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Alternative Ingredients are listed in Red
|Visalia Onion (med dice)
|Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Who the hell named these Home Frys!? They are Diner Frys! Nobody ever makes them at home because they are such a pain in the ass. Sorry... that just had to be said.
Place a half sheet, lined with foil, on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 500º.
Peal the potatoes and slice into ½" to ¾" dice. Uniformity isn't critical, but it wouldn't hurt. Place a sauce pan / stew pot / dutch oven on the stove top with enough water to completely cover the potatoes, about 8 cups or so. Bring to a boil, then add the baking soda. Dump the potatoes in, under full heat, until they return to a boil. Cook 1 full minute at a full boil. If the pot threatens to bubble over, remove from the heat, just a few seconds, while stirring, return to heat and continue. We are just par boiling the potatoes. They should have only a thin layer of "mush" on the outside of what would be a grossly undercooked potato when they are done.
Remove the potatoes from the heat and drain in a colander. Put the pot back on med-low heat and add the butter, pepper and 2 tbls of the salt until melted and mixed. Return the potatoes to the pot and stir to coat the potatoes.
Remove the half sheet from the oven and slather with the olive oil. Dump potatoes onto the sheet and spread into a thin layer, return to the 500º oven for 15 minutes.
Remove potatoes from the oven, turn them over (as best as you can) to brown the other side. Create a "hole" in the middle of the potatoes and pile the chopped onions in it. Return to the 500º oven for another 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and stir everything together on the sheet pan. This is where you make it whatever you want it to be using the "alternative" ingredients or anything else you may dream up. Add whatever flavoring you wish and return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes depending on what you choose to add. I would reserve any soft cheese until service for fear of burning it. Of course, you can reduce the heat of the oven as well.