serves: 4 or more
Crusty fried potatoes are as popular in northeastern Italy as they are in the United States. This Trieste version is as delicious as any I have ever tasted. You will get best results using a nonstick or a cast iron pan, browning and turning the potatoes over and over, so the caramelization is dispersed throughout. Use the timing here as a guideline but follow your own tastes to create just the degree of crustiness you love.
2 pounds russet potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
4 ounces bacon, (about 4 thick-cut strips)
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Put the potatoes, whole and skin-on, in a large pot with cold water covering them by a few inches. Bring to a steady boil and cook just until they are easily pierced with a fork or sharp knife blade-don't let them get mushy or fall apart. Drain, cool and peel the potatoes. Break them up into irregular chunks, roughly 1-inch or larger, with a sharp utensil. I use a large serving spoon with a thin edge so the pieces have curved surfaces-avoid forking them apart, as the potatoes tend to crumble.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the skillet over moderate heat. Stir in the onions and heat until sizzling gently. Gather them on one side of the pan to cook and soften in a small area and spread the cut bacon in the rest of the skillet. Fry the bacon, tossing and spreading it out, until the fat is rendered and the pieces are getting crisp, while the onions wilt and start to color, 5 minutes or more.
Stir onions and bacon together, spill the potato chunks in the pan and toss to mix everything. Raise the heat slightly, season with the salt and freshly ground pepper, and drizzle another 2 tablespoons olive oil all over. Keep tumbling and tossing until the potatoes are hot and sizzling, spread them to fill the pan in an even layer and press the top flat with a spatula.
Lower the heat and cook without disturbing until the underside of the potato disk is caramelized and crispy, 5 minutes or longer. With the spatula, lift and turn the potatoes, breaking up the disk and bringing the crusty bits to the top. Stir and spread the potato chunks and press flat, as before and cook until the bottom is golden.
Repeat the sequence of turning the potatoes, pressing them into a flat disk or cake, caramelizing the bottom for a few minutes, then tumbling it over, about a half dozen times.
After 40 minutes, or longer, when the potatoes have been crusted all over-and there are browned bits in every bite-season with salt and pepper to taste, press flat crisp the bottom well for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Place a large plate on top of the skillet and invert, dropping the cake out of the pan, then slide it back into the skillet for a final crusting.
Slide or invert the round of potatoes on the plate and serve right away.