IT STANDS TO REASON that the apple — that most gregarious of foods — would get along famously with the potato, pomme de terre in French, “apple of the earth.”
Whatever lexicographer compared the lowly potato to the apple was overly generous, though, or else had a sense of humor. The potato, after all, lacks the apple’s natural beauty and wide range of shapes, colors, textures, and aromas.
The low, seasonal foliage of the potato loses its luster after spring bloom, and is gone altogether with harvest. The tubers grow beneath the ground, where they cannot be seen. The orchard, in contrast, invites people in with ripe fruit, lush foliage and heady perfume, and the apple tree is a graceful, revolving sculpture year-round.
The potato must be cooked to be eaten. It fails utterly as a dessert — and as an analogy.
Still, I love my potatoes, especially at breakfast.
I always order potatoes, usually home fries or hash browns, when I eat breakfast out. The best are memorable for their crispness on the outside and a soft center, best achieved slowly over medium heat.
The ideal home fries have been sautéed in just enough butter or oil, and flavored with other ingredients, especially onions, peppers, and garlic. They make a classic breakfast with eggs and toast.
At diners and restaurants I dab my home fries with ketchup, adding bright color and contrasting sweetness. Apples serve a similar purpose, with more flavor and nutritive value. They lift this humble potato dish to a new level.
Add the apples last, and cook for only about five minutes. Although hash is a little more forgiving than home fries when it comes to texture, the apples should hold their shape against the potatoes. They should begin to soften, but their flavor should retain a little tang.
This brunch-sized version serves 6.
3 T butter
3 potatoes, boiled until soft, and cubed
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 sweet-tart New England apples, such as Fuji, Mutsu, Rhode Island Greening, or Shamrock, cored and chopped into ½-inch pieces
Heat butter in large skillet on medium heat.
Add onion and garlic, and cook five minutes.
Add potatoes, and cook 8-10 minutes, until they begin to get crispy.
Add apples, and cook five minutes more, until potatoes are desired crispness.