Postscript, May 2008: Since I first made this recipe, I've discovered that an even easier method of making Breakfast For Dinner is just to break a few eggs over the hash when it's done browning, cover the pan, and cook until the eggs are done. I don't like runny yolks, particularly atop my nice crispy potatoes, so I pierce the yolks with a fork midway through the egg-cooking to let them run out and gently solidify (as you can see in the photo above). You could try to leave the eggs whole and intact atop the hash for a prettier effect when you serve it, but I usually give the whole thing a stir near the end, so that the final result is sort of a cross between a fried egg and a scramble. Anyway, I highly recommend adding eggs to your hash: it's both delicious and efficient, and in the true lazy spirit of Breakfast For Dinner, you end up with just a single pan to wash.
For the last couple of weeks, I have been craving breakfast food. Creamy eggs, buttery toast, waffles topped with fresh fruit, a colorful vegetable-studded frittata…excuse me while I wipe my drool off the keyboard. There can be something so wholesome and comforting about breakfast foods. Ironically, though, I’m a minimalist breakfast eater. I insist upon having it every single day, but all my life, a nice bowl of cereal (or granola or oatmeal), milk, and orange juice has been all I require. In fact, more complicated foods in the early morning make me feel a little queasy—and don’t even get me started on the non-breakfast foods some people claim to enjoy in the morning, like pork chops or cold pizza. In particular, I’m not a fan of the myriad sweet breakfast options—the coffee cakes, the doughnuts and other pastries, the syrup-drenched pancakes and sugar-crusted French toast. Why do so many breakfast foods look like desserts? I suppose a sugar rush is one way to get jump-started in the morning, but it usually just makes me feel ill.
I’m a devotee of brunch, though strictly in restaurants. I rarely feel like cooking (and worse, messing up the kitchen) in the morning. What I like best is Breakfast For Dinner. It reminds me a little bit of being a child (when my mom worked nights and my dad was in charge, he often made pancakes, French toast, or scrambled eggs for supper), a little bit of being an invalid (something about the cozy, easy-to-make, buttery-and-bland quality of many breakfast foods), and a little bit of being rebellious—so daring, mixing up the meals like that! It’s the ultimate in light-meal, use-up-whatever’s-in-the-fridge, I-don’t-feel-like-cooking cuisine, best eaten in one’s pajamas in front of the TV.
So on Saturday night I channeled all my breakfast-food cravings into creating an awesome Breakfast For Dinner. I had a bunch of ham left over from making fritters last week, and what better way to use it up than to make a hearty ham-and-potato hash (recipe adapted from Simply Recipes)? Thanks to the Internet, I also managed to reconstruct a recipe for scrambled eggs with cream cheese and scallions that I often used to make myself for dinner back when I lived alone (swingin’ bachelor lifestyle = eggs and toast for supper whenever you please). On the side, I served buttered toast made from Trader Joe’s cinnamon-swirl bread, and gigantic fresh strawberries from the farmers’ market.
Everything was easy to make and turned out deliciously. The hash was particularly pleasing, with enough left over for my lunch the next day. You could really experiment with putting just about anything you want in the hash—scallions instead of plain onion, sage or chives instead of thyme, other veggies, cheese on top—though I liked it as is. The scrambled eggs tasted like what I remembered, but they had a perplexing custard-like texture that persisted even after I cooked them way longer than the recipe called for. I like my eggs soft and fluffy, but this was nearly overkill. I don’t know if my technique was bad (I hadn’t scrambled an egg in years) or if it was just the amount of cream cheese. The recipe called for 2 ounces, and I’d cut back on that next time. I want enough cream cheese to keep the eggs moist, but it shouldn’t otherwise make its presence known. Breakfast For Dinner is about comfort, not decadence.
SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH CREAM CHEESE AND SCALLIONS
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
4 large eggs
1–2 ounces cream cheese, cut into bits and softened
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a small nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring, until soft.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, the cream cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the scallions. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring, 3–4 minutes or until cooked through.
Time: 15 minutes
HAM AND POTATO HASH
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 small baking potatoes
¾ cup finely diced cooked ham
salt and pepper to taste
fresh thyme to taste
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Scrub the potatoes, cut them in half, and cook them in the water until almost done but still firm, about 10 minutes. Rinse in cold water to stop cooking. Drain. Dice into ½-inch-thick pieces.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped bell pepper and cook another 2 minutes.
3. Add diced potatoes, ham, salt, pepper, and thyme; mix well. Cook hash until well browned, about 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with eggs and toast.
Time: 30 minutes