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Making home fries the traditional way takes about an hour of standing over a hot skillet, after which you get only three servings at most. We wanted a quicker, more hands-off method for making a larger amount. To speed things up, we developed a hybrid cooking technique: First, we parboil diced russet potatoes, and then we coat them in oil and cook them in a very hot oven. We discovered that boiling the potatoes with baking soda quickly breaks down their exterior while leaving their insides nearly raw, ensuring home fries with a crisp, brown crust and a moist, fluffy interior. We added diced onions in the last 20 minutes of oven time and finished the home fries with chives to reinforce the onion flavor.
Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 500°F.
Bring 10 cups water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add potatoes and baking soda. Return to boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain potatoes. Return potatoes to Dutch oven and place over low heat. Cook, shaking pot occasionally, until any surface moisture has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and cayenne; mix with rubber spatula until potatoes are coated with thick, starchy paste, about 30 seconds.