Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Usually when I alter a recipe, it’s to cut corners, but here’s a rare instance where I made something about 10 times more complex—and it was worth the extra effort!

When I saw this quinoa hash at a Cozy Kitchen, I was really intrigued by the idea. A still isn’t a quinoa fan, but he makes an exception for quinoa fritters, and I thought maybe a hash could replicate some of that crispy, toasty goodness he enjoys. I tend to have bad luck with hashes, though; apparently I just don’t have the knack for frying potatoes. By the time they’re cooked through, they’re overbrowned and sticking to the pan, and then they break apart and everything devolves into a starchy mess. I know this can be avoided by cooking the potatoes through first and then browning them, as in my corn hash recipe, where they’re microwaved. But since squash would also be involved, that made me think of roasting, so I decided to coat the vegetables with the spices (I used smoked paprika instead of regular, to play up the roasty flavor) and throw them into the oven, on separate baking sheets in case one cooked faster than the other. By this time the whole process was starting to seem ridiculously awkward, and I wasn’t even done complicating things yet.

The original recipe boiled the quinoa right in the skillet, but I’m not sure my cast-iron is that well-seasoned, so I opted to cook it as usual, in a separate pot. Then of course it seemed like a great idea to add bacon, so I browned that in the skillet and removed it, then cooked the shallot and garlic in the bacon fat. (I can take or leave big pieces of bacon, but anything fried in bacon fat? Sign me up.) Since I wanted my quinoa to be as toasted as possible, I tossed it in with the shallot mixture and let it fry as long as I could. It didn’t brown as much as I’d hoped—nowhere near as much as the fritters—probably because the pan was a bit crowded and it steamed more than frying, but it did take on a golden hue, a drier, chewier consistency, and a nice nutty taste. (If you’re not a fan of the texture of ordinary quinoa, I highly recommend trying it pan-fried.) Then I added back in the bacon and the roasted vegetables. The original recipe had just cooked eggs right on top of the hash, but since I’m addicted to poached eggs I made those separately and set them on top when I was ready to serve. And finally, for a bit more color, I served the whole thing atop a bed of arugula.

So basically, the original recipe was a true one-dish meal, with everything from the quinoa to the eggs cooked in the same skillet. I had to go and add a separate appliance (the oven) and million extra dishes and steps. I realize this sounds like a pain, and if you want to try the original instead of my version I completely understand, but I swear to you, my method didn’t end up being too hard, and it paid off big time. In fact, it was pretty much a masterpiece, if I do say so myself, joining the ranks of my favorite quinoa dishes ever. The tender, spiced roasted vegetables were delicious enough to eat on their own, but when combined with the peppery fresh greens, the smoky bacon, the nutty grain, and the creamy egg they were even better. I would happily eat this delicious, satisfying dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and A enjoyed it enough to have leftovers the next day, which for him is really saying something where quinoa is concerned. I’m tremendously pleased that all my tinkerings ended up being improvements and not fussy time-wasters or grievous errors. Could it be that after so many years, I’m finally learning to improvise in the kitchen?

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups water
1–1½ teaspoons salt, divided
¾ pound red potatoes, cubed
½–¾ pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 slices bacon, diced
1–2 shallots, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup minced fresh chives
4 large eggs
About 4 cups arugula

1. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with water and ½ teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and spread quinoa in a thin layer on a large plate or a baking sheet to cool.

2. While the quinoa cooks and cools, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cubed potatoes in a large bowl and toss with ½–1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, and coarse salt to taste. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread the potatoes on it in a single layer. To the empty bowl you just used, add the cubed squash and toss with ½–1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, and coarse salt to taste. Line a second baking sheet with parchment and spread the squash on it in a single layer. Place both baking sheets in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and crispy outside, tender within, about 20–30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. When the vegetables are about halfway done roasting, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon, keeping the skillet on the heat.

4. Add shallot to the skillet and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Place the garlic atop the cooked shallot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the quinoa to the skillet and fry, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is a bit browned, slightly dry, and smells toasted, about 15 minutes.

5. Add the potato, butternut squash, and bacon to the skillet and cook another 5–10 minutes until everything is warm. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Meanwhile, poach eggs.

7. Place a handful of arugula in each of four shallow bowls or plates. Divide the hash among the dishes, placing it atop the arugula, and top each with a poached egg. Garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon chives.

Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good; just don't poach the eggs or add the arugula until you're ready to serve.

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