Sunday, January 22, 2012

POACHED EGGS, ROASTED POTATOES AND SESAME TOAST


I. Love. Breakfast. Not only is it the most important meal of the day, it’s also my favorite. I love breakfast in all its forms – brunch, continental, even brinner (breakfast for dinner). I don’t get to eat breakfast much during the week, barring the occasional banana or bowl of generic Fruity Pebbles, so when I do, I take it very seriously.

Breakfast means many things to many people and can vary widely depending on what country you hail from, or even different parts of this country. But to me, a proper breakfast means just one thing: eggs. And potatoes. Ok, two things. Wait, it also means pig of some sort – bacon, sausage, ham, chorizo, I’m not picky as long as it’s pig. No matter what the combination or preparation, breakfast food can be a quick and simple meal that literally anyone can cook. Whenever I’m helping someone learn to cook for themselves, I always recommend breakfast as a great place to start. It can still get tricky, especially cooking eggs properly, which is why professional kitchens sometimes test new chefs by asking him or her to poach or scramble an egg, but if you can cook eggs, you can cook anything.


To me, a near perfect expression of the beautiful simplicity of an egg is when it’s poached. On top of toast, nestled in salad greens, waiting expectantly atop a juicy steak for me to break through the billowy white to get at the pleasantly oozing yolk as it drips down and mingles with the meaty drippings creating a luxurious sauce of protein, salt and pure universal goodness. . . or you could scramble it. The point is breakfast food is a great go-to meal absolutely any time, which makes it a great place to start if you’re trying to cook for yourself at home more often.

I know I’ve given the egg most of the spotlight here, probably because it’s my favorite part of breakfast, but the supporting players are awesome in their own right. I fried some pancetta (Italian bacon) on the stovetop, then sautéed potatoes with onions and garlic in the rendered pork fat. Not only does it make great use of cooking “by-products” that would otherwise get thrown out, it tastes amazing. I also made sesame toast, a great twist on regular “breakfast toast,” but regular is good, too. Whichever way you prefer to cook your eggs and toast and potatoes, just make sure you do. If you have to, wait for a relatively lazy Saturday and take the time to cook breakfast for your family.



Poached Eggs, Roasted Potatoes and Sesame Toast

We cooked this meal for 3 people, but you can alter the amounts depending on how many you’re serving.

4 eggs
12 small red potatoes
12 slices bacon
1/3 of a large white onion
3 cloves garlic
6 cups water
3 tbls white vinegar
Bread for toast (We had a French baguette and cut it in 1 inch slices)
Sesame seeds
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

1. Put the water in a deep pot and heat over medium-low to medium heat. Heat the water to the point just before it simmers. You’ll see small bubbles on the bottom of the pan, but not really rising to the surface. Stir in the vinegar, which helps better set the egg whites. Don’t worry, you won’t taste it.

2. While the water simmers, heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Once it heats up, put in a few bacon strips and let them cook gently. This will render a good amount of the bacon fat which we’ll use to cook the potatoes. Cook the bacon as crispy as you like, then place them on a plate lined with paper towels. Cook the bacon in batches, 4 or 5 slices at a time, so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Reserve the bacon fat.

3. While the bacon is cooking, cut the potatoes in 1 ½ ince pieces, place in a microwave safe bowl, season with salt and pepper, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high until the potatoes are ¾ of the way cooked, 5-10 minutes. You’ll still see some solid white in the center of each potato. Drain the potatoes, as they would have released some moisture, and pat them dry with paper towels.

Heat the pan with the bacon fat over medium heat. Dice the onion and garlic, and sauté them in the pan until the onions start to get translucent. Sauté the potatoes with the onions and garlic until they get some color on all sides. Mmmm, delicious.

4. Beat one egg in a small bowl and set aside. Without breaking the yolks, crack an egg into a small bowl, then gently drop into the near-simmering water. With a slotted spoon, immediately start spooning the egg whites over the yolks to ensure the yolk is covered with the whites. Some of the egg white will spread out into the rest of the water, but just remove it with the slotted spoon. Continue this with each egg and remove them with the whites are just set.

5. Spread the sesame seeds on a plate. Dip one side of each slice of bread into the beaten egg, then place side onto the sesame seeds so they stick. Place each bread slice into the formerly bacon-y pan, still over medium heat, until the sesames are toasted, then turn to toast the other side. If there’s no bacon fat left in the pan to cook the toast, pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom.

6. We placed the potatoes in a bowl, then the bacon, the egg with a little salt and pepper, then the toast on the side. Plate your delicious breakfast however you want, but make sure to drizzle a little more olive oil over the egg and potatoes. Devour with gusto.

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