Breakfast for dinner: pancakes sweet and savory, waffles with or without chicken, omelets, frittatas and just about any egg dish. Yum. My household continues the tradition even though we no longer have young children.
These days, we even enjoy a cocktail with our breakfast. The good news when the repast is served in the evening: Cocktails happily move beyond the bloody mary. Yes, bourbon, scotch, amaros and dark bitters prove more than welcome.
A requirement: Breakfast for dinner satisfies best when embracing savory elements. Bacon and other smoked meats and fish suffice, even in small quantities. For example, I cook multigrain pancakes in bacon fat when serving them late in the day. I add chopped ham to my scrambled eggs or top omelets with slivers of smoked salmon.
Likewise, vegetables make a welcome appearance: sautéed spinach on a fried-egg sandwich and caramelized onions in the frittata. Fresh herbs added to butter transform an evening waffle topped with crispy chicken.
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After a day of biking in Austria, we ordered grostl, a hash made with crispy fried potatoes, sweet onions and chopped pork sausages. Topped with a fried egg, this homey, satisfying skillet of goodness made us glad we’d exercised all day. It also made me recall some excellent breakfast hash adventures.
At home, we venture beyond the standard canned corned beef hash – especially when there is leftover meat in the house. Hash comes from the French verb hacher, literally to chop, which is the only requirement for hash – that it be chopped. Hash on the menu provides an opportunity to rekindle your food processor romance. It makes quick work of chopping the vegetables. However, I prefer a super-sharp knife and a cutting board to dice any meats, so I have pretty little chunks to add to the hash.
I’m a huge fan of ready-cut vegetables sold in the produce section, particularly ones difficult to manage such as butternut squash. Chopped and browned to crisp goodness with bacon fat, butternut makes a fine hash. Sweet potatoes work in the recipe that follows, as do small new potatoes. Use dark purple varieties for a dramatic flair.
Add onions, garlic and spices to hashed veggies for maximum flavor and texture. I also pair smoked meats, such as ham or smoked pork chops, with the slightly sweet butternut. Use the best bacon and smoked meats you can afford; I seek out uncured varieties, so they are free of nitrates and other additives. Boar’s Head, Applegate Farms and other brands are now readily available at supermarkets and on Amazon.
I’ve never had a hash that wasn’t improved by the addition of a fried egg. Ditto for a crunchy nut topping. Here, I toast Brazil nuts (find them shelled at Trader Joe’s) and chop them with garlicky croutons, fresh lemon and green onions.
Since virtually all hash, like our Austrian grostl, is quite rich, you can easily stretch the recipe that follows to 6 servings. Simply increase the eggs to an even dozen and cook them in batches.
I serve a baby kale salad dressed with a warm vinaigrette to counter the richness. In season, sliced ripe tomatoes serve the same purpose. Offering a super-chilled maple and rye cocktail makes this quite the meal to end (or start) the day.
Bacon butternut squash hash
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
To save time, I use pre-cut butternut squash from the supermarket. Lean smoked boneless pork chops, Canadian bacon or fully cooked corned beef can stand in for the ham.
2 to 3 strips thick bacon, diced
About 6 cups (24 ounces) peeled, seeded, cubed butternut squash
3 cloves garlic
1 small red onion, quartered
1/2 small green bell or poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded, quartered
1/2 medium-size red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, quartered
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each: freshly ground pepper, dried thyme, dried rosemary
About 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for high-heat cooking, such as safflower or sunflower
10 to 12 ounces fully cooked smoked ham, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
8 to 12 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheese, such as fontina or brick
Brazil nut and lemon picada, optional, see recipe
Cook bacon in a large (10-inch) well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove crisp bits and reserve. Leave about 1 tablespoon bacon fat in the pan, and reserve the rest of the fat for later.
Put cubed butternut into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process with on/off turns just until butternut is chopped into rough 1/4-inch pieces. (Or roughly chop butternut into 1/4-inch pieces with a knife and a cutting board.) Transfer to a bowl; you will have about 6 cups.
With food processor running (no need to wash it), drop garlic into it to chop. Add red onion and peppers. Roughly chop. (Or chop everything by hand.) Add to butternut along with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. Mix well.
Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the bacon fat in the skillet. Add half of the butternut mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until tender and golden, about 10 minutes or until squash is fork-tender. Remove to a plate. Repeat with another tablespoon of bacon fat and remaining butternut mixture. Transfer to the plate.
Add 1 more tablespoon bacon fat to pan along with ham. Cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in butternut mixture. (Recipe can be made ahead up to this point; refrigerate if it will be longer than 1 hour.)
Reheat butternut mixture if necessary over medium heat. Cook over medium-low heat to crisp the bottom, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spray 1 large or 2 medium-size nonstick skillet(s) with oil. Heat over medium-high. Carefully crack eggs into skillet. Reduce heat to low; fry eggs sunny side up until whites are set and yolks somewhat set, 3 to 4 minutes.
Sprinkle cheese over hash and let it melt over medium heat, about 1 minute. To serve, top each portion of the hash with two fried eggs. Sprinkle with reserved crispy bacon and Brazil nut picada.
Brazil nut and lemon picada: Put 1/2 cup Brazil nuts (or whole almonds) into a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Do not leave the nuts, or they will burn. Remove from heat; cool. In food processor, coarsely chop nuts with on/off turns. Add 1 cup garlic croutons, 1/2 cup chopped green onion tops, grated rind of 1/2 lemon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Process to mix to coarse crumbs. Refrigerate, covered, up to 1 week.
Maple and rye cocktail
Prep time: 5 minutes
You can multiply this recipe times your number of guests and put the whiskey, amaro, syrup and bitters into a pitcher. Refrigerate up to several hours. Shake cocktails one serving at a time using a scant 1/2 cup of the mix per drink.
1/4 cup rye whiskey, such as Templeton Rye
2 tablespoons amaro liqueur, such as Amaro Averna or Amaro Lucano
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
4 to 6 dashes Angostura bitters
1 thin piece grapefruit peel (yellow part only, no white pith)
Fill a cocktail shaker full of ice. Pour rye, amaro, maple syrup and bitters over the ice. Cover tightly and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
Strain into a stemmed cocktail glass. Add the grapefruit peel to the glass. Serve immediately.