Fry Hash Browns in Olive Oil and Butter

hashbrwns

Meilin is a master of Spanish cooking, and when she was frying potato slices in olive oil and butter to put in her tortilla (the egg omelet from Spain), I snatched a slice to sample.  It blew me away how delicious it was, and I knew I had to use the same technique with American hash brown potatoes. The results were just as delicious.  Better yet, frozen hash brown potatoes taste even better than fresh ones, so it only takes about 12 minutes to make this part of a very satisfying breakfast.

Directions

1.  Preheat a skillet on medium heat with a few drops of water in it.  When the water boils, turn heat to medium-high.

2.  Add 3 Tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, then add a Tablespoon of butter to the oil.  When the butter stops foaming, swirl it around, and add 1/2 of the bag of frozen hash browns to the pan.  (Watch out, the oil may pop.)

3.  Fry for 4 to 6 minutes (uncovered), lifting the edge of the potatoes to check with a spatula, to see if they are properly browned.

4.  When they are browned, flip the potatoes, and turn down the heat to medium.  (There’s less oil left in the pan, so they would burn on the higher heat).

5.  Cook about 4 minutes, turn the heat to low, the stir the potatos a little. Let them cook about 2 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

potat

It’s easier to turn the potatoes if you divide them into three parts. If you don’t use butter, the potatoes will still be delicious with just olive oil, although the outside browned crust may be slightly crunchier than with an olive oil/butter mix.

A wooden mallet is good for breaking up frozen hashbrowns.
A wooden mallet is good for breaking up frozen hash browns.

Electric and glass-top stoves burn hotter than gas stoves, so you may have to use slightly lower heat on these types of stoves.  If you are frying the whole bag, increase the amount of olive oil to 4 or 5 teaspoons, and add a little more butter. Don’t overload the skillet with the shredded potatoes, or they’ll get steamed instead of fried.

breafast

Tasters for the California Olive Board determined that all olive oil tastes the same after you heat it. We don’t find this to be completely true, as it seems that Spanish has a slightly better taste when frying potatoes than Italian olive oil does. Either way, inexpensive supermarket virgin olive oil is recommended for these hash browns.

Perfectly Cook Bacon in the Oven

baconbakee

It’s no fun to fry bacon in a skillet, with grease splattering in all directions.  If you are lucky, you’ll get good results, instead of burnt middles with rubbery curled-up ends.

Baking bacon in the oven results in evenly cooked strips at the perfect point between crispy and chewy.

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 400° (toaster or convection ovens work well).  Line the oven tray or raised-edge cookie sheet with aluminum foil.  Lay the bacon down on the foil, without overlapping the strips, or they’ll stick to each other.

2.  Slide the bacon into the oven, and cook for 13 minutes.

3.  Remove the tray or sheet from the oven, turn the bacon strips over, and cook another 4 minutes.

4.  When the bacon is cooked, you’ll see bubbles and foam all around the bacon. If the bacon is thick-cut, it may take more time.  Remove the tray from the oven, flip the bacon, and cook it some more, checking it every minute to see if it’s to your liking.

When it bubbles, it’s almost ready.

Near the end of the baking, the side of the bacon that is touching the pan will be more cooked than the side facing up. If you cook five or less pieces of bacon, it may take 1 minute less per side.

Tommy Style:  We used to tease our brother-in-law Tommy, because he like his bacon so very well done.  Then one day we forgot to take the bacon out of the oven after turning the oven off, and Tommy was delighted with the results. Meilin and I tried it, and liked it.

Instructions:  Cook bacon as instructed, turn off the oven, and leave the bacon in the oven.  After 15 or 20 minutes the bacon will be extremely well cooked, but not burnt, and will crumble easily for bacon bits.

Quick Breakfast Tacos with Corn Tortillas

breaktaco

Many fast-food restaurants serve breakfast burritos, with eggs and bacon wrapped up in a soft flour tortilla, with maybe some chiles or hot sauce added. They are warm, bland, and satisfying.

Breakfast tacos start the day with a fresh hot buzz, and can be made very quickly on mornings when kids are hustling to get ready for school and you feel like you are running late.  You know that feeling.

Quick Breakfast Tacos

  • 2 corn tortillas
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of milk
  • Shredded Cheddar or other cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bottled hot sauce (Cholula or Tapatio is good)
  1. Preheat a skillet on medium heat with a few drops of water in it. When the water boils, it’s hot enough.
  2. If you are using a non-stick skillet, melt a pat of butter and spread it around.  If your skillet is metal, pour a teaspoon or two of corn or peanut oil, and spread it around.
  3. Put a corn tortilla in the skillet, and fry it on medium heat for a minute or two.  Flip and fry on the other side.
  4. Remove and place on a plate. (Have a paper towel on the plate if you want the tacos less greasy)
  5. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the second tortilla.
  6. Put the second tortilla on the plate, overlapping the first tortilla, so that you can put egg on it properly.
  7. Scramble the egg, milk, salt, and pepper.
  8. Add a tiny bit more butter or oil to the pan to cook the egg.
  9. Pour in egg, and stir.  Turn off the heat and let the residual heat cook the egg while you stir it.
  10. Divide the scrambled egg evenly onto the two tortillas.
  11. Add cheese, hot sauce, and more salt and pepper if you wish.
  12. Fold them and eat them.

 

French Toast with Black Pepper

Have you ever been so sleepy in the morning that you put the wrong ingredient in breakfast?  I’ve poured cereal into a coffee cup, and cream into a sugar bowl. However, some great ideas are born from stupid actions, like the time I ground black pepper into the French Toast batter I was making for John instead of grinding it onto the eggs I’d just scrambled for Michael. A fine mistake, as it turned out to be the perfect spice to complement the sweetness of maple syrup and cinnamon.

What you will need:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup milk (1/3 for thick slices of bread)
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a sprinkling of cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 2 slices of bread–fresh, frozen, or day-old–or 3 slices of challah bread
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

What you will do:

1.  Beat the egg, milk, and vanilla in a shallow dish or pie plate. Beat in flour, salt, pepper, and cinnamon.

2.  Heat non-stick skillet with a few drops of water on medium heat. When the water boils, the pan will be ready.

3.  Put bread slices into the egg batter and let them sit for a minute. Then flip them and let them soak in the egg on the other side.

4.  When the pan is hot, melt the butter in the pan and spread it around with a spatula.  Add the battered slices of bread, and pour any remaining batter on top of the bread.

5.  Cook each side for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown.

6.  Remove slices, turn off heat, then pour maple syrup into the skillet.  As it bubbles, add a pat of butter and let it melt into the syrup, making a warm, delicious topping for your French toast.

Notes: Challah or brioche bread, cut thick, are ideal for French Toast.  Use the 1/3 Cup amount of milk.

We generally don’t buy expensive ingredients for most cooking, but maple syrup is an exception.  Even a store-brand 100% pure maple syrup is considerably better than the maple/corn brand-name syrup that is most common on store shelves. Vermont Maple Syrup seems to be the best, but maple syrup from other places are plenty good.

Best Way to Fry Eggs

It’s easy to fry an egg, but getting it just is a minor skill.  If the heat’s too high the egg will get rubbery, and the yolk grows hard and unpleasant.  A properly runny yolk can be delicious, but not if it is undercooked, and spots of raw egg is nauseating.

The biggest reason fried eggs get messed up in our house is because it’s morning, we’re anxiously struggling to get everybody out the door for school and work. We sit our boys down and make them take their time while enjoying breakfast, and we can focus on the perfection of a yellow circle on a white background.

Use the Right Heat

1.  Add a few drops of water to a non-stick skillet, and pre-heat on medium heat.  When the water begins to boil, it is the proper temperature.

2.  Add a tiny amount of butter, and wait until it foams.  Crack eggs and drop into butter, and immediately turn heat down to medium-low. 

3.  Fry eggs for about 1½ minutes, until there is a yellowish oval and bright yolk on top of a cooked white egg.

4.  Flip the eggs, and cook for about a minute for runny yolks, or about 1½ minutes for a slighty more firm egg yolk.

5.  For “sunny-side up” eggs that are actually cooked, pour a Tablespoon of water into the pan immediately after dropping the eggs in, and put a cover on the skillet.  The steam will cook the top.

These eggs will be softer than eggs cooked at a higher temperature, so they will more difficult to flip.  It requires a forceful shove of the spatula underneath the eggs before flipping.

Cracking the Eggs

Why do yolks break when eggs are cracked for frying, but rarely when you crack them for scrambling.  It’s not common sense, but the harder you smack the eggs, the more likely the yolk will stay intact when you pour it into the pan.  If a piece of shell goes into the pan, use the large half of the shell to scoop it up, or wet a spoon before using it to scoop it up.

Best results come by cracking eggs on a flat surface, rather than the edge of a dish or pan.  I keep a plate next to the stove to crack eggs on, put the shells on, and make it easier to clean up.

For a change, lay a strip of sliced Swiss cheese across the top of the egg, immediately after removing it from the pan.  The residual heat will melt the cheese.

Ready to flip
Ready to flip

Better Than Buttermilk Pancakes

Having buttermilk in the fridge requires planning, but pancakes are often spur-of-the-moment, so here’s an easy substitute: milk and lemon juice. I always have lemons, and they last a month in the fruit crisper.  In fact, I think milk curdled with lemon juice tastes better than buttermilk in pancakes.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  1. Melt the butter.  20 seconds at low power in the microwave works.
  2. Blend or sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in small mixing bowl.
  3. Put lemon juice into a measuring cup, and add milk until it makes 1 full cup.  Stir it very lightly so that it all curdles.
  4. Pour milk into the flour mix, then crack the egg on top of it all.  Mix everything, but don’t overmix.  Do not mix egg in first, or you’ll get tiny chunks of pasta.
  5. Lightly mix in the melted butter.

Put a few drops of water into a non-stick skillet, and heat on medium heat. When the water droplets begin to boil, turn heat to medium-high.

  1. Add a pat of butter to hot pan, and swirl it around with a spatula.  Pour in batter with a 1/3 cup measuring cup, or eyeball it.  A big pan can hold 3 pancakes.
  2. Cook for about 2 minutes, until bubbles appear on the top.  Lift up a cake to see if it’s properly cooked, and flip them when they are.  Flip them so the outside edge now cooks on the center of the pan.
  3. Cook for 1 ½  minutes more on the other side.
  4. Remove pancakes from pan, turn off heat.
  5. Pour maple syrup in pan, with a pat of butter, and let residual heat from pan warm up the syrup.

Notes: You can use buttermilk (1 cup) if you wish.  Buttermilk used to be thicker than milk, but modern buttermilk is just regular milk with lactic acid cultures added to it, so it’s the same consistency as lemon/milk.

Recommended:  pure maple syrup, even if you buy the store brand.  The national brands of pancake syrup made with corn syrup taste like candy.