Brunch is without a doubt my favorite meal, not just because it offers an array of delicious food but also because it has a certain ad hoc quality that most meals lack. While I love a complicated recipe that requires exact measurements, there’s something almost magical about a meal that comes together without any real need for measuring spoons and cups and without a specific list of ingredients in mind.
Growing up, I remember my dad opening the refrigerator door on weekend mornings and peering in with him to see what seemingly random assortment of leftovers could be turned into a magnificent spread for brunch. Frequently, this resulted in some sort of scrambled egg surprise, with scrambled eggs being dressed up with staple items that we always had on hand (e.g., onions and potatoes), random leftover veggies (e.g., broccoli, mushrooms, who knows) and meats (e.g., grilled steak or chicken, maybe even deli ham from the week’s sandwiches), and always loads of salsa. These were my first moments in creative culinary thinking.
All awww’s aside, I’ve never really gotten over a good scramble. But poached eggs? Now, those fluffy little pillows are purely ethereal. And nothing is more satisfying than breaking the rich, creamy yolk over a piece of toast. How had no one introduced these to me until six months ago? Nothing against scrambled eggs, but what a crime for me to have missed out on these luscious little clouds full of yellow velvet!
Another brunch habit I haven’t been able to kick since childhood is potato hash with caramelized onions, but I have kicked up the health factor a notch. Using sweet potatoes adds some extra vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber to the diet that the good old russet potatoes of yore could never quite match. And if you can convince Anna to make you some homemade strawberry jam, you should serve it up on some whole grain toast, alongside some citrus slices for a perfectly delicious brunch that will also be nutritious, provided that you don’t head down Food Coma Avenue and ask for seconds. Or thirds.
Notes on ingredients and substitutions: Clearly, almost anything can be substituted here – regular sea salt instead of truffle salt for the poached eggs (but I would advise that if you’re going to have one obnoxious item in your pantry, truffle salt should be it; a teeny little pinch packs a lot of truffle flavor); bacon or steak or just veggies in lieu of pancetta; regular potatoes or other root veggies instead of garnet potatoes; your friend’s homemade jam instead of my friend’s (but I challenge that friend to make it as well); berries or other fruit instead of citrus (though I’d recommend staying with in-season fruits to keep costs down and flavor up).
Poached Eggs with Truffle Salt
1 egg per person (or maybe 2, depending on how all-out you’re going with other dishes)
pinch of sea salt
pinch of truffle salt (I know; it’s fussy, but a small pinch goes a long way)
Fill a skillet or pot 2-3 inches deep with water. Add a pinch of sea salt and bring water to a boil. Before adding the egg, turn heat down so water is at a very gentle boil. From here, there are two ways to poach the egg.
Legit way: Without breaking the yolk, crack the egg into a cup. Ease the egg from the cup into the water.
Cheater way: Crack the egg into one of these cute little cups (don’t judge; I had a gift certificate), sprinkle a pinch of truffle salt and black pepper on the egg, then gently float the cup into the water.
Regardless of which way you choose, it should take 2-4 minutes for the egg to cook (2 minutes if you like it really runny, like I do; 3 minutes for medium firmness; 4 minutes for a firmer yolk).
If you cooked it the legit way, scoop the egg out with a slotted spoon to drain the water, and if desired, pat the egg very gently with a paper towel to remove any remaining water. Sprinkle with a pinch of truffle salt and black pepper, and serve!
If you cheated, as I did, remove the cup from the pot, and invert the cup over a plate to yield a perfect little mound of poached eggy goodness.
I prefer to serve the poached egg on toast or an English muffin – something simple that will soak up the creamy yolk after I excitedly break into it.
Scrambled Eggs with Pancetta, Caramelized Onions, and Greek Yogurt
2 eggs per person, whisked until yolk and egg whites are mixed
1 tsp. butter, if not using a non-stick pan
1 Tbsp. green onions per person, thinly sliced
1 slice of pancetta per person, diced
1 heaping Tbsp. of Greek Yogurt per person
1/4 c. caramelized onions per person
Start by caramelizing the onions: Chop a medium-sized yellow onion in half and slice thinly. In an 8-inch non-stick pan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat, and add onions. Sprinkle onions with a generous pinch or two of salt. Stirring periodically, allow onions to caramelize until they get the beautiful golden brown, roasted coloring in the pictures, about 15 minutes. Set aside. Note: this will make enough caramelized onions for about 5 eggs (3 people, normally; or 1 hungry girlfriend and her vocal-about-the-fact-that-he’s-starving boyfriend) and 1 lb. of sweet potato hash.
In same pan over medium heat, cook diced pancetta until crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. Set aside.
In same pan over medium heat, pour whisked eggs, and allow eggs to set for a minute or two before stirring (will yield fluffier eggs). Push eggs toward the center of pan, tilting pan to distribute runny parts to the heated surface of the pan. When eggs look halfway cooked (still runny, but half clumped), stir in pancetta and green onions. Cook to desired firmness. Once done, lower heat and stir in caramelized onions (I tend to be heavy handed with them, so you should add them to taste). For added creaminess (without the calories of sour cream or cheese), stir in 1 heaping Tbsp. of Greek yogurt for every 2 eggs. Alternatively, you can serve the eggs with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top or on the side.
Sweet Potato Hash with Caramelized Onions
1 lb. garnet sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. caramelized onions (within scrambled egg recipe above)
Peel potatoes, discard peels, and dice potatoes into small pieces, about 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch per side.
Heat oil in medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Add diced potatoes, paprika, and pinch of salt and pepper, and stir. Stirring periodically, cook potatoes until soft and slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add caramelized onions and salt to taste, then serve.
Whole Grain Toast with Anna’s Homemade Strawberry Jam
(you probably don’t need a recipe for this, but I’ll give ya one anyway)
1 wholegrain bread slice per person, cut in half
Anna’s strawberry jam to taste
salted butter to taste (if you’re into that butter-on-bread thing, which, strangely, I’m not)
Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350F. Toast bread for 5-7 minutes, until crispy and golden brown but not burnt. Remove, and dress up in jam and butter!
(yeah, I know; you don’t need a recipe for this either, but if you haven’t tried it yet, it sure makes de-peeling citrus fruit a heck of a lot easier to do it this way)
1 navel orange (or blood orange – mix it up!)
Slice off the top and bottom 1/2-inch of each fruit. Slice down the sides of the fruit to remove peel. Rotate and repeat until peel is completely removed. Cut fruit into 1/2-inch thick slices, and serve!