Monday, December 27, 2010

Chard Potato Cakes with Poached Eggs & Spicy Italian Sausage: A Holiday Breakfast

Home for the holidays for me translates into "home with time to make slammin' breakfasts".  The latter has so much more significance, so much more meaning.  Wouldn't you agree?  

Breakfast is like this much coveted yet incredibly neglected art form for me.  I'm aware of  its status as a marker of health, and I even make sure to include some oatmeal or yogurt or fruit in my morning routine most of the time, but I would hardly say that I give my comrade, Breakfast, the attention and regard that it truly deserves. 

That is why holidays and vacation time are so so sweet.  I spent a couple of hours making that meal you see pictured.  Ain't gonna happen on a school day, friends.

But Christmas morning is another story.  Another dimension, even.  Our lack of planning, plans, and any other scheduling commitments made this day the perfect one for a two hour breakfast extravaganza. 

It may not appear to be such an intensive meal (in fact, it was not), but when you factor in the boiling/mashing/cooling of the potatoes, the mandatory pause for a family phone call, and the cooks first time ever poaching eggs (I was afraid to cook more than one at a time), the minutes really do begin to add up. 

It was so worth it.

The potato cakes with chard, onions and garlic were inspired by a recipe in the current issue of Bon Appetit.  As soon as I saw their pics of kale potato cakes, I knew it was meant to be...  On my plate, that is.  The decision to serve poached eggs on top was an easy one.  The fact that I had never poached an egg before was a minor obstacle.  But how hard could it be?

I got a huge amount of advice on the poaching process from the tutorial over on Smitten Kitchen.  The instructions were clear and the pics were useful.  Have you poached an egg?   It's pretty fun to watch that white swirling around the yolk in a pool of steamy water.  It's a very healthy alternative to frying, too.

The final component of our holiday breakfast was the spicy Italian sausage, courtesy of our farmer friends at Skagit River Ranch.  I'm not the most experienced meat eater, having spent about ten years meat-free, but this is the best sausage I've ever had.  No weird, chewy bits.  No mealy, crumbly sausage falling out of a tough casing.  It is divine.

Together, these three things turned into a breakfast of cosmic proportions.  

Chard Potato Cakes with Poached Eggs & Spicy Italian Sausage
serves 3-4

For the potato cakes:
1.5 lbs russet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes), cut into 1" chunks
2 T. half and half
1 T. butter
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 large leaves chard, center stem removed, roughly chopped
  • Put the potato chunks into a large saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, lower to medium heat and boil until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
  • When the potatoes are done, drain and then mash them in their pot.  Add the half and half and butter and mash until smooth.  Season with salt and a dash of cayenne.
  • Heat about 1 T. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic and thyme, and saute until the onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the chard, and cook until the chard is wilted but still bright green.
  • Add the chard to the potatoes and stir to incorporate.  Taste and season with salt and more cayenne if desired.  Set the potatoes aside to cool for about 30 minutes.
  • Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, form the mixture into six equal-sized patties and place on a baking sheet.
  • Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet over medium, and carefully place half of the cakes in the skillet.  Allow the cakes to fry for 3-4 minutes on the first side, then flip and fry an additional 3-4 minutes.  Both sides should be golden brown.  Drain the cakes on paper towels and put back on the baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining cakes. 
  • Keep the cakes warm in a low oven while preparing the remainder of your breakfast.

For the eggs:
6 large eggs
white vinegar

Refer to the tutorial on Smitten Kitchen for a detailed description on how to poach eggs.  It's not difficult to do! 

For the sausage:
3 spicy Italian sausages
  • Heat a small skillet over medium, and add the sausages.  Cook, partially covered, for several minutes on each side in order to brown them.  Turn every 3-4 minutes for a total of about 15 minutes.  The sausages are done when they're no longer pink inside.  Slice into 1/2" rounds.
  • It's pretty easy to put it all together.  Put a potato cake on the plate, top it with an egg and arrange some sausage slices around them.  Dig in!
Enjoy your holiday breaks, leisurely days and relaxation time if you've got it.  I suggest drinking hot beverages and making epic breakfasts.  Gotta love those long mornings.

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