Monday, May 14, 2012

UnRecipe: My Dinner With Cthulhu

It starts out simple enough, a basic craving for a basic dish... sear up some steak, fry a few eggs, an ad hoc hash of whatever vegetables are around... and then it gets weird. Downright Lovecraftian. And before you know it, a humble breakfast-for-dinner meal has a science fiction Chimera of your worst nightmares showing up on your plate, a culmination of humanity's anxious energy, a fear of the unknown... Hold fast, kids, you're Cookin' with Cthulhu.

Baked eggs with hash, before a mythological beast crashes the meal - Photo by Wasabi Prime
The desire to make steak, eggs and hash wasn't some culinary ritual to call up H.P. Lovecraft's creature of the eponymous story, Call of Cthulhu. It just sort of  happened on a quick plating of leftovers, and I'm saving that photo for last because it's freaky-deaky, and I don't want it to ruin the telling of a genuinely tasty breakfast hash. Honestly, who wants some skeevy tentacle-faced winged leviathan muscling-in on your quiet meal at home? I'm pretty sure he wouldn't say "please" when asking for seconds. He'd just pulverize your sanity and leave you an empty husk of a human being while he threw on extra dashes of Sriracha on your serving of Brinner. He'd probably watch all your DVR-ed episodes of Glee and just delete everything before you saw them. He'd even drink all the OJ and just leave one swallow in the carton before slinking off back to R'lyeh like a total d-bag. Thanks for nothing, Cthulhu.

Brinner done right - with steak and bad-ass hash - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I just wanted to make a Bad-Ass Breakfast Hash. Yes, that's a thing. It's a delicious thing. The CSA had a lot to do with it, providing a bevvy of veggies to play with, but I found a nice combination of produce that makes for a delicious and colorful hash. I like to start building the perfect Bad-Ass Breakfast Hash with the perfect bad-ass base, which is of course: Bacon. A couple of slices rendered in a large pan on a burner set to medium-low. Get all that delicious swiny fat pulled out, it's liquid cooking gold. Remove the crispy slices and set aside, they'll get thrown back in later if you don't just eat them as you cook, which is totally understandable if you do. Toss in some diced red potatoes with the skin still on, let them get a nice browning with the bacon fat. Start building flavor with diced onions and let them sweat and slowly caramelize. The next vegetables are as much for color as they are for flavor -- bell peppers (red and yellow are best, as they're sweeter) and the chopped stalks of rainbow chard. You'll throw in the green leaves of the chard later, but the stalks are edible, they need extra cook time to get tender, and their color stays for the most part. It kind of reminds me of cooking rhubarb; you don't keep the intense color, but it won't brown, instead mellowing to a pastel color. I get a lot of crap for cooking Brown Food, and while there's some brown/neutral tones in this hash, the peppers and chard keep it pretty. Adding the chopped greens of the chard towards the end, just to wilt, keeps the hash  looking fresh. A nice addition for keeping the flavor bright is finely-chopped preserved lemon rind -- I know, not a super common ingredient, but if you feel the hankering to jar up some excess lemon with a ton of salt, just check out the We Can Portlandia That post about pickling everything. I have to say, I'm addicted to the use of preserved lemon rind. I don't always have fresh citrus to zest, but a jar of salted lemons is mightily convenient for these UnRecipe MacGyver meals that  often come together with little planning or grocery shopping.

The hash that makes you hollaback fo' more - Photos by Wasabi Prime
You can't have steak and eggs without steak, of course. I used a flank steak. It's one of my favorite cuts, just because it's got a nice flavor and there's never a doubt over which direction the grain of the meat goes. As long as you're slicing across the lines of the grain, you will not get a tough bite. Getting a nice sear in a pan, ideally in the rendered bacon fat, is a good start. You just want to cook it rare and it will continue to steam a little, wrapped in foil, resting while the hash is getting cooked. You could skip the steak altogether, just going with eggs and bad-ass breakfast hash, but I had a hankering for red meat. When the hash was done, I sliced up the end cuts of the flank and tossed that into the hash, just because I could.The center rare part of the steak was saved for thin slices to go with the finished eggs and hash. I cracked eggs into ramekins of hash, baked in the oven. It's kind of like a mix between poached and fried eggs; still runny but sunny-side up with the yolk staring at you. If there's any crisps of bacon left, sprinkle as a garnish.

Sunny, runny egg yolk, is there nothing better in the world? - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Despite all the Lovecraft pre-func on this post, it really wasn't until we had Brinner leftovers of steak, eggs and bad-ass breakfast hash that Cthulhu made an appearance. A lame attempt at being artsy, fanning out the reheated steak slices before topping everything with a couple of fried eggs had us staring right into the Face of Madness, before it was devoured by the Mouth of Madness. Such is the pitfall of our love of putting eggs on... well, everything. Call it Cthulhu, call it Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama, call it whatever you like. We just started into its terrifyingly mad sunny-side-up face and devoured the devourer of souls because dang, we were hungry.

Let's be honest, if this were the first photo, you'd have stopped reading the post - Food photo by Wasabi Prime

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