From the Motherland is a series where I pay homage to my Ukrainian heritage and share my favorite childhood recipes. When I was growing up, we used to eat these fried potatoes on the regular.
If I had to compare the frequency with which Russian/Ukrainian people eat fried potatoes (zharenaya kartoshka) to something Americans eat with a similar voracity, I’d say cereal and skinless boneless chicken breasts and Wonder Bread – all combined.
Zharenaya kartoshka is the very foundation of our cuisine and the simplest of recipes. It’s literally just potatoes – peeled and sliced, and fried in a generous glug of oil.
Russian fried potatoes have crispy, craggy edges and creamy interiors, and are supposed to feel just a tad too greasy. They’re not unlike diner potatoes/home fries, but you know… better.
Most importantly, they are not uniformly browned. Because they are pan-fried – not deep-fried – not all the potato pieces consistently make contact with the hot oil.
Therefore, you end up with some golden brown bits and some lighter bits. Attempting to achieve uniformity is unnecessary. In my opinion, the combo of the two textures is key.
When I was growing up – back in Ukraine and here in the States – my mom made these regularly, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the recent years, though, they’ve become more of a delicacy, since she now believes anything fried in oil is not healthy.
(Although, she has no qualms about emptying a whole container of heavy cream into a single pasta dish. But hey, that’s moms for you and we love them anyway. And in her defense, this isn’t exactly the healthiest recipe you’ll find on here and that’s okay.)
My mom’s recipe actually doesn’t include mushrooms (we were never a big mushroom household). Their addition is something I discovered in the Russian restaurants here in south Brooklyn and it’s fantastic.
I fry the shiitake mushrooms separately and then pile them on the potatoes before serving. Some people cook the two together, or even use pickled mushrooms instead of fresh. (Yes, Russians do pickle everything.)
Garlic and dill are the main flavoring agents here. Their spiciness and grassy freshness, respectively, really tie the whole dish together. The raw garlic is stirred in at the very end – i.e. it’s just barely cooked by the residual heat of the mushrooms. Don’t be alarmed (just don’t plan on kissing anyone for a couple of hours).
You’ll notice the recipe calls for pressed garlic (i.e. passed through a garlic press). A garlic press is an absolutely magical tool that transforms garlic into its garlic-iest self.
Pressing garlic releases its essential oils and results in the tiniest pieces, meaning your food will get evenly and intensely perfumed with garlic flavor. If you don’t have a garlic press, mince the garlic as finely as possible.
The Dipping Sauce
This sauce is not traditional to our family recipe and hence, is totally optional.
In recent years, I’ve gotten into the habit of making a “special sauce” to go with fried or roasted potatoes. (I love sauces!) I’ve had people ooh-and-ahh while spooning the fancy sauce over their potatoes, only to be surprised to learn it’s just a mix of fridge-door condiments.Print
Russian fried potatoes with mushrooms and dill are a staple in Eastern European cooking.
For the Vegetables
- About 4 tablespoons avocado, canola, or refined coconut oil, divided
- 2 pounds russet potatoes (about 3 large or 4 medium potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
- 1 small or 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
- 2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 tablespoon minced dill
For the Sauce (optional)
- 3 tablespoons mayo
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- About 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon Dijon or brown mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add the potatoes and cover tightly with a lid (See Note). Cook until the potatoes are starting to soften, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid, add the onion, and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes are cooked through and crispy in places, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of a separate large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until they’re browned, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Turn the heat off and stir in the garlic.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce by stirring all the ingredients together. Feel free to adjust the proportions to your taste.
- Transfer the potatoes to a serving platter, top with the mushrooms, and garnish with dill. Serve hot.
If you don’t have a tight-fitting lid, cover the skillet with a baking sheet instead.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe (without sauce)
- Calories: 310
Keywords: russian, ukrainian, potatoes, mushrooms