ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Today's Found Recipe is gluten-free, and it comes from the middle of the country - the Midwest. It's not a hot dish, a piergoi or even lutefisk, though we could have asked Amy Thielen to talk about any of those foods.
Amy Thielen is the author of "The New Midwestern Table," a cookbook that's like a love letter to the region. And the recipe she shares with us today goes back to her time as a grill cook in her native Minnesota.
AMY THIELEN: I call it the Glorified Hash Brown Cake with Frying Peppers. When I worked at a diner on Main Street in Park Rapids, when somebody asked for their hash browns with fried peppers and onions, we called them glorified.
I think it just means that they are gussied up or made fancy, kind of like going to church - hash browns that go to church.
On the East Coast, you always have home fries or hash or fried potatoes, but they're really not hash browns proper. And, you know, growing up with a Midwestern breakfast, we really missed that. We missed them done right.
We came to Brooklyn. We lived there for almost 10 years. We came there with a love for hash browns and it was hard to find them. In fact, my husband would often rail when we could sit down to a plate of home fries, which was fried potatoes with peppers and sometimes tomatoes. Which made it kind of soggy, you know? There's no crunch here. And he would say: What is the dividing line? Where do hash browns stop in the United States? Is it west of the Ohio River or something like that? Where is the boundary?
So when I got back to my home kitchen and I started thinking about the iconic dishes of my homeland. The Hash Brown Cake came to my and I wanted to make them glorified, but I wanted to do it in a way that would preserve its crunch.
To make Glorified Hash Brown Cake, boiled the russet potatoes in their skins. And then you just read them, you lay them in one layer. And then, you would heat your butter in a pan and you pile them very gently in sauce, by leaving some air in between all the shreds of potato. And fry until the bottom is really a hard topped crispy crust. Then you want to flip them, put them over very, very carefully in one big fat cake. And fry the other side until that's brown.
This is a proper hash brown. It's a cake and on one side you have a hard topped and the other side is hard, dark brown. And in the inside, there's a very flaky and white interior. It's buttery. It's light. It's kind of like feather-picky.
The glorification comes in with this idea of frying peppers on the side. I mean if you are doing this very casually, you just fry them altogether with onions and peppers. But I've always found that the onions and peppers - or the peppers especially, they give off a little moisture and that kind of ruins the hard crust. So I get a bunch of gardens peppers, you know? They can be any kind of frying pepper and I get whatever I've got - all the babies, the mediums.
And I just fry them in a little bit more butter in a pan on the side. Then I pile them on top of the cake.
And then when I bring it to the table, you just kind of slice the cake into wedges. And you have, you know, you serve it with a little bit of the pepper. And it's really, really good with steaks.
SIEGEL: That's Amy Thielen, author of "The New Midwestern Table." You can get her recipe at the Found Recipes page at NPR.org.