Sunday brunch is my second favorite meal of the week tying Friday night sushi and following the almighty apex, Sunday night dinner. Normally going out to eat brunch is either horribly disappointing or fantastically tasty, filling, and balanced but hardly ever is there a median experience. Because brunch out is a fifty-fifty gamble nowadays who wants to take the risk of possibly sacrificing not only hard-earned funds but also a chance to nosh an excellent meal for the second best meal of the week? In my opinion, no one with a brain and a knack for cooking would pass that up - perhaps a bit extreme but sometimes that is how I roll. Given today's current economic climate, Pete and I have taken the Sunday Brunch in approach over the past few weeks with surprisingly delicious results.
This past Monday I was so tickled when I tackled the Irish staple of corned beef and cabbage for the first time ever. While I've been half-Irish and half-Italian my whole life, it is rarer than a black-and-blue steak that I actually prepare Irish fare. Perhaps you caught my tweet about it showing off this incredibly modest dinner plate?
Modesty aside, I ably prepared the corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes properly and Pete and I enjoyed the brined beef brisket and braised cabbage all week long.
Come time for Sunday brunch and the end of the beef brisket was staring at us dead in our eyes daring us to make a corned beef, onion, and potato hash topped with an over-medium egg. Momentarily, we locked gazes. Silently, I slightly nodded my head signaling my acceptance of the corned beef's brunch challenge and got cooking straight away.
Frying perfect potatoes for breakfast potatoes or a nice hash is trickier than meets the eye. I myself have struggled here many, many times. Oil's too hot and you burn the potatoes; too cold and they soak up too much oil waiting to crisp. Too much oil, and the same sponge effect will take place; to little and again, expect to eat char. I think choice of oil is also important. I do believe most folks will have vegetable oil as part of their normal stocked cupboard and I also enjoy the taste of it in my fried breakfast foods. Fried potatoes in vegetable oil tastes like America. Therefore, in a large sauce pan I heated about 1/4 cup vegetable oil for 4 small Yukon gold potatoes, 1/2 cup chopped corned beef, and 3/4 cup chopped sweet onion. Admittedly, I do believe the 1/4 cup was too much oil given my medium-heat setting. Perhaps if I had a higher heat and were brave enough to willingly risk the tiny snake bites of oil bubbles snapping up and out of the pan to nip at my arms, hands, and face, I would have rendered the perfectly crispy fried potatoes. Or, if I had less oil and medium-heat I would have achieved the same desired results.
So here is our grand lesson learned: For the amount of the aforementioned ingredients to yield a two-person hash use two-three tablespoons of vegetable oil over a medium-high heat such as 6.5 or 7. While in the pan, salt and pepper the potato pieces. Cook on each side about 4-5 minutes. Remove dark brown pieces with a slotted spoon onto a prepared plate with paper towels. Add onions and chopped corned beef when beginning to turn over pieces and taking out the first fully fired ones. Remove the rest of the hash from the pan and let hash rest on the plate while making the over-easy eggs.
For the eggs we poured out the pan's excess oil, lowered the heat to a medium-low setting, and then Pete took over. One other supremely awesome thing about Sunday Brunch in is cooking together nicely in the kitchen. Plus Pete is whhaaay better at cooking eggs than I am, for real. As he prepared the eggs, I peeled up a tangerine to split, and cut small pieces of the recently baked Raspberry Walnut Streusel Pumpkin Bread (post coming rather soon) completing our plates.
As we sat and ate I knew I didn't achieve my expectations for a stand-out brunch due to my imperfect potatoes, yet many of the flavors and textures that construct the greater Gestalt of a perfectly balanced brunch were indeed present. My bar for 'above average' to 'excellent' brunch is balance. Is there something salty? Something sweet? Something fried or toasted? Something fresh or raw? Is there a starch or two? Is there a meat? Is there egg? If we are going to make two meals one, it needs to taste as if these two meals married and had a divinely delicious baby for us to eat (it's a metaphor or brunch still I promise). Reader, please also note a buffet doesn't meet this bar of brunch balance because all of the flavors and textures need to harmoniously sing together in one plate in average size portions. Mounds of food will not replace quality and it's many ranges of a dish of good food. That's what I found about brunch in; it's about one supremely tasty plate of good food for the supreme day of rest.