By now, Portland, Oregon is undoubtedly a foodie destination in this country, and not just because of the Food Cart frenzy (though I do get a good laugh out of the fact that the carts are now famous and featured in TV food land. I remember them as the hang out spot for post-party Portlanders with half a rack of PBR under their belt, gripped by cravings for Belgian fries and po’ boys). One of the meals that PDX has always done right is breakfast. Brunch. Desayuno. Second breakfast. Call it what you want, we do it well. In almost any neighborhood in town you can find an amazing breakfast with a reasonable price (yeah, if you leave out the side of organic bacon and two Bloody Marys), and fulfill pretty much any morning food craving. While many restaurants really do their own thing (Burmese red pork stew with over easy eggs at Tasty and Sons? YUM), one thing you can find on any menu is some sort of hash. Corned beef, chicken, potato…don’t matter, they’re all good. Within my last couple years living in Oregon, I really developed a thing for corned beef hash. Many establishments in Portland make their own corned beef and hot damn it is delicious (and next on my list to do!). Sopping up egg-soaked bits of corned beef and caramelized onion with toasty, whole grain bread is a better hangover cure than anything I’ve tried. And yes, the Bloody Mary is required.
So when I relocated to Santa Fe, NM I naively expected to find a similar understanding of the importance of the first meal of the day, and with that a variety of breakfast hash options. Unfortunately, I was way off the mark. No hash here. Sloppy plates of huevos, pinto beans and mediocre red chile? Why yes, we have those. We have lots of those. But a good corned beef or sweet potato hash? Harder to find. While Santa Fe does have some incredible food and chefs to it’s name, we don’t quite have the brunch culture down like Portland does. I’ve been craving a good breakfast hash for months now and I finally brought it all together. I was not disappointed.
Diced sweet potatoes that caramelize a bit while cooking are set off perfectly by the bite of fennel bulb and the umami of the caramelized onions. As if that combination wasn’t rich enough, I decided to add some of my homemade bacon to the mix, and of course top it with the requisite poached eggs. Just for a bit of freshness I sprinkled a mixture of finely minced fresh thyme, parsley, sea salt and cracked pepper on top. Nummers.
Sweet Potato and Fennel Hash with Homemade Bacon
Serves 2-4 people
1 large sweet potato, peeled, 1″ dice
1 fennel bulb, 1” dice, fronds diced and reserved
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 strips of bacon (I used my homemade molasses bacon, but any will do!)
Eggs (2 per person, probably 4 for this recipe)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh thyme, minced
Fresh parsley, minced
Heat a skillet over medium high heat, cook bacon to your liking and set aside. Add onion to the hot bacon fat and sautee until translucent and soft, 10 minutes or so (I usually add a little bit of water to onions to soften them up). Add sweet potato and cover skillet. Cook for about 6 minutes, then add fennel, mix well and increase heat. While sweet potatoes are cooking, start a pot of water 5 or 6 inches deep on high heat for the eggs. You want it to be gently simmering. Cook skillet mixture until fennel is al dente and sweet potato is cooked through, maybe 10 minutes.
While fennel and potatoes cook, chop bacon and add to skillet. Remove skillet from heat and season with salt and pepper (easy on the salt).
Crack eggs into the water when it’s simmering, dropping them in as close to the surface and as gently as possible so you keep the egg together. You can cook both eggs at once, and some white pieces will float away but the egg should keep itself together for the most part. I like to gently shake the pot of water after a couple of minutes to see how the eggs react, and when they are opaque and not tissuey I remove them with a slotted spoon.
Plate the hash, place eggs on top and sprinkle with the thyme, parsley and S&P mix.