Goodness doesn’t get much simpler than eggs and potatoes. The combination works for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Think scrambled eggs with potatoes, potato salad laced with hard-cooked eggs, crunchy fried rice topped with a soft egg. It’s perfect fare for casual entertaining, great for overnight guests during the overloaded holiday season.
I think the contrasting textures explain a lot of the combo’s appeal. Also, both ingredients exhibit a fantastic affinity for picking up other flavors — butter, oil, bacon, hot sauce, black pepper.
Loving this combination, I seek it out whenever possible. On a recent trip to Kalamazoo, Mich., I thrilled to see corned beef hash on the breakfast menu at Anna’s House. The skillet full of crispy little potatoes and shreds of tender, rich corned beef, topped with a fried egg, proved a far cry from any canned corned beef hash of old.
The secret to this rejuvenated breakfast staple is allowing the ingredients to maintain individual textures: crispy potatoes, soft caramelized onions, toothsome meat chunks and the melting goodness of soft egg.
For just about any hash, I prefer to par-cook small potatoes to shorten the cook time and to retain moisture. The microwave cooks the potatoes quickly and makes cleanup easy. For crispness, pull out the cast-iron pan and heat it thoroughly before adding some fat to lubricate everything and promote browning. Start with a sweet onion to caramelize it, then add the par-cooked potatoes in a single, uncrowded layer — leaving space around the potatoes promotes the browning.
Once the potatoes and onions are perfectly golden, you can go in a million directions: Serve them as is with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Crush them lightly with a potato masher, and add cooked meats or vegetables to make a kind of hash to top with eggs. Add beaten eggs, and scramble together with diced avocado for a vegetarian taco filling. Or, sprinkle the potatoes over a salad of frisee and kale with a warm vinaigrette.
The breakfast skillet that follows is delicious topped with softly poached eggs that add yolky richness. Poached eggs can be tricky, so I practice making them when guests are not around. Part of their appeal is that they can be poached in advance and simply rewarmed in a dish of hot water. No stress, however, since fried eggs with a runny center taste great here too.
For the corned beef, I simmer a small roast in water with spices on the stovetop until it is fall-apart tender. Use the slow cooker, if desired, so you can run errands while the meat cooks. Know that a 3-pound roast will yield just over 1 pound of cooked, lean meat shreds.
When pressed for time, I purchase a chunk of corned beef from the deli counter and then pull it into shreds at home. Alternatives to the corned beef could include cooked crumbled breakfast sausages or Mexican chorizo. Grilled or roasted eggplant or browned cubes of tofu stand in for meat on many occasions. I also like to use chunks of grilled salmon, or whitefish or lump crab; just be cautious not to overcook the fish on the reheat.
Serve this skillet of goodness at any time of the day. For breakfast, I accompany the skillet with fresh-squeezed juice and slices of ripe melon. When serving this for dinner, I add a bowl of sliced ripe tomatoes and pass crusty bread.