Monday, December 12, 2011

A Dark Days Brunch - Home Fries with Eggs and Greens

I grew potatoes for the first time this year. They may be my new favorite crop - they are so easy to grow and need very little maintenance during the height of the summer, when everything else in the garden needs constant attention. Plus, they store well for a long time.

1) You dig a trench in your garden and toss in a seed potato every foot or so.
2) You cover it with some soil, leaving 2 inches of the trench exposed.
3) Once the potato plant starts growing, you fill in the trench completely.
4) Ignore your potato plants for several months.
5) Once the above-ground part of the potato plant dies back, dig up the below-ground part.

UNH Cooperative Extension has a great two-page factsheet on growing potatoes - in case my lazy, laissez faire method doesn't suit your fancy. It also covers a bit of information on some of the diseases that can affect potatoes.

The best part about potatoes is that you don't know what you're doing to dig up. We unearthed potatoes in every size from marbles to baseballs (if baseballs were potato-shaped instead of round). The smaller potatoes are excellent for boiling up quickly for eating hot or making potato salad. The larger potatoes are great for roasting and for making a brunch favorite - Home Fries!

For the Dark Days Challenge this week, I knew that I would have only one chance to cook. We were tearing out the kitchen Sunday afternoon, so I took advantage of Sunday morning to cook a final breakfast. I wanted it to be a substantial meal so that we wouldn't have to cook again for a while!

Breakfast of kitchen demolition champions
I made special home fries with leftover bacon grease, onions, sliced bell peppers from the freezer, reconstituted dried tomatoes, potatoes and cheddar cheese. Then I fried up some eggs from our hens. And feeling like maybe I should eat some more vegetables, I sauteed a few wilty salad mix greens, just enough to soften them. A little salt and pepper over the whole thing, and some ketchup on the side - yum.

Three key tricks to making home fries -
1) Scrub the potatoes thoroughly. Keep the skins on.
2) Microwave your taters first for 2-3 minutes, piercing them with a fork before you nuke them. You want them cooked about halfway through before they hit the frying pan. (If you are anti-microwave, you can boil them for 3-5 minutes.) Thank you to Brynne for this breakthrough piece of advice.
3) Use a cast iron pan or another pan where you can really scrape the bottom of the pan without worrying about ruining the finish. You want the potatoes to develop a crusty exterior and this may result in some sticking - nothing a wooden spoon and some elbow grease won't fix.

I did pretty well on the local-eating challenge for this meal, although I found out that I had fallen prey to my own assumptions. I had assumed that Olivia's Organics salad mix (a Chelsea, MA company) would be sourcing their greens from Massachusetts; a search on the Internet proved otherwise, identifying that Olivia's sources from many farms all over the country, including California. Also, we tried some of our homemade ketchup and it tasted a little off, so we used store-bought organic ketchup instead.

Sources cited:
Bacon grease - leftover from bacon from North Country Smokehouse
Onions, peppers, tomatoes - Musterfield Farm
Potatoes - Buzz's garden (our neighbor lets us plant in his garden)
Cheddar cheese - Cabot Creamery
Salad mix - Olivia's Organics (most likely not local - darn)
Eggs - the backyard hens
Ketchup - the grocery store

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