Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Ode to the Neighborhood Brunch Place - Sweet Potato Hash

Sometimes I miss living in Philadelphia. Don't get me wrong. I love Massachusetts. I was born and raised here, and if you were too you probably know that most people never can leave it, at least not for long. It is home, and even with all its annoyances (skyhigh rents, confusing roads, aggressive drivers) it really is the best. But this time of March really makes me want to be back in Philadelphia. Because spring does come earlier there - several weeks earlier. I can pretty much guarantee that my old running path has crocuses and daffodils about to bloom, and that Day by Day, my most favorite of brunch places, is dusting off their patio furniture for those 65 degree days that will almost surely occur in the next week.

And I've been thinking about brunching at Day by Day on a Sunday afternoon a lot lately... partially because I just want to be outside enjoying the sun without a parka and moon boots on... but more importantly I've been thinking about their Sweet Potato and Chorizo Hash. Man, is it good and man, do I miss it. It's delicious for brunch, but also for dinner (particularly a dinner for 1 so you don't have to share). It's so much better than regular hash -- it's got the sweet creaminess of the sweet potatoes, half-caramelized onions and peppers, the spice and meatiness of the chorizo, all topped off with an over-easy egg. There is nothing better.

So tonight I decided to make my own version of Day by Day's Sweet Potato Hash -- using what could be found in my neighborhood grocery store. Although not quite as refined as their version (can hash even be refined? With chorizo, it most certainly can) it brought me right back to those spring afternoons in the City that's (not always but in spring almost) always sunny.

This hash is really pretty easy to make, and everything gets mushed together, so there's no need to fuss. Estimated cook time: 20-30 mins. Serves 2 (or 1 plus some leftover for lunch... woohoo!)

Sweet Potato Hash w/ a Fried Egg and Toast

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled, and cut into small cubes.
1 large onion, diced (cut into small squares)
1/2 red pepper, diced (see above)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like more heat)
2 raw italian sausage links (smaller sized ones, not foot longs -- if you have that, just one)
1 egg
Olive oil (about 2.5 tablespoons)
Your favorite toast

First, grab a deep skillet that has a lid, and put it over a burner on medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil, and when it is hot (1 minute or so), add in your sweet potato. Sprinkle the potato generously with salt (about 1 tsp) and pepper (a few grinds or shakes), and stir around and let cook for 1 minute. Then, make sure the potatoes are evenly distributed in the pan, and add enough water to reach to the top of the potatoes. Cover the pan and turn the heat to medium high. (See photo)

This will take at least 10 minutes to cook the potatoes through, and usually this occurs when all the water has absorbed, but if you have only a shallow skillet or if your burner is too hot, the water will absorb before the potatoes are done. How can you tell? Take one out and try it (or poke a fork in it and see if it's soft all the way through). If it's not, just add a little more water (1/4 cup), and continue as before.

While these are cooking, get another skillet and put it over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil. Let heat for about 1 minute, and add both the onion and pepper. Add a little salt and pepper, and stir. Keep cooking for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Remember, onions have lots of natural sugars, which is why they can caramelize of course, but that also means they can burn quite easily. Do not put the heat on too high and if you notice brown edges forming on the onion, turn it down.

Once these are softened, push them over to one side of the pan, and remove the sausage from its casing, placing it into the other side of the pan (hey, who wants to dirty more pans than necessary?) I wish I could find chorizo, which is more spicy (and fancy) than the sausage at my grocery store (but if you find it, more power to you!) Break it up with a wooden spoon or spatula until there are bit size pieces.  (See left) They will cook while you're doing this, which will make it easier to break up. I used chicken sausages this time, and it was great, but you know, feel free to go full on pork or whatever you do. That's the best thing about hash. As long as you like what goes in, you'll like it when it's done.

Stir that sausage around in its half of the pan to get it cooked through, while stirring the onions and peppers on their side once in a while to prevent burning. When the sausage is done, turn off the burner. Check your potatoes. When they are cooked through and there is no more water in the pan (if there is a little but their already done, that's ok, just uncover and crank the heat while stirring and it will evaporate in no time) dump the other ingredients from your second skillet into this one. Stir around and keep on medium - low heat so that all the flavors have a chance to melt.

Press the toaster down on your toast.

Put .5 tbsp of olive oil (or butter if you want it to taste even better) in the old skillet you just cleaned out. Turn on the burner to medium. After 1 minute, crack an egg into the center of the pan. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Watch it cook. I mean it! Eggs cook fast and if you want this yoke runny (believe me, you do!), you have to watch.

But you can quickly turn the hash off and put some on a plate. You'll need it ready for the egg.

Nice looking egg! Still at least 2 mins left.
When the white is completely opaque (probably 2-2.5 mins), but there still seems to be a little bit of goop on the top, you have two options: 1) cover the egg pan with a lid so the top steams it cooked or 2) (my preferred lazyman method) quickly flip the egg over for literally 2 seconds and then slide it onto your hash.

Flipping an egg takes courage, but I was given some sage advice that hasn't failed me yet. "Don't be afraid! Just do it!"

So, before flipping, make sure the egg is loose from the pan (you can run a spatula around it to make sure it is sliding freely in the pan). Then hold the pan in your dominant hand, and literally just push your hand straight out ahead of you and bring it back quickly. Not up! Don't try to lift the egg, it will do it itself. Just forward, and back. You'll see if you're not forceful enough it will just slide to the edge. You can do this!

(Can you flip with a spatula? Sure. But the yoke might break from being poked around by the spatula, so don't say I didn't warn you! If that happens, just quickly scrape onto your hash. You'll still get some good liquidy bits).

And you're done! Oh! Don't forget the toast!

Happy Spring Everyone.