Ever since Hunter was born last year I’ve morphed into quite the morning person. This is utterly shocking, because previously, regardless of what time I went to bed the night before, the act of waking up was always an excruciating one. I was practically homicidal until I’d showered, sat in solitary contemplation for 20 minutes, and imbibed a good half litre of strong black coffee. Despite this weird, albeit welcome, metamorphosis, breakfast has always been my favourite meal of the day. I figure that after going the entire night without eating, my empty stomach (and consequent heightened taste buds) make the act of eating all the more awesome.
Obviously then, I’m not one of those people who gets up and hurries out the door without eating breakfast. Unlike many, I’m never not hungry when I wake up. And the concept of ‘forgetting to eat’ breakfast (or any meal, let’s be serious) isn’t just foreign to me, but borderline offensive! On the contrary, I set aside time to eat every morning, even if it means getting up a little earlier.
But for such a breakfast aficionado, there is little variety in what I eat each morning. In a perfect world I’d pile my plate high with whipped-cream topped waffles one day, and syrupy pancakes the next (I have an obscene sweet tooth). But in that world the notions of ‘glycemic index’ and ‘adult-onset diabetes’ don’t exist, so I’d never have to worry about the fallout of my eating choices. In reality, my breakfasts typically take the form of oatmeal with dried fruit and flax meal, cereal with unsweetened almond milk, or whole grain toast topped with vegan margarine and a scrambled egg or two. Can’t get much more virtuous than that. Some weekends I might allow myself a ‘treat’ breakfast such as ones mentioned above, but those I usually end up regretting because they inevitably throw me into a listless, sugar-induced food coma. Although they do taste good.
While I enjoy my go-to breakfasts, lately I’ve been getting the urge to experiment a bit more. The Breakfast Lentil Bowl I posted a couple weeks ago was a good start. My Cottage Cheese Pancakes with Spiced Pear Compote also turned out well – possibly a little too well (yum!)- but fall more toward the ‘treat’ end of the breakfast spectrum. What I’m looking to come up with are breakfasts that incorporate a more interesting range of ingredients – more fresh vegetables and fruit, and different proteins and starches. That’s where the 10 lb. bag of Ashcroft potatoes (pictured above) comes in, which made its way from my mother-in-law in Ashcroft, to my sister-in-law in Langley, and then to me in the Okanagan. Talk about well-travelled taters!
When I think potatoes and breakfast, I think hash browns – pan-fried in a skillet until crispy and golden brown. I use sweet potatoes and yams so often in my cooking that it seems like a bit of a novelty to make something using plain old white potatoes! But when it comes to something like hash browns, they just work. Sure, the nutritional profile of white potatoes isn’t the greatest – at least compared to the aforementioned varieties – but this I’ve counterbalanced here with the addition of mushrooms – which, I’ve recently learned, are very good for you – and nutrient-packed kale. Finished with a bit of grated Parmesan, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and freshly ground black pepper, this is exactly the kind of savoury dish my breakfast repertoire has been lacking! Now about that poached egg…
Egg poaching is something I’ve made it this far in life without learning how to do, and it’s always struck me as a rather mystical process. I mean, how can it be possible to cook an egg outside of its shell and have it retain a somewhat egg-like shape – beyond cheating and using some sort of mold? Fortuitously, while going through our storage locker a few weeks back I came across a copy of the 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking, which must have belonged to my boyfriend’s mum or grandmother originally. Obviously I could have taken to the Internet for a tutorial on egg poaching, but thought it would be more interesting to do things the old school way and learn from a cookbook. Joy of Cooking is the perfect reference for this task because it covers a wide range of recipes and basic culinary skills: how to make Hollandaise sauce, how to fry calf liver and saute chitterlings (WTF are chitterlings?), how to stew prunes and pickle herring, even how to make jellied pigs’ feet! it’s all in here. Clearly, many of the cookbook’s recipes are outmoded – and decidedly un-vegetarian – but I got a kick out of thumbing through it regardless.
Joy of Cooking offers a number of techniques for poaching eggs – one of which uses wine (right up my alley) – and while not opposed to wine for breakfast, as a beginner I went with one of the more straightforward methods. This still involved a degree of ambidexterity, as I had to “swirl the water into a mad vortex with a wooden spoon” with one hand and “drop the egg into the well formed in the center of the pot” with the other. At first I thought I had messed the whole thing up, as some of the egg white pulled away from the yolk and made its way toward the edge of the pot. Then I read this is actually supposed to happen, at which point I breathed a sigh of relief. What do you think of the results? Not too shabby for a first attempt, IMO! And it tasted very delicious atop the hash. Although I ate the leftovers sans egg and they tasted great that way, too 🙂
Recipe: Potato, Kale and Mushroom Hash | With a Poached Egg
Makes 2 servings
- 2 medium white potatoes (I left skin on but you don’t have to), scrubbed clean and cut into sixths
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 free-range eggs (optional)
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
- 1 bunch of kale, spines removed and torn into small pieces
- 1 cup white or brown mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (or vegan Parmesan), grated, plus more for serving
- 1 lemon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare potatoes: Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and allow to cook for 15 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork. Drain and return to saucepan. Using a potato masher, mash potatoes into small chunks. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mashed potatoes and stir until combined with oil. Stirring often, pan-fry potatoes until crispy and golden brown. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. While potatoes are cooking, prepare kale and mushrooms.
Prepare kale and mushrooms: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until just golden brown. Add kale and mushrooms and saute just until wilted. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. If not using poached eggs, skip the next step.
Poach Eggs (method taken directly from the 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking – Volume 1, p. 185): “Poached eggs, unless made in individual molds, are apt to produce ‘streamers’ that you may trim off with scissors before serving. Grease the bottom of a 6 to 8-inch pot. Put in enough slightly salted water to fill to twice the depth of an egg. While the water comes to a boil, put in a small bowl: 1 egg. Swirl the water into a mad vortex with a wooden spoon. Drop the egg into the well formed in the center of the pot. The swirling water should round the egg. Reduce the heat. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes or let stand off the heat for 8 minutes […] Remove with a skimmer and drain well […] Repeat the process for each egg”.
Add kale and mushrooms to skillet containing potatoes and fold until combined. Fold in grated Parmesan. Serve, topping each portion with a poached egg (if using), a bit more Parmesan, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and freshly ground black pepper. Eat!