cumin, paprika, herbs, etc) before roasting. Then sprinkle coarse salt over the roasted veggies immediately after removing them from the oven. Not only will this amplify flavor, but finishing with flaky sea salt enhances presentation as well.

Roasting Broccoli in oven. The Handy Chef

5. Crank Up the Heat

Your oven should be at least 400 degrees for roasting most vegetables. At lower temperatures, the veggies will cook through just fine but they’ll never achieve that crispy roasted texture.

Perfect Roasted Broccoli, crisp.